Salivating fans of tornado potatoes, dragon’s beard candy and super-pungent stinky tofu will be flocking to the city just south of Vancouver, British Columbia this month for the 11 May opening of the annual Richmond Night Market.
An easy rapid transit hop from downtown Vancouver – then a five-minute walk from Bridgeport Canada Line SkyTrain station – the clamorous weekend bazaar kicks off at 7pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 8 October. Reputedly North America’s largest Asian-style night market, it’s a magnet for anyone even remotely peckish. More than 100 steam-shrouded food stands will again be piled high with fresh-cooked hawker options, from glistening potsticker dumplings to Brazilian pastry treats and brothy cauldrons of tender fish balls. Seafood is a specialty this year with an abundance of king crab, snow crab and lobster dishes available.
The longest queues are typically at the tornado potato stands, serving handheld sticks spiraled with deep-fried potato slices dipped in powdered flavourings. Adventurous foodies should also follow their noses to the stinky tofu, an aromatic fermented goo that’s a love-it-or-hate-it crowd-divider.
Dessert-wise, there’s typically everything from bubble waffles to chocolate-dipped fruit – plus the aforementioned dragon’s beard candy, a kind of Asian cotton candy sweet. And if you’ve taken an overly spicy route with your dishes, a cooling draft of tapioca-packed bubble tea is also recommended. But the bustling market isn’t only about food. Alongside the culinary stands, there are usually around 200 browse-worthy vendor stalls selling everything from shimmering cellphone cases to stripy dog jackets and cheap-as-chips souvenir T-shirts of the “I Heart Canada” variety.
Home to more than 800 restaurants – many of them highly authentic Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese eateries – the city of Richmond is often described as a modern-day Chinatown where more than half the population has Asian ancestry. Until last year, the city hosted two highly competitive summer night markets, but the smaller one has officially announced its closure this year.
Not that the Richmond Night Market – which costs CAD$4.25 (€2.76) for regular admission (seniors and children ten and under are free) – will be resting on its steam-shrouded laurels this season. Alongside the stalls, there will also be kid-friendly activities and nightly entertainment to keep regulars coming back and to give over-indulgent diners a break from their stomach-straining antics.
Words: John Lee