TASA Brings Asian Night Culture to UCSB

Menghua Lv/TBL Photography

Christopher Tien

The Taiwanese American Student Association hosted their 11th annual night market on Friday, May 27, opening Storke Plaza to hundreds of students eager to treat their taste buds to traditional Taiwanese street food. TASA Night Market recreates its Taiwanese equivalents through its hustle and bustle, cuisine, entertainment and overall appreciation of culture.

Taiwan night markets are known to be sites of exciting food scenes. TASA, along with several student organizations, set up various booths selling Asian snacks and small eats. Notably, each booth cooked its food in front of you, as if it were a street-side vendor. It was all too easy to allow your nose to lead your eyes around the stands in search for the best food. Varieties ranged from traditional Taiwanese cuisine, such as broiled egg and pan-fried green onion pancake, to other Asian dishes like Japanese yakisoba and Vietnamese pandan waffles.

The main aspect of the TASA Night Market is to highlight and share the cultural experience of a traditional Taiwanese night market in which local vendors gather nightly to sell their goods along the streets of Taiwan’s bustling cities. A notable aspect of the TASA Night Market at the University of California, Santa Barbara is not only does it bring together Taiwanese-American students, but it also brings together all Asian-American students and orgs, allowing them to sell foods from their country’s cultures. It forms a broad sense of community and likeness.

One of the most popular snacks was popcorn chicken. Sprinkled with white pepper and soaked in egg, popcorn chicken deep fried in sweet potato flour has always been a crowd favorite. Other notable dishes included udon noodles drizzled with a light sauce and served with shredded pork and green onion prepared with care by the Japanese Student Association and traditional Taiwanese sausages fried over a pan and sweet to taste.

Among all the clamor, one vendor, UCSB Ph.D student Kuan-yen Liu, sold Chinese calligraphy pieces. Liu started practicing Chinese calligraphy at the age of eight, learning the style of Zhao Zhiqian and the Stele style of the Wei Dynasty. Using a traditional calligraphy brush and ink-wash, Liu carefully wrote requested Chinese characters on thin red sheets of paper. Calligraphy is highly regarded as an art with complex techniques and stylistics, and Liu’s pieces stood out as great cultural souvenirs to take home.

Past the lines for food, games and performances awaited. Simple carnival games like a ring-toss or bingo with mahjong characters were available to attempt, though many thought that their tickets were better spent on food-items. Along the steps of Storke Plaza, performances were held by various participating student organizations. Among the performances were the cultural dancing of Andaaz and ITO, a capella singing from the Naked Voices, and traditional Chinese yo-yo, an annual favorite, with TASA’s Stanley Ho.

The feel and atmosphere of the event resonated strongly with a traditional Taiwanese night market. The smell of pepper, soy, and spices combined with the sounds of sizzling oil and hawking vendors was pleasantly familiar. TASA Night Market was filled with market-goers and illuminated from all sides with bright lights reminiscent to the elbow-tight crowd and beckoning neon lights that could be found across the Pacific. Through its annual night market event, TASA brings a bit of Taiwanese culture to the UCSB campus year after year.