Savoring the Night: Chinatown night market draws thousands 

The market comes after the success of the Sunset Night Market, which happened in September. Photo by Jordan DelFiugo / SF Foghorn.

Guided by the glow of red, paper lanterns hanging above Grant Avenue and the smells of barbeque pork buns and pastries, thousands gathered between Pine and Sacramento Streets this weekend for Chinatown’s night market.

The two-day market took place on Nov. 10 and 11, from 5-9 p.m. each night ahead of the Asian Pacific Cooperation (APEC) Summit kickoff, which occurred at City Hall on Nov. 11. Pre-made dishes were sold by 25 different local vendors. According to the San Francisco Standard, 99% of the vendors were local Chinatown restaurants. 

For those with a sweet tooth, popular options included Metro Hong Kong Dessert, as well as 

AA Bakery and Cafe, which has operated in San Francisco for the past 32 years. “The reason I came to the market is because I saw a video of the AA bakery owner making cupcakes,” said Ji Chuan, a senior business major who attended the market on Saturday. AA Bakery and Cafe’s tent drew a large crowd as attendees gathered around bakery owner, Henry Chen, while he frosted petals onto cupcakes, creating intricate floral designs on his pastries in real time.

Steven Lee, who owns three businesses in Chinatown, including Sam Wo Restaurant, which had a booth at the night market, explained the event’s purpose in combating negative San Francisco stereotypes, “We’re basically trying to change the myth, we’re trying to tell people, ‘don’t believe everything you hear.’ Come down and visit us and see what we’re doing,” Lee told ABC7. Sam Wo was a popular attraction for those seeking savory dishes, with their stuffed noodle rolls. 

The event featured a performance from LionDanceMe, who performed a traditional lion dance, in which multiple dancers operated a lion costume, adding rhythm while mimicking the animal’s movements to beats provided by an accompanying drum circle. According to the New York Freemasons Athletic club, the ritual is thought to “bring luck and drive away evil spirits on auspicious occasions.” 

Non-profit organization, BeChinatown, a coalition of leaders, merchants, and residents in Chinatown, organized the event. According to their website, the organization “aims to strengthen the community and create economic opportunities for the neighborhood.” 

Kidd Huang, a graduate student in the sports management program, said, “It’s always fun to see free events in the city, and it was fun to see another night-market after the massive one at Irving street.” 

In a statement to Yahoo News, Malcolm Yeung, executive director of Chinatown Community Development Center explained the purpose of the event. “People in the community and the city are looking at APEC as a potential reset for San Francisco, a relaunch of our image, certainly our reputation.” 

Although entry to the market was free, attendees could purchase tickets for $5 each to redeem at the booths, a system intended to streamline transactions for vendors — Hannah Hu, from the Chinatown Volunteer Coalition, told the San Francisco Chronicle. However, the popularity of the food led to all hot food vendors selling out in the first few hours of the market, with some selling out as early as 7 p.m. on Friday night. 

This left Huang disappointed, “By the time I got there, they didn’t have any hot food left; which devastated us because this is the soul of the market!” However, Huang said she was still able to enjoy boba from Cool Tea Bar’s booth. 

While the food ran out, attendees listened to house music playing from the Asian Firefighter Association’s DJ booth throughout the night. “The vibes were on point with music, cool performances, and obviously loads of amazing food,” said Sammi Chee, junior chemistry major. 

“Just soaking in the whole scene of bringing that Asian night-market feel to SF was a blast,” Chee, who is from Malaysia, said, “It’s really cool to see people here in SF enjoying something that’s such a big part of Asia.” Savoring the Night

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