While waiting in line for the Khalid concert, several students probably saw a similar crowd blossoming just across from them at Storke Plaza. Perhaps some of them were wondering just what was going on. April 28 saw UCSB’s Taiwanese American Student Association celebrating its twelfth annual night market.
According to TASA president Sophie Chiu, “Night markets originated in China during the Tang dynasty, and now are a fixture of Taiwanese night life.” Back in Taiwan, they are nightly events where a curious tourist can find a wide variety of vendors offering games, hawking trinkets, and selling food.
Moving through the throngs of people, it’s easy to get a sense of what Chiu meant. As a comfortably-sized crowd began to gather around the vendors, the air was abuzz with the sounds of excited voices debating which foods they should try and lamenting the plethora of options available to them. The twelfth annual night market, while a little light on the souvenirs and games part, was nevertheless highly anticipated for its wide variety of Taiwanese snack foods.
Student-made, such delicacies included things like watermelon tea and minced pork rice. The goods were sold for varying amounts of tickets, with one ticket costing one dollar. Proceeds generated will go to the Asian American Donor Program, a medical nonprofit group that seeks to increase the availability of stem cells for research and surgical aid.
According to Chiu, “The Taiwanese American Student Association hosts an annual event in an attempt to gather all the Asian cultural clubs, aiming to spread awareness for each culture and facilitate relationships in between members of the clubs.” The ultimate goal of the night market is to “to create and foster a community for Asian Americans, not exclusive to only Taiwanese, and create a home for the students away from home.”
Weaving between the scallion pancake and popcorn chicken stalls, it would seem that Chiu’s goal was realized. Taiwanese and non-Asian Pacific Islander students alike were mingling, brought together by a universal appreciation for a hot meal. One student, Katherine Chen, proclaimed that “the food tastes better than last year.” Another, who identified himself as Alessio, said he came because he thought it was cool and because “my friend brought me out and said there was food.” The positive reaction to TASA’s night market once again quashes the belief that a respectable turnout to an event cannot be expected without providing ample refreshments
In addition to the Taiwanese cuisine being offered, several other organizations were also present. Keeping in line with the night market theme, most of the food available was API based, with offerings such as Japanese yakisoba noodles and Hawaiian spam musubi being up for grabs.
While handing out Korean kimbap for the Delta Sigma Pi fraternity, student Matthew Li was excited about getting to work at the night market. Being from the Bay Area, Li said that the Asian influence of the event was comforting.
“It reminds me of home,” he said. Being a first year, he said it was a good first experience with a campus organization.
As the night market began to settle into a steady rhythm of activity, attendees were joined by students who then took the opportunity to showcase some South Asian dance. This speaks of the power and importance of public events such as the night market for fostering the development of intercultural relationships. Before all to see, various people from all cultural backgrounds can come together and lose themselves in the enjoyment of a night out.
May 11, 11:10 p.m.: A previous version of this article mislabeled Delta Sigma Pi.