Night it Up! is an annual outdoor summer food event in Markham that highlights street food from Taiwan, Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. The style is set up to feel like a “night market” with vendor booths in aisles, a performance stage and sports area with competition and events. The event this year was the 12th edition and I was kindly invited to take part in a blogger taste tour on the Saturday.
I haven’t been to Night it Up! for at least 3-4 years, but I used to go annually during university before the venue was moved to the Markham Civic Centre. The event has grown so much with more corporate sponsorships, food and merchandising booths in the larger location.
In total, I was able to sample the wares of 11 booths. Many of these vendors appear at events only and will also be participating in T&T’s Waterfront Night Market this weekend (July 19-21) so be sure to swing by.
Disclaimer: All food samples were provided free of charge by the vendors. All opinions expressed below are wholly mine.
Saturday was hot, heat stroke inducing hot. I was very thankful our first stop was at Juicy Melons. The watermelon juice was fresh, rich and you had the option of with or without fresh mint. We also tried their chilled watermelon balls, topped with coconut brittle, which was sweet and crunchy.
El Perro Heffe Tacos – Octopus ‘El Diablo’: This was an octopus (non-battered) taco with a spicy sauce topped with cilantro and bonito flakes. I loved the texture of the octopus and the big meaty chunks. The cilantro and bonito flakes contrasted the spicy sauce and was a nice East meets West flavour combination, highly recommended.
Papa Chang – Fried Fish/Chicken skewers with Japanese Mayo and Seaweed, Stinky Tofu: Yes! Stinky Tofu! I love stinky tofu and when visiting China will stop at literally every instance to grab a serving. The tofu at Papa Chang’s was the softer kind and didn’t have too strong a smell. I really liked the pickled cabbage that was served with it, which also helps mellow out the taste for those trying the dish for the first time. I liked the fried fish more than the chicken, both skewers were lightly battered, moist and tender inside.
OH OH Hotgod (Japadog?) – Japanese Hotdogs: This booth offered 3 types of Asian inspired hotdogs. They are not affiliated with Japadogs from the West coast, but their menu items were pretty much the same offering. I tried the hotdog topped with kimchi and green onions and it was great. The sausage was homemade, large meaty and cooked to a crisp outside.
Me.n.u – Porkzilla: A fried rice ball stuffed with pork belly and mozzarella. This was again bit of a fusion dish and done so well. The deep fried rice was crunchy on the outside and creamy and sticky, soaking up all the nice fat from the pork belly on the inside. The filling was amazing with melted fresh mozzarella cheese that oozed out. I would’ve gone back for seconds and to try all the flavours if I had the room left to eat.
Tacocat – Calamari Taco: The taco was topped with pineapple salsa and pineapple mayo. I didn’t taste much pineapple in the taco, it was more sour than sweet. I would’ve liked to try the Mapo Tofu Fritters which sounded interesting, deep fried spicy pork stuffed tofu pockets with mapo aioli and cilantro.
Sugar Love – Deep Fried Mochi and Ice Cream: I had the mango ice cream and peanut mochi combination. Portions were really great with each serving coming with 4 mochi balls, a giant scoop of ice cream and 2 wafer cookies. You’re able to choose your mochi (sesame, peanut or red bean) and ice cream (mango, green tea, black sesame or vanilla) flavour combination along with toppings (wafers, pocky, frosted flakes, etc). The ice cream was great relief on the hot day and the fried mochi were nice bites, soft and chewy on the inside, lightly battered and crispy on the outside.
Cup Cup Dessert – Bubble Waffles: Cup Cup Dessert served up classic bubble waffles with 5 different topping flavours, four sweet and one savoury. My favourite was the savoury choice with imitation crab, julienned cucumber and wasabi mayo. It had the same feel as a savoury crepe and I loved the contrast of the wasabi mayo to the sweet batter. For the sweet flavours the cinnaberry stuck out the most for me with it’s unique pairing of cinnamon with a berry sauce. The chocolate and bacon topping was also a great mix of flavours.
Dat Chick Craze – Fried Chicken: We sampled all three kinds of fried chicken from Dat Chick Craze, the pop’n chicken (a dry spice rub with basil), hot blazin’ chicken (a sweet spicy sauce) and the chicken waffle (sandwiched between two half waffles and topped with syrup). The fried chicken was crisp and had a nice batter. My favourite was the pop’n chicken. The dry spice and basil was salty and really accented the natural fried chicken flavour without masking it.
Maobo – Bubble Waffles: Maobo offered bubble waffles in 3 different flavours, green tea, original or chocolate and a variety of toppings (mini marshmallows, syrups, cookie bits, etc). They made a sample for us with all three flavours in the waffle and a selection of toppings. I liked the amount of choice you had and the green tea base was a nice change. This reminded me a bit of funnel cake where I use the cake 80% as a vessel for the toppings.