LOS ANGELES— Night markets filled with street food and vendors can be found in many countries throughout Asia. They are places of social gatherings and commerce. In the United States, Asian immigrants who live in Southern California have experienced a little piece of home with a night market, L.A.-style.
From hawkers competing for business, to the smell of street food, to the energy in the air...it is a vibe that draws thousands of people, mostly Asians, to the Los Angeles night market.
George Ge says the market reminds him of Taiwan. “This is something we need,” he said. “Everything is cheap and the food, not very clean but taste awesome."
Ge says the night market in Los Angeles is much cleaner. It's called the 626 Night Market, after the telephone area code of a predominantly Asian area of the city. Many of the people in attendance say it contains the energy reminiscent of the night markets in countries throughout Asia.
“Thailand, China, Korea, Japan have different variations of it. It’s a staple of Asian societies there," said organizer Jonny Hwang. "Night markets have been around every day every weekend. Thousands of people of all ages, families come out to have a good safe time.”
The 626 Night Market may be similar to those in Asia, but Aileen Xu says it also has a flavor that is unique to Los Angeles.
“What we have there is literally a huge melting pot, a fusion of all different Asians, and I think it’s really representative of the Asian-American population in L.A. because we’re not all Chinese. We’re Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese. We’re everything and we’re mixed and we even have foods that are like Asian Latino,” Xu said.
Another difference, the 625 Night Market does not occur regularly. Hwang has only been able to organize three night markets so far.
“Having this type of event of this scale in America, in L.A., is very difficult. It’s not like Asia where the rules are lax and you can almost do anything there... it’s a lot more structured [here],” Hwang said.
Hwang wants the night market more regularly. He says it is not only a social event, but it also helps the local economy.
“A lot of our vendors are local small business; a lot of them are entrepreneurs, first timers, and I think without this event this platform they would be hard-pressed to find places that they can participate...,” Hwang said.
All the food and retail vendors who have booths at the night market also have stores and restaurants, many in the 626 neighborhood. This event exposes their products to tens of thousands of people in just one night.
John Zhuang sells Taiwanese beef jerky, preserved plums and candied fruits. He says a food stand at the night market will help boost his business.
People as far east as New York and as far north as Vancouver have visited and asked for this night market to continue. Organizers say they are working on bringing back the 626 Night Market monthly, if not weekly, in the near future.