Philadelphia’s favorite street food festival, Night Market, came back to Chinatown, this time even bigger and better than the last.
The last Night Market in Chinatown took place Oct. 4. This year, crowds were measured in the thousands, and energy was seen at a whole new level. One of the best parts of a food-filled festival in the heart of one of Philly’s most diverse neighborhoods was the chance to enjoy the culture of China and Southeast Asia.
Entering Chinatown, especially that night, felt like I was transported to a different country. Music blared, people mingled, and food opportunities presented themselves everywhere. What makes Night Market a college-friendly event is that fact that it is generally dedicated to leisurely strolling, shopping, drinking and eating. Come on, who doesn’t love that?
The Chinatown Night Market had a little bit of a twist this year. Instead of just the usual Asian dishes of rice and noodles, it presented itself with a diverse range of multinational cuisines. Dishes from China, Indonesia, Mexico, the Caribbean, Italy, France and more were present. Thousands of locals enjoyed beer, bubble tea and lion dancing under a harvest moon. Strangers shook hands, sat at the same tables, and shared mugs of beer and glasses of wine. No one cared who you were or where you came from. Each race and ethnicity blended into one, and nowhere could I have found a more beautiful sight.
More than 50 food trucks were present, serving delicious plates with everything from homemade cupcakes and tasty tacos to wood-fired pizza and delicious waffles. Some of the trucks present included Gigi & Big R, Pitruco, Dapper Dog, Lucky Old Souls, Sugar Philly, Nomad Pizza, Los Taquitos de Puebla and Zsa’s Ice Cream, all of which were also big hits at previous Night Markets.
One of the hosts of the Night Market is The Food Trust, which strives to make healthy food available to all. Working with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers, The Food Trust has developed a comprehensive approach that combines nutrition education and greater availability of aﬀordable, nutritious food.
My experience at the Night Market was a rather interesting one. I am going to be honest; my primary reason for going was to try bubble tea. I felt like everyone at Drexel was talking about it all of a sudden, and I just had to see what this hype was about. Upon trying it, I must say I was a little disappointed. It tasted just like a frappe, the only addition being the tapioca balls, which had a weird texture and felt slimy in my mouth. I made myself drink half of it (to keep up appearances) and then threw the other half out.
I also tried fried noodles, fish balls, a Vietnamese wrap and shrimp tacos. The noodles were acceptable, the fish balls tasted bland, and the wrap was like a Subway sandwich with hummus. Not that I didn’t like it, but it was all kind of depressing. What I loved, however, were the shrimp tacos. The crunchy shell with juicy shrimp, complemented with cheese, was heavenly. The best part about the Night Market is that everything is so cheap! No single dish was more than $5 — perfect for a hungry, broke college student. The highlight of my evening was the entertainment provided. Street dancers showed off their moves, disc jockeys blasted music at every corner, and a live band performed right below the main arch of Chinatown.
I would definitely recommend Chinatown’s Night Market 2013 to those who like to go out and meet new people. Chinatown is just a few stops away on SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line and easily accessible from campus. Go with a group of friends for a chill night filled with fun, laughter, and how could I forget — street dancing “Gangnam style”!