Monday, May 28, 2012

Eating at Richmond's Summer Night Market

Summer Night Market 夏日夜市 on Urbanspoon This year, Richmond features two night markets. The "Richmond Night Market" near Bridgeport Station and the casino, and the "Summer Night Market" near IKEA and Home Depot. I've heard the term "Richmond Night Market" for both, but if you are looking for the location near IKEA and sort-of near the Knight Street Bridge, where the Richmond Night Market used to be, then this year you're looking for the "Summer Night Market".

In general, the eats there are food-stall or food cart type prices--that is, individual portions slightly overpriced. Some items are grossly overpriced.

  • Noodles and some "dim sum" style items like char siu pao or siu mai are so-so priced, especially if you get a combo plate with some noodles on it. For about $6, you might be hard-pressed to get the same price for Chinese restaurant take-out, but you'll get more food per buck.
  • I saw the one stall selling very large char siu pao, but when I saw it being eaten, the actual amount of barbequed pork inside was remarkably little. The amount of fluffy dough here looked to be almost twice the thickness as the buns you might pick up at T&T, which already have fairly thick buns to begin with. Since you can't outright see how much filling you're getting, I guess it's caveat emptor.
  • There was the one stall selling barbequed meats in the southern US style. Standouts there were turkey drumsticks and $3.25 pulled pork sandwiches. The used regulation sized soft potato buns, so for $3.25, you're getting pretty good value compared to, say, Re-Up, which uses a slightly larger Portuguese bun but costs $7. And they have the grill right there on-site, versus having the meat prepped off-site.
  • One of the vendors was selling "Seaweed Rolls", which  were intriguing until I tried it. The small order was $3 for 3. It turned out to be vermicelli wrapped in seaweed paper (like the stuff they use for sushi). This is then dipped in something and deep fried. Whatever they dipped it in, it came out super-crunchy! Not very oily. Fun to eat, but as each was about the size of your thumb (er, depending on the size of your thumb, I guess), at $1 each it was very pricey.
  • The fad of the evening seemed to be "hurricane potatoes" (tornado fries): A potato on a skewer sliced thinly into a single long spiral. Comes with a sprinkle of seasoning or long squirts of sauce. Most of your money goes into the fact that it's fun to look at and eat.
  • Similar in concept but looking very different are Korean Corn Dogs or Ugly Corn Dogs. These are chopped potato (or sweet potato) somehow molded into a long corndog. Also comes with seasonings or sauce.
  • Desserts are probably the best value at the market, and seemed to be priced about the same as you might find in a bubble tea cafe. There are some pretty big portions to be had for around $5. Scout them out first so you don't overeat snaking on savouries.
Overall, I wouldn't try putting together dinner at the Summer Night Market. It's just not good value for your money. Go for just a snack or dessert while you're browsing the wares, which at the Summer Night Market last Friday accounted for maybe only half the stalls.

If you're looking for space to eat your food in peace without bumping into people, the seating near the food stalls is okay but crowded. Instead, make your way to the other end of the market, all the way out of the food stall area and even past the merchandise vendors to the spacious and unpopulated perimeter. No seating, but lots of space and no stress.

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