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This would be my first visit to the Richmond night market this year. The summer season is in full swing, operating from May 12 to October 15. Open Fridays and Saturdays  from 7pm-12am and Sundays and stat Mondays 7pm-11pm.

After several years it is still a popular weekend destination that only seems to get bigger every year after. One thing you consider when attempting a trip down to the market is the parking. As the event gets bigger, the same could be said for the parking congestion. Although it is a free lot, the cost on your time is a hefty fine. It is a slow attempt to move in, and is just the same trying to get out, angry drivers and carefree pedestrian blocking roads. Luckily they have hired traffic guards to help move things along. We however played it clever and opted to walk blocks, instead of queuing in the car.

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Similarly, we paid $20 to get their zoom pass, in order to by pass the admissions line. A obvious option when considering having to stand for a 30 minute plus wait. I don’t know why people even bother to line up, when the $20 cost includes seven additional visits and the option to save time. So this is especially worth while if you know you are going to come back again. And we would. The math is less than $3 per entry. A savings when you consider that the regular fee is $4. Previously the going admission rate was $2. Though this increase in price was not stopping anyone for coming. Similarly, this year $20 pass card only gets you 7 entries, where in previous years you got more than 10. Economics.

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This year’s theme was a pirate one. Their rubber duck mascot, “magical lolliduck” dawned an eye patch, a black over coat, and a captain’s hat with a skull and cross bones for the occasion. Pictured in fixtures and on signs, they were consistent on their messaging. A gumdrop and lollipop themed pirate ship was even docked for the occasion. It lack sails, but made up for it with confetti dotted cannons. Lolliduck was on the flags, his likeness was mounted on the side of the ship, and there was also a big bust of him fronting the vessel. It isn’t practical for sailing, nor are you actually able to board it, but it does make a great photo op. The market had many such planted photographic moments.

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The market is more than just food and shopping. A stage by the entrance hosts  nightly live entertainment. It is line with an international collection of plastic “rubber ducks”. The Canadian duck was dressed like a Mountie, the Dutch one wore clogs, and the one from France was dressed in a striped shirt and a beret; it was all very cliché. They all said “welcome” in English. They are reused every year, along with the spiral lollipops and swirling gumdrops from last year’s candy land displays.

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We started our journey through the maze with the food stands. Agreeing to stop when anyone signal their attention to the group. We would stick together, it is easy to get lost in the sea. If you are claustrophobic or hate being touched, you might want to skip this event all together. Both are unavoidable when there are this many people confined to travelling in parallel isles.

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I am the kind of person who wants to make a loop before deciding on what I want. I want to make the best in formed decision, especially as I am most interested in the unique. We started with savoury and worked our way sweet. Although the prices of most  items are steep, you actually eat less and therefore spend less. The time it takes to travel and wait in line allows your stomach to tell your brain that it is full.

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The “Buddy Kushikatsu” stall prided itself as being from Osaka and the first of its kind in Vancouver. Kushikatsu is a Japanese dish of seasoned, skewered, and grilled meat. It can be made with chicken, pork, seafood, and seasonal vegetables. These are skewered on bamboo; dipped in egg, flour, and coated with a panko crumb. And then finally deep-fried in vegetable oil. They are served drizzled in a tonkatsu sauce, a type of thick Worcestershire sauce.

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I appreciated the cooked demos on display. It definitely helps the ordering process and gets you tempted as you walk by. The market is a visual place.

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Made to order, we got 7 for $10 to be able try one of each with doubles on what we wanted more of, otherwise it is $5 for 3. Scallop, chicken, quail egg, cheese filled beef, and cheese filled chikuwa (fish cake). The scallop and beef were a little dry. The soft boiled mini egg just melts in you mouth. And the fish was nice because of the melted cheese dropping from its centre.

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At “Big G’s large fried chicken” booth the name says it all. Though they also offered deep fried fish cake and mushrooms for those who did not partake in meat. We stopped here because the photo on the booth promised chicken as large as our faces. And sometimes food needs a good gimmick. The booth delivered and the staff working it suggested that we take a photo of said chicken beside our faces to compare the size. We did.

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The slab of chicken went bag deep. Given the presence of bones, I feel they pounded half a chicken flat, breaded it, then deep fried it to a crisp. It tasted just like the salt and pepper chicken nuggets you get at Taiwanese bubble places. The dark meat portions were juicy and the chicken overall was well cooked. Though because it was so salty, more oily than expected, and had a one dimensional flavour; we were unable to finish it between three people. It also did not travel well as leftovers. In retrospect we would have been better off ordering the chicken strips for $7. The same chicken, but cut up and easier to share. It was also a more reasonable amount. Though for $2 more, who wouldn’t want to cross off eating something that is larger than their faces off their check list.

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“Mango Tango”, don’t let its name fool you, they don’t just do mango. For all its mango centred desserts they also had a durian substitute available. Mango or durian sticky rice, grass jelly, mousse, or tofu. The stall was most cute with a cartoon green mango and a pointy durian mascots. And as is the case with most vendors, the pictures provided on the awning helped to attract attention and pull in customers. It certainly worked on me.

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Having seen durian offered as a pancake I just had to order one for nostalgia. Durian is an acquired taste. Growing up enjoying it, I do find myself with occasional cravings. In Southeast Asia durian is considered the “king of fruits”. It is most known for its distinctive odour and its formidable spiky shell. If you can hack your way past the spines, soft fruit surrounding large pits are waiting for you. For those unfamiliar with the fruit, it’s scent is often likened to smelly gym socks. Not the best image when eating, especially as scent is tied to taste.

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The durian pancake was more whipped cream than durian, it made sense given its price tag. You get two folds, I offered one to a girl who was interested in my dessert and asked where I got it from. I wanted a taste and didn’t need two. Plus my companions complained of the smell. It barely had any fruit, yet one breeze and one of my guests couldn’t take it anymore. Though at the same time, I managed to get one to try it for the first time. It is definitely not for everyone, but for me it tasted like childhood.

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At the “Icy bar” we had the “mango tapioca icy”. It is best described as a dressed up snow cone with condense milk for sweetness.

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It also comes in strawberry, mochi, grass jelly, and various combinations of the three.

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You get a coupon book with your zoom card purchase. Although there is a required hunt to located the stand in which it is passed out. The book offered over 50 pages of food and item discounts. Though standing still and going through over in a sea of people was a little tricky. Luckily vendors participating did advertise their inclusion by using signs on their booths to alert customers. We only ended up using one of the coupons on bubble tea. The deal is buy one get one at 50% off. Given all the similar stands, the coupon definitely swayed us in their direction.

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“Bubble Tea Mosters”. Did they spell “monsters” wrong? Though you almost miss this potential type-o because their banner was so cute. Food with cute faces and large eyes, as is the custom for many other stalls. They know their demographic. At “Bubble Tea Mosters” they cleverly market that their pearls or jelly for their tea is free. Though in reality, is its already included as part of the price.

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Papaya milk tea and strawberry slush. After various salty snacks this was a much needed thirst quencher. Though other than that it was your run of the mill powdered milk tea mix and frozen fruit blend.

Of note, not covered in this first visit post is the games area where you can win large plushes; and all the vendor stands selling everything from cell phone cases and socks, to colour contacts and samurai weapons. I guess it gives me another reason to return.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
For me, this is one of those things I do every year. And with so much to eat and see, I end up visiting multiple times. The atmosphere is fun with bright lights and photo ops galore. Eat your food under pink led bulbs, imitating a lit up cherry blossom trees. Or purchase some “hurricane potatoes” to be able to sit in their “throne of rotato” for d one of s kind photo. (As a rift on the “Game of Thrones” throne.) Both features are very unique to the night market. My only gripe, besides the parking and the crowds: I find their regular announcements over the PA annoying. A repeating track invites guests to come to the night market. But seeing as you are already here, it seems redundant, as no convincing is actually needed. As always, don’t deny your cravings.

 

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC
richmondnightmarket.com