I must be honest here: I typically find Vancouver to be a bit of a boring city. Perhaps it is more so the base of people with whom I am acquainted, but I often struggle with making a decision on how to pass multiple hours of social interaction. Perhaps this is best exemplified by a situation in which a friend and I sat in my car by Oakridge at 10pm for about half an hour because we were at a loss as to what to do. It even got to such a point where we both considered having a marathon of The Real Housewives of Vancouver, a show I obviously wouldn’t watch otherwise.
coughTeamJodycough Of course, this occurred prior to the opening of this year’s Richmond Night Market, a sort of haven open in the summer for people like us who have nothing better to do on Friday to Sunday nights.
There are now two night markets in Richmond, with one by the River Rock Casino that features free parking and a wavering entry fee, and another in the classic position “by Home Depot.” During my particular visit, entry costed a meager $1.50, which included a stamp for re-entry. Fee aside, the two are relatively similar in their offerings, which include a variety of stalls dedicated to imitate the shoddier forms of capitalist ventures in the supposedly communist PRC. As such, an average shopper can purchase DVDs, socks, an oversized and bejeweled iPhone case (ugh), or a pile of atherosclerosis-inducing foods in the span of around 10-15 minutes, depending on your proficiency towards haggling. Come to think of it, is that even allowed here? Hm. In any case, the last item will obviously be documented here, after I painstakingly battled through the crowds of families, interracial couples, azn_thugs with their heavily made up sweeties, and scantily clad Asian high schoolers.
Fried squid ($6) is available from a number of stalls. I elected to get my order spicy, although a plain version exists and would probably be recommended if you can’t handle the heat. The squid will typically already be frying away as you order, so the stall will move relatively quickly through its line. Naturally, they are quite oily. Upon receipt, the squid was still quite bouncy and required a decent amount of chewing. The flavour of the tentacles themselves were completely masked by the spice. Keep in mind, however, that this is quite the portion and is thus a true bang for your buck. You may grow tired of all of the mastication involved with this serving.
Hurricane fries ($5.00) are likely the most distinctive food item that you can get from the night market. Their stalls are easily recognizable for having the longest line-ups, although placing your order takes a much shorter time than actually receiving your skewer of potato goodness. I’ll have to admit that after peeling about 50 events for a night market-type event at McGill for this very purpose, I have grown rather impartial to this snack. The version I received was not as crispy as I would have preferred, but the potato taste was still discernible under the powerful salt and vinegar flavouring that we requested. Speaking of which, the powder was distributed haphazardly, which is an obvious result of the speed at which those running the stall must operate at. Therefore, it may be a better idea to get a milder flavour so as to not partake in some overbearing bites of chip.
After all the oil, I was incredibly thirsty. A certain bubble tea stand offered fee pearls or coconut jelly with every drink, which seemed to be a rather good deal. Wanting something as refreshing as possible, I ordered the green apple green tea ($3.50). It certainly did the trick, and I appreciated how it did not go overboard on the sour fruit. I was apprehensive of the pearls, as I find that they are usually lacking at such places. However, I actually found them to be just passable: they were only slightly tough and exuded just a hint of sweetness. They obviously had a long way to go before matching Dragon Ball, but really, what can you expect?
On another occasion, I neglected to properly photograph my night market experiences. Instead, I will describe them with the power of language.
My friends and I started off with some corn ($3.00). This was incredibly standard, especially if you passed on the butter like I did. However, I believe that there is some credence to munching on some of the yellow good stuff while pondering which deep fried morsel to purchase next. Hey, at least it’s a vegetable, right?
Takoyaki ($6.00) is always something that captures my attention. This may be from watching the sole anime series I’ve ever followed, Cardcaptor Sakura. A Japanese octopus ball of sorts, an order from the night market fell short on the batter. Each ball softened rapidly (um) and was weighed down heavily by the ample amount of sauce poured on top. This made it extremely difficult to consume with just the toothpick they give you. Flavour-wise, the octopus is certainly there, but the sauces may prove to be overpowering at times. Incidentally, you have an option of choosing which variant to have drizzled on your takoyaki, and they are willing to do a half-and-half serving of two sauces.
In a more traditional sense, skewers are a staple at any night market. Those in Richmond’s tend to be about ten-fold the price of those in China, and they are certainly not as exciting taste-wise. That said, at least you can reasonably rest assured that you getting the flesh of the animal that you requested and not, say, rat meat. Yum. I sampled a lamb skewer ($3.00), which was showered with cumin. In spite of this, the gamey taste of lamb was nonetheless discernible. Texture-wise, despite being incredibly oily, the meat still had a bit of chew in it. Note that they cool down relatively quickly, so ensure that you consume those trans fats before they become cold and grimy.
In the end, don’t expect a culinary or retail revolution from the night market. Instead, go to stand in line while getting billowed by smoke from the BBQ and listening to the wails of confused children and teenagers, experiences that, along with the food, will probably shorten your life expectancy. Be sure to hold on to your small children and pets and to bring some cash lest you be forced to deal with the money-grabbing ATMs on site.
Conclusion: Andy ate a fair amount.
Richmond Night Market
8351 River Rd.