Night Markets Celebrate Asian Culture – And They’re Making A US Debut

night markets

I love a farmer’s market as much as the next Zillennial. There’s something so heartwarming about walking around a farmer’s market shopping for produce, honey, sippin’ on an iced beverage, holding one of my favorite reusable market bags, in a sundress. The vibes are immaculate. But… I can’t lie to you. The last time I attempted to go to the farmer’s market, it was over 100 degrees. I live in Phoenix, Arizona and that means that perusing a farmer’s market while the sun is high in the sky is not ideal. After five minutes, I was sweating, feeling sick and was not having a good time. I turned to my fiancé, who laughed as I said I was ready to leave. But what if there was a farmer’s market-esque experience at night time? Night Markets are suddenly all the rage and I’m ready to jump on this trend ASAP. But what are night markets? Where did they start? Let’s dive in.

The History

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Night markets take after night bazaars or open-air markets popular in East Asia and Southeast Asia. Their history actually goes all the way back to the medieval Chinese Tang dynasty, around A.D. 836. Night markets are a giant part of Asian culture event today. The typical night market in Asia focuses on food, music and retail vendors to highlight and celebrate Asian culture. Even though they’ve been popular for decades in Asia, they are only recently making their American debut.

The Purpose

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Kind of like walking around a mall rather than a specific store, night markets are for those looking for a craving they didn’t even know they had. Most of the time, people don’t head to a night market with specific wish list items in mind, they are more of a place to browse and explore. Wandering endlessly, buying some snacks and trying out new things is the key here. Deeply rooted within Asian culture, night markets are typically seen as something to do with a group of friends, on a date or as a family. While Americanized events like swap meets and flea markets focused on items, art and goods, night markets usually focus more on food.

The Food

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While farmer’s markets are often centered around food, they’re often more focused on curating your grocery list. A traditional night market is all about eating food, grabbing a snack, sipping on a drink (perhaps bubble tea) and enjoying the night. Like mentioned, they seem to be more of an event than a grocery shopping stop. They’re all about browsing, eating, snacking, shopping and reveling. Usually, they have a wide variety of Thai, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino, or other Asian cuisine. Some examples are twice-cooked pork belly buns, bubble tea, Japanese octopus balls, Chinese barbecued squid, deep fried taro balls, red bean cake and stinky tofu.

The Culture

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As mentioned in the history section, night markets are one of the most popular activities in Asian countries such as Taiwan, which has over 700 night markets. When these markets are introduced to the United States, it is highly important to keep the Asian culture, celebrations and representation within them. Often, these night market-esque events are a way to celebrate Asian communities in American cities. They have a focus on bringing the community together, while shining a light on the Asian Americans who are often neglected or ignored – who instead should be celebrated.

Have you been to any night markets in the United States? Have we missed any vital information about night markets and their rich culture? Let us know in the comment section below!

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