Two weekends ago, I was invited to attend the opening of the OC Night Market down in Costa Mesa. It has been over two years since the 626 Night Market began in a tiny park in Pasadena. While farmer markets were the norm in Los Angeles, many wondered if a market that focuses primarily on Asian goods would attract a sustainable crowd. 10,000 attendees proved that it did, but it also posed a new issue, limited space. Within just two years, the 626 Night Market improved and expanded to Santa Anita Park and even to Downtown LA and Orange County to accommodate demand. The OC Night Market is a wonderful addition to the Orange County that provides patrons both familiar vendors from the 626 Asian Night Market and new ones while improving on past issues with space.
Even before I entered the market, I noticed how less cluttered the crowd was. The gap between the entrance and the parking lot contributed to a moving flow of traffic. Food vendors and food trucks were conveniently located to the left while games and merchandising booths like the popular “Stussy Inc.” and “Fantastic Fam” clothes booths were situated to the right. Those that were in demand like the “Ramen Burger” booth were kept to the side so that the line would not block others from walking by. Those that both attracted and diverted attendees like the “Green Cube Gourmet Food” booth were also kept to the edge far from other booths (but more on that later). The manner in which the vendors were located was organized, and crowd density was kept to a minimum when I was there.
Having lived in Hong Kong for three years and now living in West LA, I always look forward to the Night Market to satisfy my craving for Asian snacks. One of my favorite bites is egg puffs, which “Puffect Bakery Cafe” provided. They are similar in taste to pancakes, but they have a honeycomb texture, making them look like “egg puffs.” When I lived in Hong Kong several years ago, the only types of egg puffs available were regular and chocolate. Nowadays places like “Puffect” provide even more variations, including black sesame, thai tea, matcha, condensed milk, and red bean. It was difficult to choose, but I ended up getting the red velvet egg puff with a mochi filling to satisfy my sweet tooth. In addition, I also bought stinky fermented tofu from “Green Cube Gourmet Food.” Ignoring the scent, these are deep fried tofu with a sharp, tangy taste that goes well with their side of pickled cabbage. It’s an acquired taste like durian, but the line in front of the booth proved it’s still a hit. If stinky tofu’s not your thing, then head over to another popular booth known as the “Ramen Burger” booth. Created in 2013 by Keizo Shimamoto, the ramen burger is the latest fusion trend that consists of a juicy beef patty with grilled ramen buns and a sweet, tangy aioli sauce to complement the saltiness of the ramen. The ramen is strong enough to stay in its bun form, but it melts in your mouth with the patty after you bite into it. Before I headed out, I made sure to purchase some dragon beard candies to go. Some people might remember Chef Alex Goh from the very first 626 Asian Night Market two years ago! He’s back with even more kinds of dragon beard candies. In addition to the regular ones made out of peanuts, sugar, and honey, he now has a strawberry variation, which is sweet but not overpowering. Overall there was a decent number of distinct vendors with enough food to keep everyone satisfied and full.
If the first weekend of the OC Night Market is any indication, I sense a bright future for it and the other night markets. The OC Night Market was located in the OC Fair and Event Center on 88 Fair Drive. Parking was $5 and admission was $7, but it was worth it for the large size of the venue and parking lot. Furthermore, food was generally kept under $10. To avoid long lines, I suggest going before dinner time around 7pm. Be sure to check out the Downtown LA Night Market on June 20 and 21 from 4pm to 12am as well as the 626 Night Market on July 18, July 19, August 15, August 16, September 12, and September 13 from 4pm to 1am.
Until next time,