Monday, August 31, 2009

Richmond Night Market - one month left!

Last night, after several pitchers of Granville Island honey lager at the Pirate Pub downtown, a bunch of us decided it would be a great idea to head out to the Richmond Night Market. Being the last weekend of August and a gorgeous evening at that, it seemed appropriate enough. After all, we had spent the last few weeks talking about going and we weren't going to let the end of summer slip us by.

This year the Richmond Night Market is going under the new name of "Summer Night Market". A bit confusing since the old Richmond Night Market's website is still live despite being obsolete, and the old name is still what people are searching for. Nevertheless, Richmond's Summer Night Market, though under new management, offers the same thing at the same place at the same times:

- rows of Asian street food vendors
- stalls of cheap merchandise
- permeating smells of BBQ meat
- bright lights
- large crowds
- over-flowing garbage cans

The Richmond Summer Night Market has been a summer tradition of mine since the late 90's. Back then it was held at Richmond's Lansdowne Mall parking lot, with only a handful of vendors selling things like bubble tea and Asian stationery. It kept on expanding, however, and outgrew its location, eventually finding a semi-permanent home behind a warehouse north of Bridgeport Road's big box sprawl. Mention "it's just north of Ikea" and only then do locals begin to understand where it is.

The Night Market is best described as this surreal, frenzied, mish mash of cheap trinkets and rows upon rows of Asian street food, all in a night carnival kind of atmosphere. While not parallel to the epic night markets in Asia, it's about as close as it gets to Hong Kong night markets here in North America. Set your expectations accordingly.

I typically drive if I'm going to the Richmond Night Market. It's often less than a 20 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Park for free on the streets by Ikea and walk 15+ minutes, or pay $5 in the Sear's lot to be closest. This year since the opening of the Canada Line, it probably makes as much sense to take the train to Bridgeport station and then transfer onto whatever bus that takes you to the Ikea at Bridgeport & Sweden Way.

Just walking to the Night Market is an event in itself. You end up walking behind the long-closed big box stores and trample through the brambles over railroad tracks before following the crowds through the darkness to a warehouse where you can hear music and lights coming from behind. It's all so mysterious and exciting, and not unlike a rave.

As far as I'm concerned, the only reason you go to the Night Market is for the food. The merchandise vendors come secondary. We're not talking about high end knock-offs, but cheap plastic trinkets, Sanrio-esque stationery, Vietnamese and Canto-pop DVD's, Samurai swords, "magic" bras and panties, and doggie outfits. This is a generalization, I assure you, but you get the idea. It makes for great entertainment moreso than great shopping.

So, for me, it always come down to the food. I wouldn't come here expecting gourmet foodie delicacies, but cheap and tasty Asian street food typically unavailable in this environment elsewhere in Vancouver. There's usually a decent variety, from BBQ meat and seafood on skewers to noodles, to the more traditional Cantonese style dumplings, to exotic desserts. It's all so very festive and half the fun is going around with a group of friends and trying new things together.

Highlights of our night:

Pork siu mai
Shrimp gyoza
Japanese scallop & octopus cakes
Spicy, crispy, deep fried chicken
Sesame red bean cakes
Spicy halal lamb
Deep-fried ice cream

While we arrived with only one hour to go, we managed to stuff ourselves silly. Next time, however, we'll be coming back earlier, and with an empty stomach.

Richmond's Summer Night Market is open Fridays and Saturdays from 7pm until midnight, and Sundays from 7pm until 11pm. It closes for the season on October 4, 2009.

For more information, visit: http://www.summernightmarket.com/

3 comments:

puma_puma said...

Very helpful blog. It sounds delicious and exciting just reading your post.

Looking forward to it!

Robyn said...

If you get a chance to go, you should definitely go! :) It is rather a delicious experience!

puma_puma said...

Robyn,

My fiancee and I will be there next Thursday, and this time we won't miss it for anything.

I enjoyed the part you wrote about the experience walking to the night market similar to walking to a rave. Hahaaha. I can vividly picture that.

Best,

Chris