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Night It Up and Waterfront Night Market 2011

2 Asian-style Night Markets coming up: Markham July 15-16 http://t.co/drTbu2I and downtown Toronto July 21-24 http://t.co/rMV8vJs Which one is worth visiting, on which day and at what time are the crowds and lineups generally okay, and what to look out for other than stinky tofu and octopus balls?

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  1. They say they're expecting 30,000 people at the downtown T & T. Sounds like lineups to me.

    1. The downtown one will be less crowded/smaller, uptown one will be a zoo. It usually gets super rammed right when it gets dark as folks prefer the feel of nighttime.

      You'll see way more younger asian kids uptown as that's where they all live. Parking will be hell as 95% of the people will be driving to the Markham event.

      I assume we'll see the murtabak folks, fresh beef/pork jerky, xinjiang lamb skewers, grilled squid, hk style egg waffle, etc....

      2 Replies
      1. re: aser

        The vendor list is up for Night It Up. http://nightitup.com/map_booth_info.php

        What stood out to me; oyster pancakes (ke zai jian), murtabak, bing tang hu lu.

        1. re: KerryL

          I haven't had oyster pancakes in years! I would love to have a good one sometime soon but I will not brave the masses for this one. If you have one do report back!

      2. I went last year to the T&T one, some of the line ups were stupid (like the stinky tofu) but I had a 10 buck lobster with just some lemon was so good I want to go back (with hope they have it again) . My friend did not like it due to the crowd

        1 Reply
        1. re: bsv

          The downtown market definitely has lobster! And no lineups for any of the stinky tofu (3 different vendors).

        2. What would you like to see there?

          4 Replies
          1. re: KhaoSanRoad

            We have decided to go to the downtown one on opening day at opening time this coming week to beat the crowds if possible. CTV report says the Markham one is expecting 60,000 over 2 days (yesterday and today). Either sound overwhelmingly crowded but delicious.

            I don't actually know much about asian street food, having never been to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok, etc. I suppose I'd be willing to try just about anything on a skewer, or non-messy finger food, or anything cool and refreshing for summer. Anything that you can't readily get at a restaurant in the GTA would be welcome.

            1. re: Food Tourist

              I went last night and indeed it was super crowded. I knew that going in so it didn't bother much, but if you're easily annoyed with crowds..........

              Some stalls were great, others were clearly a ripoff because of poor product. Prices seems to be escalating each year. You will pay 1.5 - 2.5x more than a comparable stand serving the same food at Pac Mall/1st Markham Place. I think that rings true for most food festivals.

              Although housing less vendors, the T&T market gets a lot of the same stalls as Night It Up. You should enjoy it.

              I wish more people on the white side of things would give this event a chance as it's 99% Asian attended. Yes I know it's in Markham, but it's still a part of the GTA. It's a prime example of the supposed multiculturalism in our city. Yes we're multicultural but racial lines are clearly drawn still.

              This can be seen from the top down. Conventional media give little coverage to one of the most successful foodie events in the GTA. Key emphasis would be the food nerd blogs that is "whitey" restaurant centric and followed by many of you as evident by posting patterns seen here. Nary a mention on any of them about Night It Up. A comparable example like the food truck event draws a great deal of press. The difference is night & day.

              If using location as an excuse, the Toronto Rib Fest is similar in nature (suburban, car-centric), yet again generates more press.

              I'm happy people are paying more attention to this street/food truck trend of late, but night it up's been doing for a good few years before it became trend du jour.

              Toronto Life is a key example, which again speaks of the waspyness of their editorial slant.

              1. re: aser

                The Star had an article yesterday providing a good history of the event and its young organizers.

                1. re: aser

                  The T&T Waterfront Night Market has about 40-50 more vendors than NIU

            2. Two words to sum up most of the stalls at Night It Up:

              Amateur Hour.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Crispier Crouton

                Fortunately, I have easy parking to most of these events and do not have to worry about parking. We go mostly because it's something to do on a summer night.
                But agree find it difficult to understand why folks would line up for 1 hour or more to pay 2X the price for simple street food made by 'students' (?) or non-restaurants that you can get at Pacific Mall or other places. We used to go for stinky tofu but lineups are too too long. Diana's oysters if lineups are short. But lining up for fish balls, lamb skewers, oyster pancake and rice rolls in a crowded parking lot does not appeal to me.
                Still a great event as they are very popular and packed. When I went to the Market Village one a few weeks ago, we walked there. got there late and still was able to enjoy the free concert and buy some funky jewellry. So we had fun.
                Maybe if there are more frequent, would have less crowds and be more enjoyable. I remember a few years ago, I thought Vancouver had weekly night market on weekends.

                1. re: caitlink

                  This applies to any of the food fests in Toronto. Whether it's Taste of the Danforth or Ribfest, I just don't see any logic in lining up in sweltering heat to eat food served on styrofoam at the same price (or more) than what you'd pay in a restaurant.

                  1. re: sbug206

                    If you break it down to its simplest element of ribs served on styrofoam, I can see your point, but these summer festivals are so much more than that. Personally, I look forward to Burlington Ribfest each Labour Day weekend. "Canada's Largest Ribfest" may not be a culinary masterpiece but what is does provide is a great day or night out for a group of friends to gather in a park, sample a wide variety of ribs, have a few brews, listen to a couple of good bands and soak up some atmosphere. All this while contributing to a good cause, i.e. helping the local Rotarians raise funds for charity. So while I enjoy a fine night out a Colborne Lane, Splendido or Blacktree... Ribfest also has its place in my culinary calendar. And the ribs are pretty darn good too!!

              2. I went to the NIU event last night. we showed up at 830 when it was still light out, and it was packed. the food items i had were good, but would not attend again to repurchase: pineapple drink, tornado potato, oyster pancake, stinky tofu fried, beef balls fried, grilled squid, takoyaki, coconut sago drink, and mango sticky rice. it was mostly made by teens, but all edible.

                upon arrival, the line ups were long to begin with but then continued to steadily grew throughout the night, for example the oyster pancake and the stinky tofu fry both had hour+ long line ups. people were pushing and shoving as the night continued as well. i sensed that attendants really started to become more irritated by the crowds. the venue was quite dirty, lots of litter, overflowing garbage cans, and you're just walking over corn cobs, saucy packaging, etc. people were also shortsighted and brought their dogs, as well as baby strollers. people were stepping on the dogs due to space constraints -i can't imagine how frightening it was for the dogs as people were literally squished together and everyone was trying to navigate the event.
                must note: a lot of food on long sharp skewers + even more people walking shoulder to shoulder = not a good mix.

                1. does anyone know if the Waterfront event is organized by the same organization?

                  if anyone wants to do a bit more reading: NUI facebook event has several complaints: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ylsf

                    It's organized by NAAAP (North American Association of Asian Professionals) . See here :http://www.naaaptoronto.org/nightmarket/

                  2. The pork belly bao at NIU was great, despite the fact that we had to engage in a bizarre form of unarmed combat in order to procure it. I'm hoping the same vendor shows up at the downtown event. I don't remember the name but they were advertising as Taiwanese vendors.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: graydyn

                      I saw them selling that. Noted the $5 price tag, and the size of it (about two bites) and decided to pass. Nice to hear it tasted good.

                      Best thing we had were the Malaysian Murtabaks for $8. Obviously made by folks who knew what they were doing. Pretty filling, too.

                      1. re: Crispier Crouton

                        More like 6 bites! Pig-Out Harbour. Wonderful women with great marketing skills.

                    2. went in for about 5 minutes before leaving

                      no thanks on waiting for 1 hour for mediocre asian street food while being pushed and shoved by masses of people that smell like stinky tofu.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bryanayrb

                        How do you know the food was mediocre if you left after 5 minutes? I thought they food was great, as long as one was lucky enough to hit the right booths.
                        Agreed that the stinky tofu smell was pretty intense though, probably because almost half the booths were serving it.

                      2. are there any veg options at the T&T one?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: helenhelen

                          Corn on the cob, tornado potato, there were a couple stands that were fruit focused. Noticed several tofu based things beyond the stinky tofu, someone was making tofuyaki.

                          1. re: bytepusher

                            i went on a whim tonight and it was enjoyable. i liked the atmosphere (very much like an asian night market!). unfortunately, i had dinner just before going so i was stuffed and couldn't eat much - just had the tofuyaki (you can ask for it sans bonito flakes) and some sugarcane juice.. but got to try a bite of friends' tornado potato, pineapple juice, and stinky tofu (damn, does that stuff reek!).

                            for the vegetarians, aside from the above, there was also a thai food stall, veg murtabaks, crepes, funnel cake, banh mi, egg tarts, and a few more.

                        2. Just came back. This was very good. At least double the size of last year. Good crowd but no huge lineups. Although this may change on the weekend. Lots of food variety. Basically all the fun of Night it Up without the disorganized chaos.

                          1. I just tried some stinky tofu tonight from "Wei's Smelly Tofu", which apparently is one of the more popular vendors. As a first time consumer of stinky tofu, I must say I was fairly underwhelmed. The odour was present, but not pungent by any means, and the taste of the tofu was slightly fermented, but easily overpowered by the sweet-based sauce that covered some parts of the pieces.

                            Now, were my preconceived notions of stinky tofu skewed because of its reputation? I was really expecting a very strong, pungent and fermented flavour, with a crisp texture (Wei's tofu was crisp, I will say that). I was just expecting more strength overall, I guess.

                            Anyone with experience in stinky tofu - how pungent is this stuff really? Is the stuff sold at the night market a bit more tame? If so, are there places in the GTA that sell better or stronger stuff?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Chipp

                              I have limited experience with the stuff but I will say that I have bumped into it at street festivals and a restaurant where it smelled MUCH stronger than what was as this event.

                              1. re: bytepusher

                                Agreed, The smell at the downtown market this evening was very mild unless you were directly downwind in extremely close proximity to one of the 3 vendors.

                              2. re: Chipp

                                i caught many whiffs of it while walking through the market. i thought it reeked! i got sick of smelling it so much. when you have the actual stuff in your hands though, it doesn't smell that bad. i tried a piece but found i couldn't stop associating it in my head with the nasty smell (it smells like bad breath or something!) so psychologically, i couldn't eat anymore than the little piece i tried. it didn't actually taste bad though.. but was definitely quite pungent (considering they did nothing to the fermented tofu but fry it)

                                funny because i had it in hong kong a few years ago from a street stall in mongkok. didn't know what it was - just thought it was fried tofu. i liked it okay. then years later, i saw a pic of stinky tofu and realized that's what i had. i was surprised cuz i didn't recall it stinking at all.

                              3. Tonight was the perfect night to attend the downtown market. I was there from 6 pm to 9 pm and the crowds were light with no lineups. Best: The Kevin Bacon, a $4 chocolate bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream and bacon at "When Bacon loves Ice Cream". Other must-eats: taiyaki fish-shaped waffles filled with red beans (however, 1 for $3 or 2 for $5 is expensive compared to bungeoppang at Galleria Korean supermarket); $7 free-refills-all-night pineapple smoothies served in hollowed-out pineapple; spicy-sweet fresh hot beef jerky (sold by weight); Korean tornado potato in choice of 6 "flavours"; Filipino ukoy ($2 for 3 pieces); Dolled Up Cupcakes Inc's chocolate cake pops ($2.50 for moist, dense brownie-like goodness) and the people's choice, Pig-Out Harbour's Taiwanese pork belly bao ($5), an amazing concoction and actually much bigger than reported.

                                Avoid: grilled specialty toast -- no taste, and a waste of $3. Chocolate balsamic bacon tasted like none of its ingredients.

                                I had the smelly tofu nearest the main entrance (can't remember the name on the sign). It was milder in taste and smell than my previous experience with Mother Bear's and Wei's.

                                I didn't have room to try Dinah Koo's Far out Franki $6 a hotdog wrapped in a paratha with kimchee, wasabi mayo, cilantro, etc. Anyone try it?

                                Also didn't get to try the whelks nor the Fanny Bay oysters at Diana's. Those oysters were on ice but their faces were getting too much sun. Didn't get to try any shaved ice fruit treats either.

                                I did have the lamb bbq skewers from Barcode (3 for $5) where they were also grilling octopus with onions ($5). Also had spiced lamb bbq skewers from the vendor closest to the main entrance with the traditional box grills.

                                Didn't like the Authentic Osaka Takoyaki: too little octopus and taste in those balls! Have had much better in the past elsewhere.

                                Going into T&T to cool down and use the washroom was a breeze with hardly any lineups there either.

                                Overall, a very successful, enjoyable event. Even some of the stage entertainment was quite good (was that a famous singer?) and parking was easy ($5 in lot). Some good non-food vendors including helpful lady selling Tupperware.

                                Oh, and for the record, there was plenty of ethnic and racial diversity in the crowd.