Washington state maintains a growing Asian population, and with it has come the rise of more authentic Asian restaurants. The International District in Seattle is full of delectable Asian food as well, but many local foodies agree the best place to find every Asian food in high quality and quantity is in Richmond, B.C. A mere two-and-a-half hour drive from Seattle, Richmond is certainly worth the time to find many dishes unavailable here in Washington. Make the quick trip for one of the more well-kept food secrets in the Northwest — the night market scene. Food is so popular in Richmond that the city is able to hold two different Asian night markets during summer weekends, each of which garners more than 20,000 visitors in a weekend.
The Summer Night Market and the Richmond Night Market have similar types of vendors, but the Richmond Night Market is slightly larger. More than a million people a year visit these markets during the summer, and both are among the largest night markets in North America. They are located within close proximity of each other, so it’s easy to get from one to the other.
A recent visit to the Richmond Night Market exposed my taste buds to a wonderful range of flavors and textures. My mouth ran the gauntlet from salty to sweet, sour, and bitter. Then back again. There were plenty of simple and familiar dishes like grilled chicken or beef on a stick and Chinese stir fry noodles. Then the very next stall featured barbecued squid, which looked like something out of “Alien.” Both markets have something for adventurous palates and tamer tastes. Both offer shopping (think flea market vibe, with clothing, curios, art and more) and entertainment. Whatever your preference, the Summer Night Market and Richmond Night Market are must-visit destinations. Put them on your to-do list in the coming months. Can’t wait to dig into the Richmond food scene? There are plenty of restaurants to satisfy all of your cravings year ’round, too.
Richmond Night Market
- Hours: (May 18 until Oct. 8) 7pm to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 6 to 11pm Sundays and holidays.
- Cost: $1.50 per person, but parking is free.
Summer Night Market
- Hours: (May 11 through Sept. 16) 7pm to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 7 to 11pm Sundays and holidays.
- Cost: Free, but parking is $5.
Five Must-Try Dishes at the Richmond Night Market
Original Oktoberfest Style Roasted Pork Hock
Most items at the market range from $2-$8 (Canadian), but the roasted pork hock comes in at $12. Don’t be afraid to splurge (one order is enough to fill two grown adults). The hock at the Richmond Night Market may have been the moistest and most flavorful I’ve ever tasted.
Chef James’ Xin Jiang Man BBQ (at right)
Even in a sea of vendors and hungry patrons, it’s not hard to miss chef James. He shouts at you, but he does it with a smile. And that’s because he’s proud of his food and he wants to show you why. An order of his grilled barbecued meats — lamb, beef, chicken or prawns — will satisfy any meat eater.
Hong Kong-Style Bubble Waffles
This dish is just about exactly what it sounds like. Special waffle irons create bubbles instead of indentations in the batter. Chocolate, strawberry and matcha are popular flavors, but I enjoyed the original (tastes like waffle!) most.
Dragon’s Beard Candy
There are familiar flavors of peanut, coconut and sesame in this confection, however the texture of dragon’s beard candy is unlike anything I have ever tasted. I imagine the texture would be similar to a mouthful of cat hair (except delicious). It’s also called Chinese cotton candy, more for its process using spun sugar rather than its flavor or texture.
Would you believe one of the best things I tasted at the Richmond Night Market was essentially a french fry? It’s hard to go wrong with fried potatoes, and the folks behind the Rotato get it oh-so right. The vendor takes a whole potato, turns it into a swirl, puts it on a stick, dips it in a light batter and fries away. The result is a golden, chewy but crispy, sensation (the line here is by far the longest). Don’t forget to ask for flavor — everything from barbecue to sour cream, garlic, cheese and more (these flavorings are what make this dish so magical).
Get the Most from the Market
- Bring cash — it’s quicker to use, and some vendors only accept cash. ATMs are available.
- Both markets are always quite crowded, but Saturday is by far the busiest day. If you want to avoid longer lines, hit the market on Fridays and Sundays early in the evenings.
- You can find the best deals on Sunday night, near closing time, when vendors are trying to sell as much stock as possible before the weekend ends.
- Bring friends — having a couple of eating buddies makes the experience more fun, plus you get to taste more. Stand in different vendor lines to cut down on wait times, and then share what you’ve purchased so you can try a little bit of everything.
- Neither market is licensed for alcohol, so you’ll have to imbibe before or after at a nearby restaurant or bar.
- Take your time. A good portion of your trip will be spent exploring, working up an appetite. Expect to make at least one loop around the whole market so you can target what you want to eat.
- Bring a small backpack or bag that you can pack a light jacket in — Richmond is a coastal city, and with the markets near the water, the air can get a little chilly. Plus, you’ll want to have something to carry all the non-food goods you purchase at the market.