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Annual Taiwanese Night Market Offers Bubble Tea and Tso'Boy Sandwiches

By Dana Varinsky | April 25, 2014 4:15pm
 A passport to the third annual Taiwanese Night Market allows participants to sample food from 11 food vendors.
Taiwanese Night Market
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WILLIAMSBURG — Kumquat hibiscus bubble tea, red velvet macaroons, and General Tso’s chicken po' boys — these are a few of the offerings at the third annual Taiwanese Night Market.

Taiwanese and Chinese-American food vendors will converge Friday evening for the three-hour Night Market event, which attempts to recreate the festive bustle of Taiwanese marketplaces.

“It’s really that overall feeling and ambience of dark, food, lots of people, kind of feeling like you’re a kid again, that brings out that authenticity,” said Alex Shih, external vice president of Taiwanese American Professionals-New York (TAP-NY), the volunteer group throwing the event.

Four hundred fifty people are expected to attend, though participation is not cheap — admission comes in the form of a $40 passport, which entitles market-goers to sample one item from each vendor.

But Shih said that despite the price tag, TAP-NY is simply looking to break even from the event.

“We as an organization don’t make anything. We’re just making sure the vendors cover their costs, and everyone gets to try everything,” he said. 

The 11 vendors range from established restaurants, such as Nom Wah Tea Parlor, which has sold dim sum, tea and pastries in Chinatown since 1920, to newcomers such as General Tso'Boy, which is slated to open at the Long Island City Flea in June.

“The night market today is kind of our first stepping stone in letting people know that we’re here,” said Jessica Lin, co-founder of General Tso'Boy. 

At the Night Market, Lin said she will be offering her signature dish: a beer battered chicken thigh, which is quickly fried, dressed in house general tso sauce, and served in a po' boy-style submarine sandwich.

“We thought it would be a fun challenge before we started,” she said, explaining that the Night Market will be her first time serving such a high volume of customers. Once General Tso'Boy debuts in Long Island City, the stand will also offer a pulled pork sandwich and wonton chips.

Those with Night Market Passports will also get to sample Wooly’s Shaved Snow, stinky tofu from Outer Borough, and organic, sustainable, gluten-free Chinese fare from Zai Lai Grille, among other options.

Many of the more established vendors plan to offer unique items at the market. The Macaron Parlour, which has shops in the East Village and Upper West Side, will offer a “Black Out Tiramisu” flavor as one of 14 choices at its booth. Thirstea, the East Village tea shop, will be serving three varieties of bubble tea not available on its regular menu: honey lavender, kumquat hibiscus and Swiss black, a milk bubble tea with a hint of chocolate.

Shih said the Night Market's organizers have tried to keep the number of vendors and price of admission constant throughout the event's three years. Rather than only seeking out food that is all traditionally found in a Taiwanese Night Market, he said part of the event’s goal is to help vendors gain exposure. 

“It’s really an intersection of who’s new, who’s up and coming and who we want to support,” Shih said.

Winn O’Donnell, the owner of Thirstea, said his tea creations bridge the traditional and the modern.

“Bubble tea comes from Taiwan, and we have our own interpretation and style of it,” he said.

In addition to the food, there will be karaoke, music and a photo booth. Attendees will also be encouraged to play traditional market games, including one in which participants try to catch a goldfish from a pond using a thin paper net.

“If you grew up in Taiwan you played these games as a kid,” Shih said.

Taiwan Beer and Tiger beer are available for purchase at the Night Market, but are not included in the price of the passport. The event’s organizers are also promoting an afterparty that attendees can go to for free.

The Night Market will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. in the Villain event space at 50 North 3rd Street in Williamsburg. Alex Shih said those who are too late to get tickets but are still interested in attending can join the event’s waitlist.