From crawfish-filled buns to biang biang noodles: the hottest ticket in town this weekend was a showcase of Asian eats.
There’s a saying in Chinese that literally translates to “people mountains, people sea”: 人山人海. It figuratively means a vast, vast crowd. And that’s exactly what gathered in the Milpitas Great Mall parking lot Saturday night. The location hosted the lucky ones who scored tickets to Dealmoon’s sold out Asian Street Food Night Market where more than 50 vendors from all over the Bay Area served up hundreds of dishes showcasing different Asian cuisines.
You could smell the event before you could see it — the aroma of spice, sizzling meat, savory sauce. As you got closer, you could first see the smoke curling over white peaked tents housing flaming grills, and then the line curling around the parking lot and doubling back on itself.
People waited to shop, play games and, of course, eat. On the menu? Fresh bean jelly, roasted chestnuts, marinated duck heads, milk teas and much more.
In Asia, the night market (夜市 in Chinese) is a neighborhood fixture where friends gather, families hang out and couples date. Dealmoon, a Chinese-language deal service, brought it to life as a one-night affair so the Bay Area could get a taste.
So here is our list of the local favorites from the 6–5–0 area code that caught our attention and quelled our appetites at the market. Take a look:
Crayfish production in China has jumped by hundreds of thousands of tons in the last decade. Appetite for the 小龍蝦, “little lobster,” has kept pace, domestically and abroad.
Taiwanese hot pot joint Tasty Pot offered a particularly succulent version. The magic is in its boiling soup, with a satisfactory 麻辣(numbingly spicy) seasoning that tingles rather than burns. The sides provided a welcome balance to the spice — a sweet strawberry lemonade and buttered ear of corn.
At Saturday’s event, there was no showing of the night market classic 臭豆腐 (stinky tofu), but if you visit one of Tasty Pot’s physical locations throughout the Bay Area, you can treat yourself to the fermented favorite in hot pot form.
Dim Sum USA
Dim Sum USA is a place where we might typically turn to for dumplings, however we couldn’t resist a couple of the other items on the menu.
On arrival, the late afternoon felt like summer in the Great Mall parking lot. With that in mind, we sprung for 涼麵 (cold noodles). The no-frills recipe got the job done with perfectly springy noodles, finely sliced cucumbers and a sauce of sesame paste and soy.
After an initial cool-down, we were ready for Dim Sum USA’s steaming lamb 肉夹馍 (an open bun stuffed with meat), topped with crisp cilantro.
Dim Sum USA; 1459 Beach Park Blvd, Foster City; (650) 356–0688
For us, no night market trip is complete without a steamed bun, neatly twisted at the top with vegetables or meat stuffed inside for a perfectly self-contained snack. Those served at Bun Bao were a two-handed affair that surprised — and delighted us — with an unexpected crayfish filling (see crayfish trend above).
Bun Bao serves throughout the Peninsula.
Check them out (and order) online at www.bunbao.com.
The San Mateo favorite is well-known for its fresh 拉麵 (ramen) and 扯麵 (pulled noodles), which are always handmade — hand-kneaded, hand-cut, hand-pulled—and served with delicious toppings: pickled vegetables and shredded pork, lamb dusted in cumin, and mashed garlic & ginger, among others.
On this occasion, they whipped their noodles into perfect shape for a dish that’s sometimes called 油泼扯面 (hot oil noodles), or “biang biang” noodles. The wide fresh ribbons were (unsurprisingly) a popular favorite at the market.
Noodleosophy; 41 E 4th Ave, San Mateo; (650) 376–3927
Eden Silk Road
As the evening cooled, it was time to delve into something hearty. 大盘鸡 (“big platter chicken”) did the trick with peppers that kicked, potatoes that nearly melted and juicy pieces of chicken. Cumin, star anise and peppercorns warmed from the inside out as Eden Silk Road showcased halal dishes from the ethnic minorities along the Silk Road.
Eden Silk Road; 231 S Ellsworth Ave, San Mateo
Douce la Vie Patisserie
Naturally, we finished the night with something sweet. Fruit is an ever popular dessert, but Douce la Vie Patisserie’s version dials up the decadence. On display were what appeared to be palm-sized oranges, lemons and pears that proved to be handmade confections on closer inspection.
“What you see is what you taste,” co-owner Ran Chen explained. The “fruits” were in fact thin chocolate shells that enveloped cream and their respective fruits inside.
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