I eat and drink from 33 new and returning favourite stalls at this year’s Richmond Night Market.
It’s that time of year again, the weather is better and the crowds are flocking down to the Richmond Night Market. With so many more food vendors this year, let me help you plan your visit by highlighting some of the new and noteworthy at North America’s largest Asian themed, outdoor market.
For the vlog version, check out my latest video now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.
The following is a accumulation of all that I have tried across my first 5 visits of the season. First the favourites that are back for another year.
“Chef James” continues to be a fan favourite for meat on a stick. The charismatic chef dawns a white coat and a microphone, inviting passerbyers over to try the market’s tastiest skewers. Deliciously seasoned meat and seafood on sticks flamed kissed on the grill.
Here we had a sampling including lamb, beef, chicken, shrimp, and pork seasoned in cumin. And doughy buns drizzled in a tangy brown sauce.
Their grilled and unseasoned sweet corn is also very popular.
“Big beard” also serves up bbq meats on sticks. And their skewers are also served in a branded paper cup, just like at Chef James’ booth, but I found them less seasoned and even bland by comparison.
I was a fan of their deep fried squid drizzled in a sweet chilli and mayo. Chewy tentacles that are just as fun to eat as they are tasty.
For even more squid “Squid Feast” offers up deep fried squid whole on a stick, or as chopped up tentacles. Be warned, the line is long and the squid could be over cooked like this serving. The sweet chilli drizzle I asked for did help give it some moisture and layered interest.
All this fried food makes you thirsty, and I really like the fresh juices from the “Sugar cane juice stall”. Pressed on location, this sugar cane drink hydrated and satiated. Not to mention the plastic heart shaped cup it came in, with matching heart shaped nib was precious.
Spiral-ed potatoes deep fried and coated in dry and wet sauces and seasonings of your choice, are still very popular year after year. But now, for those who want a single serving, or to not have to eat a whole giant potato in one sitting, they offer mini “rotoatos”, at the booth with the same name. We had our’s dressed in sour cream and roasted garlic pepper.
“Itofu” returns after having won the best tofu category from Van Magazine, a new category that seems like it was made for them. Here, we tried their parfait with coconut jelly, red bean, and pearls. And naturally it was a subtle dessert with the tofu as the focus. Refreshing and light for those who don’t like an overly sweet dessert. But basic and bland when competing against the likes of the condense milked flavoured shaved ice below.
“Mango Yummy” is a market favourite, especially their mango mochi shaved ice, which is exactly as it sounds and oh so tasty. A sweet and cold treat that almost tricks you into thinking you are eating healthy because of the fresh cubes of mango that tops it.
Similar in the ice cream, fruit, and flavoured ice department is “Icy bar”. For variation we enjoyed their “summer special icy” with fresh strawberries, mango, basil seed (chia seed), strawberry puree, coconut milk, and tapioca sago, served over shaved ice. I enjoyed it more like a drink once the ice cream melted down and I stirred things up.
Speaking of stirring, the “Mango” stall offers slushes. We ordered their “summer rainbow”, a drink that is different in colour and flavour from layer to layer. It was fun to navigate your straw up and down, landing on their purple grape, yellow mango, red berry, or green kiwi; and drawing in a sip. I thought it was be interesting to see what would happened if I mixed all those layers together, the result: a less appealing, and less easy to drink cold beverage.
You can get even more fruit and ice cream from the “Teapresso food truck”. Their elegnat parfaits served in plastic champagne flutes are great to look at, but impossible to eat. The ice cream melts and with no where to pool, this drips down your hand. The ice cream itself is available is matcha, vanilla, or a twist of both. We then latter because why have just one when you can have it all.
Light bulb shaped bottles are still making their way around the market. At “Rainbulb” you choose your beverage by its colour, and they glow thanks to a little LED light blinking at the bottom. Each hue is a different fruit flavour, and you are encouraged to choose by colour. Tonight it was purple, a berry fizzy soda.
“Mamak La” is a night market staple for Malaysian fusion. They put on a show, hand flipping their crispy and fluffy roti. Then stuffing it with familiar comfort foods like Mac and cheese, pizza, and even banana and chocolate.
It is like a quesadilla but with better dough. The made to order roti makes all the difference. The Mac and cheese is a great satisfying snack, and best enjoyed warm while the dough is crispy and the cheese gooey.
Their new dessert option gives you salty dough and sweet chocolate, a winning combination and a new way to enjoy the classic banana and cocoa pairing.
“Asomi mochi” with their whole strawberry stuffed mochi balls are back. Available in matcha, purple yam, chocolate, double strawberry; and now a cheesecake filled option. The regular is my favourite flavour and having it filled with a graham cracker hinted cheesecake cream, instead of the regular red bean was a switch up I fully enjoyed.
“Fries and Things” serve up the easy to eat and fun to share fries with a variety of game changing toppings. Melted cheese, buffalo sauce, and Japanese mayo. But their claim to fame remains the pho fries. Crispy sticks of potatoes topped with green onion, bean sprouts, ground beef and a tangy brown sauce. It tastes exactly like pho, the same sauce and topping over potato instead of noodles.
“Fish sticks” is exactly as it sounds. Battered and fried pieces of fish, skewered and seasoned. Choose from flavours like lemon pepper and spicy salsa. We had the classic tartar sauce paring, a zesty garlic dusting, and the Japanese influenced sweet mayo with shredded seaweed. Easy to eat, and best eaten fast before they flake off the skewer. Served on the stick you don’t a dish or plate to eat over and off of.
“Okonomi Bites” is once again serving their Japanese style poutines. Your fries, gravy, and cheese, but with traditional Japanese ingredients. Like the Japanese pancake with the name of the stall. And the vegetarian Agedashi tofu that has chunks of fried tofu sprinkled over top. We ordered the pork tonkatsu that had pieces of pork cutlet chopped up, and covered in sweet mayo, bonito flakes, and green onion. All great add ins, but I don’t feel like they really adding anything to the serving of fries.
“Mr. Crabzy” is back with their deep fried crispy crab balls on an actual claw. Not only does the claw look great, but it also serves as an easy way to get a grip on the crab cake for hand to mouth eating.
We also got a taste of their more regular looking deep fried shrimp balls. But if given the option, I would choose the claw every time.
And with all this fried and salty foods you are probably looking for something to wash it down. “Milk Cha” offers their blue based, butterfly pea flower teas in a bevy of flavours and if you get their split cups you can try 2 different ones in one serving. Winter melon and Thai black tea and Papaya and Taro. The colours look bold and rich, but the flavour fell short. Using powders they taste artificial and almost watered down. I would have liked them creamier as a milk tea.
Like with “Yummy Yogurt”, a new drink booth to the market. A thick sip of tangy yogurt flavoured in peach, mango, or strawberry. They made for a great palette refresher, full of probiotics to help in digestion after all that you eat. We tried the purple rice which was the mildest and our group’s favourite. The strawberry was on the sweeter side, with more fruit than dairy. And the “secret” flavour we discovered with a nice fragrant honey dew.
The last stall above and the following below are a handful of the new ones worth checking out this year.
“Zzim drumsticks” offers up Korean braised chicken, bringing attention to the fact that there is more than one way to prepare chicken in Korean cuisine, than simply frying. Available in hot or regular, it is best enjoyed by dawning plastic gloves and eating it with your hands. I personally find using your hands makes the food more enjoyable.
The chicken is so tender, and the mix of rice cakes and vegetables in the cup makes it more fulsome. The sauce is also so rich and tasty that you want to drink in like soup. Be warned, the spicy version, does deliver the heat.
“Tuk Tuk’s” Thai inspired panna cottas are quickly becoming a Night Market favourite. Cups of coconut milk, Thai tea, and Thai green tea panna cotta topped with a made to order fried dokjok (a Thai biscuit). The process to make them is fascinating to watch.
The panna cotta is a little too rich on its own, slightly overwhelming with the creaminess of coconut, and the bitterness of the green and Thai tea. But each is best enjoyed with chunks of the cookie that tops it, they help to balance things out. I would come back just to buy a box of them. If I had to choose one flavour it would be the coconut panna cotta with the squid ink cookie, the ink doesn’t add any flavour, it just has a nice contrast with the white dessert.
“Say! Cheese” is the booth offering gimmicky goodness this year. They are the stall giving us rainbow coloured grilled cheese sandwiches that you can stretch ear to ear. For the best results do your cheese pull slowly and as soon as you get it hot off their grill. As for taste they are more than just mozzarella cheese on white bread. With a condense milk drizzle and ricotta chunks they have elevated the grilled cheese, for a sweet and salty snack.
Looking for a lighter sandwich? New to the Richmond Night Market is “Salty’s”, offering mounds of fresh lobster dressed in cream sauce with celery and dill, stuffed plentiful into a toasted buttery bun. A little on the pricey side, but we are talking about the premium product that is lobster. They are brought to you by the same owners of the now shuttered “Crab Park Chowdery”. I advise getting just a half order, a full is plenty of the same taste, plus there are so many more stalls to try.
Because you definitely want to save room for dessert, and “Fluffy Soufflé’s” Japanese style jiggly pancakes. Light and fluffy eggy batter, meets breakfast food extraordinaire, turned dessert with fresh fruit and sweet creams and spread. To be honest I liked them as is, but can’t miss out on ordering them with the colourful toppings, and one by one, I tried them all but chocolate.
Like the sour and tangy topping of the sweet grapefruit.
The slightly bitter matcha with sweet red bean and mochi.
The salty and sweet crushed Oreo crumbs with salted cheese foam.
And the strawberry, pretty in pink with a more artificial strawberry flavour. But the fresh berries topping it makes up for this.
At “Afghan Yum” we were treated to their mantu, a popular Afghan street snack, similar to tortellini stuffed with meat. A saucy bite with nutty and creamy notes from the sauces and pops of freshness from the pomegranate.
“La Meza Grill” is serving up Filipino fusion, and one bite tacos served up in fried wonton cups. Lechon tacos, pork and tofu sisig, pork and chicken bbq. Each cup is full of bold flavours and easy to eat, perfect in a crowded market setting.
“Macc Shack” offers up a variety of Mac and cheeses, hence the literal name. But sadly we only tried the 4 cheese version, instead of their kimchi, taco, or pulled pork; which sounded a lot more interesting. This was a pretty standard serving that I wouldn’t gravitate towards, given everything else surrounding it.
From “Fusion Wrap” we had the Kimchi Beef. A green onion pancake topped and rolled up like a burrito. A little watery, but plenty tasty. I would crave a taste like this again, out of preference.
I also really liked “Nori Express” and their savoury offering of sushi built like tacos. The seaweed is battered and folded as the shell, the sushi rice is loaded in first and the fish of your choosing follows it. I fully enjoyed the “sushi noritaco”. Made with yellowfin tuna, eel sauce, and vegetable. It was full of flavour and textures. I especially liked the crunch of the fried seaweed. The spicy Alaska sockeye salmon, spicy mayo, vegetable sushi taco was good too, but I preferred the tuna and its ponzu seasoning more out of preference.
“2 sweet guys” are battering and deep frying fruit and sweets, topped as you like. We had the deep fried cookie dough to start. Balls of cookie flashed fried then drizzled in condense milk and topped with rainbow sprinkles and Oreo crumbs, (as we wanted). Other topping options includes a chocolate or raspberry drizzle, and mini marshmallows.
The deep fried watermelon was an interesting concept, one I was excited for, but did not enjoy. The fruit was warm and cooked, and in comparison to the batter not sweet and even bland. An odd sensation that need not bare repeating.
At “The Taco Tigre” they offer Asian inspired street tacos, reinventing the way you enjoy popular flavours like banh mi and beef pho. We tried one of each of their chicken banh mi taco, their 5 spice pork belly taco, and the beef pho taco. Each tasted like its promised name. I especially liked the bean sprouts from the pho taco. I didn’t really get enough of a taste of them, so wouldn’t mind going back for another trio.
Not new to the Lower Mainland, but new to the night market is Bella Gelateria. Serving up their trademark creamy and stretchy gelato out of bins. With an impressive selection to boot. Matcha green tea, coconut, chocolate sea salt, lavender, black sesame, and earl grey tea to name a few. We dug into a double scoop of yuzu citrus and Akbar Mashti.
There was a stand offering mitten crab roe topping either rice or noodles. And with each serving it is made further indulgent with the sheen of gold flake. I wanted more meat and sauce over this serving of plain noodles, you don’t get a lot for the price. The gold gimmick was nice, but ordering it was confusing as the booth doesn’t have a name and majority of it is left in Chinese.
And if you are done eating, or looking for something different to do, the market does offers new games and attractions to keep you or young ones entertained. Bouncy pony rides and a rainbow net to climb on, at a cost. Performers on stage, spinning rides, and arcade games with oversized prizes. Plus plenty of assorted goods vendors to shop from.
Each visit is always a delicious time. But be warned they are getting busier and more popular so the crowds are getting more concentrated and the lines will you waiting longer. So go early, get a zoom pass to skip the line and move briskly. Don’t deny your cravings.
RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC