I love novelty, and therefore I love the Richmond night market for its offering of impractical and excessive food and drink. Beautiful snacks and decadent desserts marketed in the name of novel. All targeted towards those like me: lured in with the need to eat with our eyes. So on this trip, we made it our mission to search our all that is unique at this year’s summer night market.
I have also compiled this list into an 8 minute YouTube video on my channel: MaggiMei. So be sure to check out my virtual tour of the most Instagram-able eats at this year’s Richmond summer night market.
This is my first trip to this night market of the season. It has already been four weekends into the series, so all the vendors are out and all are working in their grove. My friends and I arrived 45 minutes before opening, hoping to be allowed in a hair earlier, in order to get in position and avoid the lines that would soon come with the hours to follow. However the security guards and employees in yellow duck shirts were on high alert, no one allowed in right until 7pm. We waited behind rails with everyone else.
The market is easy enough to get to with traffic attendants, plenty of signs, and ample parking in a spacious lot. General admission entry is $3.75, but if you want to cut down some of the time and know you will be back again before the summer’s end, I suggest grabbing one of their zoom passes. This is $25 ticket that gives you 7 admissions to use all summer. through to early fall; until the market packs up for the year. You only save $1.25 in the long run, but it is well worth it when you factor in the cost of your time and the need for you to spend it waiting in a longer line.
We went straight to the food vendors, walking past all the isle, stopping at any of the stalls that peaked our interest. The first that caught my eye was the “Hand Made Senbei” stall. “Senbei” is Japanese style rice crackers, and here they make yours to order using a hand cranked press. Two metal plates squish batter, your choice of seafood, seasonings, spices, and shredded seaweed together, and baked it into a crispy sheet. We went with the shrimp and it was laid down and squished down, shell and all. You also get a choice of size from an 8×11 or 11×14. Naturally, I went with the rule that bigger is better and ended up biting off more than I can chew, literally. The end product is great for show, but troublesome to eat. You snap off shards with your teeth and are felt holding much more to go. We ended up snapping pieces down to size and saving the rest for later in a baggie. As for how it tasted, I loved it. It was crispy and salty with the flavour of shrimp and seaweed throughout. I was most amazed at how those four pieces of shrimp seemed to disappear within this sheet.
At the “Fish Stick” stall they took what they were selling and named their booth literal-like. Chunks of white fish, battered and deep fried then skewered on sticks. There were a number of ways they could be dressed for flavour, we went for the teri-mayo and had no regrets. The classic deep fried and creamy combo was amazing.
The surprise favourite was the “pho fries” from the “Fries and Things” booth. They offered different toppings on fresh cut fries like garlic butter and truffle. But the pho was the most unique of their five options, and it tasted just like the Vietnamese noodle soup. From its grounds of beef, the bean sprouts, green onion, parsley, and the salty and sweet brown sauce.
Based on its social media foot print, the “Deep Fried” stall was the fan favourite of the summer, or at least for selfies. Their signature item was a fried to order churro curl planted in a scoop of ice cream and topped with various cereals and sweets. Then it and its cup are placed on the back of a plastic inflatable flamingo. The intended purpose of this flamingo was for use in a pool, however this way for show, seemed to please people just fine. We went all out and got their rainbow churro, which is a golden brown and crispy churro further coated in melted chocolate then dipped in rainbow sprinkles. Truth be told, I was expecting and wanted a churro made with rainbow coloured batter. Maybe someone can get on that for next year?
From the same stall, we much preferred the deep fried mozzarella sticks, coated in a layer of crushed up Doritos. It was everything I expected and all that I wanted. Plenty of chewy, stringy cheese under a thick layer of zesty chips.
The “Teppan Bossam” stand offered Korean fusion style, flame seared pork belly. The barbecuing of this was quite the visual. The flames on it jumped into the air, unannounced it was quite the scare. Thick cuts of pork allowed to sizzle to a sear, then chopped up and served on a bed of lettuce with a side of dipping sauce. From three different flavours we went barbecue. The first few cuts were the perfect balance of meat to fat, although the last three were worth skipping as it was all gristle.
From “Bao Bar” we had one of their Asian style ice cream sandwiches. Deep fried, sweet, white buns fried to a golden brown and made to sandwich a brick of ice cream. Ice cream in flavours like matcha, Vietnamese iced coffee, earl grey, and durian. As is often the case, we went for the most unique of the lot, the toasted soy milk ice cream served with a Chinese doughnut. I just wish one was in proportion to the other. I liked the ice cream just fine, but my guests did not. Although I didn’t enjoy it any more with the chewy doughnut.
I appreciated the ingenuity of “sippy tea”. Their flavoured milk teas are served in plastic, resealable drink pouches. They seemed to be fairly popular, as only 30 minutes in to market open and they were already out of their “Thai coconut” flavour, which just so happened to be the one I was gunning for. But instead we got the “chai coconut” and were very happy with it. It was a great brew, the flavour of a stand out spicy chai, but with the mildness of a milk tea. And the best part, I didn’t feel constrained to finish it all in one go. I was able to free my hands for the food to come, by re-sealing the bag of tea and dropping it into my purse.
At this point we were looking for something with more substance, and stopped at the “Benkei ramen” stand to get two bowls of noodles. I enjoyed being able the watch the two men behind the counter multitasking. Preparing the noodles, stirring the broth, grilling the corn, searing the meat, slicing the perfectly soft boiled egg, and then bringing them all together in a cardboard cup, topped with seasonings to finish. It was a tasty bowl, I would purchase from any restaurant. I just wish I had more of it, given the price we paid.
I remembered the “raindrop cake” stall from last year, and this year they are back offering their translucent jellies, ideal for those looking for a lighter dessert. And now they also come with cherry blossoms at their centres, making it all so much more picturesque, almost like a paper weight. Served with powdered soybean and cane syrup for dipping into, and sweetening to your preference.
At the “Mango fever stall” we grabbed their last “mango Mille crepe”. A pre-made cake with layers of dough and cream, topped with fresh cut mango chunks to order. I am not a big fan of the dessert in the first place so didn’t find this all worth revisiting. You could tell that it wasn’t fresh, not than any version of this complicated cake is served that way. This really took away from the would be lightness of the cake.
And lastly we ended our night at the popsicle stall. Here, they pour flavoured juice into specialty rose shaped ice cube trays, and then froze them with a popsicle stick in place. The result: one of the most attention attracting items at the market. Although flavour wise it was nothing special, almost watered down.
Having eaten our fill, we then took our time exploring the rest of the market; with vendors offering socks, jewellery, cell phone cases, and swords.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
There are so many new stalls this year that I can definitely see myself returning soon to try more of which didn’t make this list. Don’t deny your cravings.