Plenty of sights, sounds, smells and unique tastes are served up at the Waterfront Night Market. This unique Asian food event can almost be described as sensory overload. But it’s a fun time regardless, as long as you go in with the right mindset.
Overall Experience 4.00
Not Your Typical North American Food Festival!
If you go to this event expecting it to be in a convention center with booths nicely spaced out and chefs standing out in the aisle with free samples you will be very disappointed. This is an Asian Night Market meant to replicate ones that pop up overseas. This means signs with no English, plenty of different types of food and drink like fried squid, okonomiyaki, smelly tofu and thai ice tea, and lots of yelling over megaphones in many different languages all at once. It is also usually insanely crowded with long lines, but at the end of the day, I feel like I am getting the real deal experience here. When all is said and done and you grab yourself a few delicious dishes and stop to take it in, it is actually quite beautiful and lots of fun.
Food to Try
I typically find that there aren’t a ton of free samples at this event so bring cash and lots of it. The average price for a food item I would say is around $8-$10 so it is not a cheap experience…but an experience it is. Also, this is not a vegetarian friendly place by any means (some of the vendors looked very puzzled when I inquired about vegetarian dishes so I took it as a no), but there are still plenty of options to try. Here are some of the things I indulged in…
This is probably one of the most famous and sought after dishes here (so yes that means be prepared to wait in line). You can tell when you are nearing the booth as the smell…very distinct…wafts through the area within probably a 20 meter radius. They served up either Hong Kong Style Tofu or Black Tofu (apparently from mainland China). For one order it was a whopping $12, but you do get a fairly big portion of it. There was also a spicy and sweet sauce that you could help yourself to. Surprisingly it did not taste as it smelled…it pretty much tasted like fried tofu. I was a bit disappointed and ended up throwing out half the dish (after carrying it all the way home) as there was no way I could eat all that tofu.
The clear noodles were probably my favourite food item of the evening. Apparently they are made of zucchini or some kind of vegetable. They were slippery, tender and covered in a spicy sauce topped with cucumber. Served cold, I would definitely recommend getting a bowl of these, especially since they were only $4.
All good things come to those who wait…and this was definitely the case with the Leek Pancakes. Long line up, but totally worth it to bite into a fresh off the grill pancake packed with egg, green onions (or leeks?) and glass noodles. Filling and flavourful, although I found it better with a bit of sriracha sauce on top! Yours for $6.
Sambal Mac N’ Cheese Spring Rolls
As far as booths go, this was my favourite thanks to the kind and fun chit chat with the chef. The spring rolls were creamy and cheesy on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside. They were topped with ketchup as well (personally not my favourite, but I know many enjoy mac n’ cheese this way).
For dessert my friend and I decided to share a bubble waffle. First you pick your waffle flavour (we went with matcha poppyseed), then 2 ice cream flavours (we went with taro and black sesame), and finally the toppings (red bean and whipped cream). This probably had the biggest line, but was delicious and lots of fun to eat so, again, worth the wait. Fluffy waffle on the outside with cold creamy ice cream on the inside…mmmmmmm.
Tips to Having the Best Experience @ Taste of Toronto
1 – Bring cash as it seems like most places don’t take cards.
2 – Dress for the weather and be prepared. We were caught in 3 torrential downpours, but luckily we had umbrellas on us so we were able to keep trucking on.
3 – I would not recommend parking…take the shuttle instead! The parking lot was a zoo and challenging to find spots. If you can manage a walk I would say do that or simple go to one of the shuttle spots to have an easier trip to and from.
4 – Expect to be in crowds and wait in lines. If you are claustrophobic this is probably not the event for you, but if you go in with the right head space you can have a great time!
5 – If you have no special dietary restrictions, open your mind to trying new things. Some food items might look pretty out there, but hey if you don’t try you will never know what delicious things you are missing out on.
6 – Wear appropriate footwear. This year they have the event next to an old, abandoned warehouse and it is all outdoors. There is rocks, dirt, mud and what seemed like hay so make sure you aren’t wearing your best stilettos or pure white sneakers.
Aug 11-13, 2017
Be sure to visit https://www.waterfrontnightmarket.com/ for more details!