Eating The East: Toronto Night Market 2007
I've been on a 'cleanse' for the past month whose stifling strictures and gory details I'll spare y'all but sufficed to say, the closest I've actually come to proper Asian fare lately is reading the excellent Eating Asia blog and watching episodes of the insanely fun Cooking Master Boy on Youtube. Lucky for me the cleanse is about to end and the timing couldn't be better since this Friday marks the launch of the annual Toronto Night Market.
From it's start in 2002 with 20 stalls and about 1000 visitors, this event now boasts nearly 100 vendors and expects crowds in excess of 60,000 people.
Toronto Night Market is run by members of Power Unit, a volunteer organization 40 strong of young people between the ages of 15-24 committed to 'hands-on' leadership and development and giving back to their community. This year's night market will generate $10,000 to be donated to the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care. The choice of recipient also influenced the theme for this year's night market of 'nostalgia and memories of the past', and also provides a wonderful symmetry between the young organizers and the cause they're helping; creating a bridge between the past and future through a truly 'memorable' event.
Since Toronto represents the culinary nadir of street food (
something hopefully on its way to changing), those who've adventured through Asia for any extended period will naturally be nostalgic for the lively atmosphere and cheap, tasty food on offer at the various stalls and vendors scattered across the night market's Markham location. For those that haven't managed to find their way that Far East, the event is a good introduction to the wealthy variety of post-sunset street fare on offer from KL to Seoul to Taipei.
There will be some restaurants represented in the teeming throng of vendors but the vast majority are all proud home chefs hawking everything from their nai nai's noodles to the family's 'secret-recipe' dumplings. You can also look forward to some wonderfully sticky-sweet and tender barbecued baby octopus (which I had the good fortune to preview and they're definitely high on my list of must-haves for my visit-- these little babies were so wicked they probably ride around on broomsticks during a full moon), curried fish balls, and some stinky tofu, natch! And incase you were expecting Chinatown-sized piles of litter to accompany this event and overpower the smell of stinky tofu, the organizers are hoping to reduce waste generated from this year's event by 20% through the use of recyclable containers.
The Toronto Night Market also offers a host of other vendors selling everything from clothing to electronics and video games as well as a variety of performances featuring everything from musical acts and kung-fu demonstrations to the Power Chef Competition pitting 2 local teams of amateur chefs going head to head Iron Chef style preparing dishes using a 'secret' ingredient and also bound by the 'nostalgia' theme.
Running Friday (7pm-1 am) and Saturday (1pm-1am), the night market is one of the few opportunities a year to taste a host of asian delicacies in as close to their natural habitat as you'll find this side of the international dateline.
Photos courtesy of Yee-Guan Wong and Power Unit's Cindy Tsoi
Toronto Night Market
Metro Square Plaza and New Century Plaza, 3636 Steeles Ave. East. (at Warden)
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