Last Friday night, the International Student Association hosted its very first Global Night Market. Storke Plaza came alive with a medley of exciting foods, cultures, and customs.
Historians trace night markets all the way back to the medieval Chinese Tang Dynasty. As time went on, night markets became an increasingly popular part of Chinese nightlife, serving dishes from the smallest simple snacks to the finest delicacies on the streets. Today, night markets exist all over East Asia and have diversified their sales to include clothes, handicrafts, jewelry, and other goods beyond food.
At U.C. Santa Barbara (UCSB), the Global Night Market creates a microcosm of this phenomenon for all students to experience. From sweet Indian gulabs to smoky Japanese takoyaki, all kinds of foods with unique backgrounds and stories came together in one place for students to enjoy.
The market itself had fully-open access; to try any of the foods, however, required a certain number of tickets — each ticket translating to one dollar. I bought 10 for the night, and the most expensive item I saw only cost around seven tickets.
Several student organizations on campus, including the South Asian Student Association (SASA), the Hong Kong Student Association (HKSA), and even the Cooking Club sold snacks for the evening.
The Cooking Club served homemade-boiled mochi with chocolate syrup at five pieces for three tickets and 10 pieces for five tickets. Mochi, a Japanese rice-dough treat, can be served either hot or cold. Though it came out piping hot at first, it cooled down quickly enough to be easily palatable. Mochi is a dense treat, but it’s a good dessert to share with a friend or to eat with ice cream, fruit, chocolate, or other foods.
Another table served a “Chinese slush,” also known as sago. Sago is a Cantonese spin on tapioca pudding. Prepared with sago palm starch balls and coconut milk, sago is a favorite dessert among modern Chinese cuisine. The sago I ate had a sweet, boba-like consistency which paired well with a peach topping. The dish, according to the vendors, is a quick and simple snack that can be enjoyed on any occasion.
While there were plenty of food stands, other groups also came out for the night market. The Shen Yun Performing Arts company held a meditation station and brought in one of their performers to speak about the organization’s mission.
The MultiCultural Center (MCC) made their first appearance at the Global Night Market as well. According to MCC student assistant Angel Ponce, a second year art major who spoke to The Bottom Line, her favorite part of the event was seeing different ethnic backgrounds come together and giving representation to marginalized groups.
As a vegetarian, I could not try every dish. There were, however, a few plant-based options at the market that I tried. While the foods I did try weren’t overly complex, the night market gave students a fun opportunity to try new things and get a taste of the cultures surrounding them.