Mar­ket dishes up cul­tural con­coc­tion Carnival of food and crafts gains place in city’s ur­ban fab­ric

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

LOS AN­GE­LES — In the crowded 626 Night Mar­ket, Stan­ley Co­hen was en­joy­ing his grilled squid, a pop­u­lar Chi­nese dish, with a cup of Boba milk tea.

It was his first visit to the Chi­nese food and cul­ture carnival, which was launched in the United States five years ago.

“My Chi­nese friends and I drove six hours from San Jose to Los An­ge­les to­day to en­joy this well-known 626 Night Mar­ket and try all the Chi­nese food here, it re­ally doesn’t let me down and we had so much fun tonight,” Co­hen said.

“626” is the area code of San Gabriel Val­ley in Los An­ge­les, a re­gion with lots of Chi­nese. From dozens of booths to hun­dreds of ven­dors, in five years the night mar­ket has be­come the largest of its kind in the US and a part of the ur­ban cul­tural land­scape in Los An­ge­les.

More than 50,000 peo­ple ev­ery year flock to the night mar­ket, which is set up tem­po­rar­ily dur­ing the In­de­pen­dence Day week­end out­side the fa­mous Santa Anita Park, a horse rac­ing track that opened in 1934.

Chi­nese night mar­kets have a cen­turies-long history, orig­i­nat­ing in the late Tang Dy­nasty in China, and have since spread to many coun­tries and re­gions in Asia such as Malaysia, Thai­land and the Korean Penin­sula.

At a typ­i­cal night mar­ket, peo­ple can eat lo­cal pop­u­lar foods, shop for goods and watch shows per­formed by folk artists. Also, the night mar­ket used to be an im­por­tant part of the spir­i­tual life for peo­ple in the past.

At the 626 Night Mar­ket, in ad­di­tion to a rich va­ri­ety of gourmet foods, the or­ga­niz­ers have also in­vited some Asian artists pop­u­lar on YouTube to put on a tal­ent show.

Some artists even make typ­i­cal Chi­nese crafts on the spot so that the vis­i­tors can watch.

“It’s not just about the food, it’s more about the mem­o­ries for us,” said Gary Cheng, who is orig­i­nally from China’s Taiwan. “I have been com­ing to the night mar­ket for five years with my fam­ily, it makes us think of our lives in my home­town years ago.”

“Some pop­u­lar food will be sold out if you come late, so this year I came very early with my friends, so we can share and try more food,” said Rachel Ruano, who added that she has many Asian friends and is ob­sessed with the re­gion’s food.

More­over, Ruano said she en­joys what one could call the “eat­ing while strolling” style of the Chi­nese night mar­ket. Dif­fer­ent from lo­cal reg­u­lar restau­rants and par­ties, there are nei­ther chairs nor ta­bles in the mar­ket.

“This is a great ex­pe­ri­ence to know more about Chi­nese and Asian cul­ture. The grilled sticks, the fer­mented tofu and the Boba milk tea, all these are part of Chi­nese cul­ture, which are some­thing we can­not have in a reg­u­lar Asian restau­rant,” Ruano said.

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