Checking out the Queens Night Market

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I’ve never been to Taiwan, but thanks to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, I’ve been able to get a feel for what Taiwan’s famous night markets are known for.

Earlier this year, ex-lawyer John Wang embarked on a journey to bring a slice of Taiwan’s famous night market life to Flushing, Queens — arguably home to New York City’s largest Asian population. Though his Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful and his grand vision was scaled down, the Queens Night Market pushed forward.

Every Saturday from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., the Queens Night Market hosts dozens of vendors at the parking lot outside of the New York Hall of Science. The majority of the vendors are food stalls. You can think of the QNM as a mini Smorgasburg that’s open late.

Being a Flushing resident, getting to the QNM was very easy. From Main St., I took the 7 train down two stops to 111 Street and then walked about 10 minutes before the faint smoke of grilled kebabs and skewers filled my nose.

Queens Night Market

I went into the QNM expecting a lively event, but what I actually experienced was less spectacular and nothing resembling a proper Taiwanese night market. From the minuscule number of vendors that didn’t offer anything new to taste to the unorganized entertainment, the QNM was a bit of a disappointment.

In a nutshell, the QNM is a bunch of tents with sub-par food and poor lighting that doesn’t quite set the mood properly. Worse, I got to the market around 9 p.m. — halfway through the event and vendors had already sold out of many of their most popular items.

The point of a night market is to get to try a wide palette of “street food” that you wouldn’t normally be able to in a restaurant.

I tried out a few items:

1) Macau pork chop bun (Cantonese Street Fare) — a puny slice of pork chop that tasted slightly cool slapped into a stale biscuit. Since it was the first thing I tried and I was starving, I didn’t really complain over the $3.50 spent on it. Rating: B-

pork belly skewer

2) Pork belly skewer and okonomiyaki (Teinei Ya) — the pork belly skewer was sizzling hot, well marinated and coated with flavor, but a little pricey at $4. The okonomiyaki was also hot to the mouth and freshly made on the spot. Good sweet flavor with smooth texture and reasonable for $5 for its portion size. Rating: A-

Melty ice cream

3) Ginger ice cream on a cone (Happy Cow Ice Cream) — I love me some ginger ice cream, but for some reason this dessert was a melted mess. I get that it was a 80+ degrees, but it was literally dripping off as soon as I received it and handed my $5 over. Delicious as the treat was, they need to invest in some colder freezers. Rating: B

I wanted to see more food stalls that gave a taste of Asia and fewer ones selling the same stuff you’d find at a typical NY street fair. Less Caribbean jerk chicken and smoothies and more bubble tea and weird Asian street food.

A friend of mine got some melon juice from Odin’s Mighty Musubi & Hawaiian BBQ, but found it extremely watered down. Speaking of this vendor, they were selling musubi for $5. Five bucks for rice, and a slice of spam slapped on top…

The entertainment, Yut and the Hot Four and yo-yo-ers Diabolo Team, was unorganized. I enjoyed Yut’s electric quartet renditions of hit pop songs, but there simply wasn’t a good way to see it. More lights and a proper stage (they didn’t even have that) would have helped. After Yut had finished and the crowd dispersed, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Diaboloteam — nobody cared for their yo-yo-ing act.

I’m not discouraging New Yorkers from checking it out, but if you’re expecting a lively jolly time, you won’t find it at the QNM. Your money is better spent in St. Marks where skewer joints and ice cream parlors are aplenty. For the authentic Taiwanese night market experience, there’s only one way to experience it: Book a flight to Taiwan. (And I plan to do so soon.)

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