By Nikki Bayley
One of the annual thrills in the Vancouver foodie calendar is the opening of the Richmond Night Market for their summer season. Each year between mid-May to mid-October, night market aficionados hop on the Canada Line to Richmond’s Bridgeport Station to dive into delicious Asian street food and innovative desserts and to browse the stalls of the 200 or so vendors selling everything from toys and balloons to the latest must-have gizmo from Hong Kong.
It’s very easy to find the market from the station, there are plenty of signs but all you need to do is follow the hordes of eager food fans walking the 5 minutes or so across to the market grounds. To avoid the often long line-ups, the fastest way in is to buy a $20 Zoom pack (which gives seven express entry coupons that can be used throughout the season or split between friends on the night) or face the queues and pay the $2,75 entry –cash only.
Once you’re in –and have posed with the giant inflatable duck– it can feel overwhelming to pick where to start first. If there’s not a long line up at the Rotato “potato tornado” stall make a beeline there. Nothing says “Richmond Night Market” like taking a selfie with a potato that’s been twisted around a stick and then deep-fried. The garlic topping is my favourite.
Next up try takoyaki: creamy, spicy fried little balls of soft dough with octopus, sprinkled with bonito flakes and drizzled with a rich mayo and takoyaki sauce. Skip the giant takoyaki; they never seem to be as delicious as the mini-versions. You usually get six to a potion for around $5 but if you’re with friends it’s impossible to just get one– they are so tasty!
Everyone loves eating food on sticks at the night market and some of the most tempting are the skewers from Chef James, one of the market’s most popular characters and known for the high quality of his ingredients. You can get five skewers for around $12 and I’d recommend the AAA beef, spicy lamb and the chicken, all incredibly succulent and juicy with just the right hit of spice and heat.
Squid is everywhere at the market; barbecued or fried you’ll see tentacles sizzling away wherever you look. One of the best at the market comes from the Lao Er BBQ squid stall as they marinate their squid in a spicy house-made sauce that keeps it tender and gives it a spicy lift.
Want to push your limits? Then give the deep fried “stink tofu” a whirl. Admittedly, this pungent Taiwanese snack isn’t for everyone but perhaps if you like strong-smelling blue cheeses then this could be a whole new treat. Just follow your nose to the Taiwan Traditional Snacks stall and put in an order. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and super-stinky all over!
Bubble teas, slushies and shaved ice desserts are an essential part of the night market experience too. If you’ve never tried Asian desserts, prepare to become a life-long fan of these fresh, sweet, creamy fruity treats. Try Mango Yummy’s shaved ice special, topped off with vanilla ice cream, mocha balls and chunks of fresh mango.
Finally, take a break and enjoy watching a master at work at the Dragon Beard Candy stall, where you can see the delicate pulled sugar strand sweets made. It takes incredible skill to make these nut-stuffed candies and they really are best fresh.
Location: 8351 River Road, Richmond (a 5-minute walk from SkyTrain’s Bridgeport Station)
Season: Friday, May 15 to Monday, October 12, 2015
Opening Days and Hours: Friday and Saturday: 7 p.m. to midnight, Sundays and Statutory Holidays: 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Admission: $2.75 for regular admission. Free admission for children aged 10 and under and for seniors aged 60 and up.