The New York hierarchy of Chinese food is as follows: Cantonese, Sichuan, everything else. Seems impossible, given the size of the country and the diversity of its regional cooking styles, but unless you dig deep into the Flushing, Queens, pedagogy, most people don’t know their Henan from their Hunan, their Dongbei from their Fujian.
Lost in that crowd is Taiwanese food, one of the most distinctively different of the bunch. The cuisine punches up sweet and sour flavors, with rock sugar factoring heavily in braising liquids for meats and pickled vegetables moving from mere condiment to the spotlight. It’s a food culture of extremes.
Paradoxically, it’s also a cuisine of comfort foods and little-kid delights; stars that have managed to break out of the ranks of anonymity include the Bian Dang Truck’s fried pork chop with meat sauce, a glop-tastic bowl of thick, savory gravy laden with ground pork over a crunchy chop and white rice, and the Shaved Ice Shop’s towering insanity desserts topped with ice cream, fruit, candy, condensed milk and whatever else you can throw at them.
The Taiwanese American Professionals Association of New York (TAP-NY) has finally decided to do something about this city’s unacceptable ignorance. The organization, dedicated to strengthening and promoting the Taiwanese-American community in the city, is hosting its first annual Night Market this Friday at the Openhouse Gallery. Organized by Carson Yiu, the Shaved Ice Shop’s founder and a member of TAP-NY, the night of eating and drinking is the group’s first event for the city at large.
“We’ve done a lot of [Taiwanese-American] community events—tech nights, movie nights, we did a Chinese New Year’s dinner,” said Yiu. “This is our first external event; we’re hoping to gain some exposure for the group and for the small businesses who are participating.”
Those small businesses include a list of food truck purveyors and small brick-and-mortar shops that reads like a who’s who of the Chinatown elite. A-Pou’s Taste, a cart selling potstickers that regularly pops up around Water Street and in the East Village, will be handing out their famous dumplings. The HK Street Cart will be serving gua bao, those now-ubiquitous soft steamed white buns stuffed with pork belly braised in the sweet and savory tradition. Wooly’s Ice, Yiu’s own Shop and the venerable Chinatown Ice Cream Factory will be leading the frozen treats charge, while Macaron Parlour and Filled with Sweets follow them up with dessert.
Yiu started the Shaved Ice Shop in 2010 but has been working in food for a decade. “Because of my connections to the food industry—especially with the trucks and other mobile vendors like we are—TAP-NY reached out to me to put together an event that would draw the city’s foodies along with our own community members,” he explained.
And what better draw than a night of food, games, music and—oh yeah—beer? “Taiwan Beer is the No. 1 beer in Taiwan, but it’s really hard to find here,” Yiu said. “They’re really trying to break into the retail market, so they were happy to sponsor us.” Over the course of the evening, raffles will be giving away iconic prizes from Apple Sidra (a Taiwanese soda that inspires Mexican Coke-like devotion) and Pocky to iPods.
While this is the organization’s first such event, it’s unlikely to be their last. “Night markets in Taiwan are an amazing phenomenon, but nobody knows what they are here,” Yiu said.” We want to bring some of that energy to New York City.”
TAP-NY’s first annual Night Market is Friday, April 13 from 6-10 p.m. at the Openhouse Gallery (87 Lafayette St., betw. Walker & White Sts.). Tickets are $35, $50 for VIP early entrance, and all proceeds go to benefit the nonprofit Taiwanese American Citizens League, of which TAP-NY is a chapter. For tickets, go to tapnightmarket.eventbrite.com.
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