Toronto’s once-a-year night market: T&T Waterfront Night Market

I approach my first visit to the T&T Waterfront Night Market as a compare-and-contrast with the Vancouver night markets of which there are now three this year and running each weekend from late spring to early fall. To be fair, I only just realized that a better comparison would be the also once-per-year Night It Up! night market that just occurred in Markham. But Markham is far….

This is the third year of the night market and takes place at the downtown T&T Supermarket on Cherry Street, a little east of downtown and near/on the port lands. It was a 30 minute walk from my place and a good jaunt to work up our appetites and then walk off the satiated feeling afterwards! There was at least one big parking lot across from the market grounds but it was jam-packed and I heard there was a $5 fee.

Upon entering the market, the first smell is the stench of stinky tofu. Given I love tofu and know the cause of the smell, I don’t mind but it was pervasive. A man spent the who night greeting guests over his megaphone announcing over and over in Cantonese and English the availability of Hong Kong-style stinky tofu. Oh, we can smell it!

After a quick turn around the market grounds that included about 50% food stands, a small midway of rides and games, a small representation of merchandise stands (bags and cellphone cases), some food brands (got a free can of Rooster brand luncheon meat and a Canada Dry tote bag), and other associations promoting themselves, we queued up at the takoyaki (Japanese style oyster balls) stand that would have longest queue in the market. It took 35 minutes to get food with a queue that extended beyond their own stand and more than two neighbouring stands away. At least we could entertain ourselves with watching the “show” that was the group hunched over the grill pans turning the balls over and over. I went to a lamb skewer stand and grabbed 4 non-fabulous and fatty lamb skewers for $5. We were, a swaggart ahead of us in line declared, “leveraging the team” and “multitasking”.

After polishing off the takoyaki that was on the edge of being undercooked, I lined up for Taiwanese-style oyster omelet (another 30 minutes) while Lil Sis got juice straight from and served in the watermelon. We saw other people walking around with similar drinks straight from the pineapple, honeydew and, of course, coconut. If the addition of glutinous rice flour was Taiwanese-style, give me Cantonese oyster omelet all the way! The oysters were small but cooked tender and our stand was adjacent to a raw oyster stand that served 8 Fanny Bay oysters for $10. Long queue for that too. Tackling the omelet (which is very filling from the omelet) and getting the most out of the watermelon drink was a long process and put us over the top for satiation from food.

We walked around and picked up some merchandise and squeezed through the crowds which were often squeezing between two queues for food. People seemed really good natured about the wait while I almost tended not to be when I have been to and seen other night markets. Smartphones are a saviour and I could update NPY with a play-by-play of queueing.

We rounded out the feast with grilled squid which was heavily seasoned with cumin and spicy and refreshing mango shaved ice topped with mango boba balls.

                        

There are three once-a-year night markets as BlogTo from a few days ago told me. In addition to Night It Up! which sounds like a very worth market to check out, there is also the Taste of Asia at Pacific Mall that turns me off with the generic-sounding name. Haha. But why visit two Markham night markets anyhow?

It’s so strange yet understandable how there are just 3 Asian night markets, 9 nights of the summer. I think Chinatown once had a night market which ran for 8 weekends in the summer. The gap is filled with tons of festivals each weekend and other street food markets, the latter of which turn the whole idea on its head and not in a good way. Events like the Toronto Underground Market and The Stop’s periodic street food fair have high ticket prices and then you still face long line ups and the food can run out while you are waiting and if you don’t divide and conquer. Is this a big city symptom or Torontonians just haven’t figured it out yet, similar to the hot dogs- and ice cream-only approach to food trucks?

This year, a second night market was added in Richmond and they both run all summer while there is also the weekly one in Chinatown. The smaller population but fewer other festival choices support the number of markets and they do the food aspect well. The choices are dizzying and you can get a great meal there, easily. The merchandise stands are also seriously fun and I look forward to seeing in August what the new food stands and merchandise import is this year (like last year’s hydroponic set of colourful balls).

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