Street food with a side of "good vibes" at Hamilton's 1st night market

Festival organizer wanted to bring the community together over food, and they say they succeeded

Market 'exceeded expectations,' says organizers

Julia Park and Lihn Vu organized the Hamilton night market, and they are selling cotton candy, ice cream waffles and Korean-style corn dogs. (Meagan Deuling)

Linh Vu is spinning light blue cotton candy into the shape of a bunny rabbit. He holds the bundle of sugar on a stick and trails it over his head, above the crowd, and thin streams of sugar float behind it. People jump up and catch the cotton candy, and put it in their mouths.

Along with Julia Park, Vu organized Hamilton's first night market. They also have two stalls where they sell cotton candy, waffle burritos, and Korean-style corn dogs.  

Exceeded expectations

It's Monday afternoon, the fourth and final day of the night market. It was very successful, Park says. "We got a way bigger turnout than we expected." 

She knows of people who traveled from London for the market, and says she even met one person who drove up from Detroit to try the corn dogs.

But they didn't keep track of how many people came to the market; they are judging turnout on vendors' sales, and Park says that they sold out so quickly on Friday that some of them had to drive back to Markham or Toronto to re-stock.

There are roughly 30 vendors, Park says, and some of them have multiple booths. There are two local vendors, but she says the rest are from Markham or Toronto.

Here for the food

The Hamilton night market was inspired by the night markets in Markham, Park says. She really wanted to emulate an atmosphere that those markets have, of "bustling street, the vendors close together, creating a closer feel," and Park thinks they accomplished that.

Jimmy Huynh and Tony Chen are, "here for the food," Huynh says.

They live in Mississauga, and they traveled to Hamilton for the night market. They ordered a serving of the smelly tofu, Huynh says its aroma is like "dirty socks," but he's excited to try it. 

Jimmy Huynh and Tony Chen are about to try the smelly tofu, which they say has an aroma similar to dirty socks. (Meagan Deuling)

Both have been to the night markets in Asia that Ontario's are inspired by. "It's different from a real night market in Asia," Huynh says, "but you still get that similar vibe."

The night market is a good addition to Hamilton, Huynh says.  "I think it adds a lot to the culture, it exposes people to other types of food and to Asian culture."

David Xu and Leo Chen help out at their family's food booth. (Meagan Deuling )

David Xu points out how the smelly tofu is made; "We take the tofu from there," he says, pointing to a big white bucket filled with brine, "and we fry it there."

Xu is 11, and his friend, Leo Chen, is 13. It's Chen's family's stand. Along with the smelly tofu, they are making pork filled dumplings by hand, rolling the dough right on the table, and beef cakes.

They're from Toronto. Xu says, they go to all the night markets, selling buns and tofu. "It's nice to be here," he says.

Pork buns and beef cakes at the Hamilton night market (Meagan Deuling)

Daniel Nguyen is from Hamilton, and says he likes the "good vibes" the night market brings to his city. He's holding a plastic bag with the dregs of a purple smoothie in it, and says he's already tried the bubble waffle, cotton candy and french fried corn dog.

"I like the food it brings," Nguyen says. "We don't usually get it around here."

Daniel Nguyen says the Hamilton night market is all about the food. (Meagan Deuling)

Bringing people together

Jackie Xu says people get excited when they see him selling his lamb kebabs.

He's set up in a booth at the entrance of the market. "It's very special lamb" that comes from his hometown, a north-west region in China, he says.

Jackie Xu says people get excited when they see him selling his lamb kebabs. (Meagan Deuling)

Now, Xu lives in Stouffville. He's been selling kebabs for 11 years.

Julia Park and Lihn Vu hope that this is just the first of many night markets to come in Hamilton.

"Food brings people together," Vu says. "I wanted to bring a whole community together."



To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.