Founder John Wang and the market’s volunteers.
With issues of crowd control, three-hour traffic delays and vendors running out of food fast, opening night for Queens International Night Market may have been a miss for thousands of people. However, contrary to many complaints on social media, the market was neither a one night nor one weekend affair. In fact, the night market will be running every Saturday night until August 20th.
During the second and third week of the market, crowds evened out and people were able to sample some of the world’s most bizarre and fascinating foods. With a price cap at $5, founder John Wang stressed the importance of setting a low price to attract a variety of New Yorkers while staying true to night markets from around the world.
“Local markets, especially when traveling outside the U.S., are seemingly affordable, you don’t really break the bank just trying to sample a couple of things,” Wang said. “That’s not necessarily true in New York City for other markets but 1.) it’s personal because I don’t want you to go to a market and feel like you spent too much money, and 2.) there’s no better equalizer than affordability when it comes to bring a cross-section of New Yorkers.”
While traveling, Wang found himself most drawn to markets rather than other cultural aspects such as museums and sightseeing.
“I like to emerge myself in the culture and cuisine, and the quickest way to do that is to go where all the locals go, whether it’s indoor, outdoor or open-air markets,” Wang said. “I thought that if I could create something similar in New York City, it would be a pretty cool thing.”
And as the market has expanded, the diversity of what visitors can purchase remains quite varied.
“Last year, people didn’t know what a night market was at first, so that’s why it started off predominantly Asian, because Asian vendors were the ones who were familiar with night markets,” Wang said.
With the success and popularity of the market last year, more vendors have applied to be involved in this cultural institution. The vendors of Treat Yourself Caribbean Flavors come from Yonkers to introduce Caribbean snacks such as pholourie and staples like jerk chicken. Wang and his team try to represent as many countries as possible. The last count had 40 countries featured at the market, from Trinidad and Tobago to Japan and Guatemala.
The first-time vendors of Hapagkainan sell Filipino street foods such as fish balls, crispy bicol express (pork belly with spicy coconut milk and shrimp paste) served with rice and pickled veggies as well as sisig tacos, which are crunchy tacos shelled filled with chicken sisig topped with lemon mayo. During the third week, they decided to debut balut, which are boiled 18-day duck eggs. You eat the duck with salt and spicy vinegar.
Hapagkainan sells Filipino street food at the Queens Night Market.
“The balut is really authentic, when you talk about street food, this is the number one thing in the Philippines,” Agnes, one of the five vendors for the tent, said. “It’s really recommended for people who are on a high protein diet.”
Agnes and her family cooked all of the homemade street food. They are currently in the process of trying to open a Filipino restaurant in Elmhurst or Forest Hills and decided to try out the night market for exposure and to sell their products while waiting for a storefront. Their name, Hapagkainan, is inspired by a dining table that families gather around to enjoy food and one another’s company.
“There’s no party without food or hapagkainan,” she added.
Kyle Wong, a Queens resident, volunteered to help Wang run the event as a way to give back to his community. Wong was actually Wang’s first enlisted volunteer for the market.
He assists vendors, sets up booths, provide information to customers and sells apparel during the market.
One of the new vendors that he’s been following is Sukkr, who specializes in a Mediterranean dessert with pistachios, coconut and orange blossom syrup.
And if you’re not in the mood for food, Queens Night Market also has over two dozen vendors who sell anything from jewelry, crafts, henna, body products, clothes and vintage goods. Miguel Fernandez of Arte Miguel, who creates cartoonish pop art, and Gabriella Bahena of Corazon Handcrafts & Gifts, who sells Mexican art and crafts, are two vendors worth checking out.
Miguel Fernandez and his mother, Maria, of Arte Miguel.
The Queens Night Market begins at 6 p.m. every Saturday. It’s located within the back parking lot of the New York Hall of Science at 47-01 111th Street in Corona. Vendors rotate so there’s always the chance of stumbling upon something new and falling for a culture’s cuisine or craft that you may have never heard of before.