In my travels, I always try to find the epitome of local comfort food. Most of the time that quest leads me to night markets. I’ve eaten so many awesome meals in night markets in the US, Europe, and Asia. Some dishes I can name, and others I wouldn’t be able to pronounce for all of the money in the world. That is one of the nice things about these markets, they challenge your tastebuds and open your mind (and palate) to new things. That’s why I am so excited to get involved with John Wang and his Kickstarter project to bring a night market filled with food and culture to Queens.
Check out the video below:
I sat down with John and asked him a few questions about QueensNightMarket.com, but before you read this interview, go and help fund this project. Even a small $15 pledge will help, and it will get you vouchers for free food. Of course, you could be a fat boy like me and buy an “all you can eat VIP wrist band”.
Anyway, here’s my interview with John.
What made you decide to do this?
A: I used to be a corporate lawyer, which led to a lot of international travel. Visiting local markets is my favorite way to learn about other cultures when traveling.
Museums, sightseeing, those are all great — but it’s really the immersion in the local food, art, and commerce that I love most. So, when I left my attorney job, I decided I wanted to try to create a lasting cultural fixture in NYC… to get NYC its own Night Market. That’s how the Queens International Night Market project started — almost exactly a year ago now.
Do you have a favorite Night Market from your travels?
A: Not really. I was first introduced to the Night Markets in Taiwan, but Night Markets all over the place. And each of them is unique in its own way, which is another reason why the concept of Night Markets in general is so great.
A: Queens it the most diverse area in the world. Nowhere else can you see so much diversity just from minute-to-minute, corner-to-corner. I consider the unprecedented cultural and ethnic diversity as one of NYC’s greatest assets, and we can really use that diversity to create a uniquely New York Night Market. One where you can bring your parents, your kids, your date, or your friends. It’ll be tremendously fun and electric, but also cultural and enriching.
What can the public do to help?
A: The first answer is a little self-promotional, but checking out our Kickstarter page and sharing, sharing, sharing. We are trying to raise quite a bit of money, but it’s really the only way we are going to be able to subsidize vendor fees so that we can really showcase a diverse array of culturally authentic street foods, art, and merchandise. We plan to charge vendors a fraction of what they would pay to participate at other markets and fairs in NYC. The outpouring of support from all around the community and NYC has been humbling. It really makes me believe that NYC and Queens is totally ready for its own Night Market.
What are the biggest obstacles you face from here?
A: I already mentioned the fundraising, and that’s a given. We will need some time to get through the bureaucratic permitting processes and will really need to keep curating the vendors that best fit our mission. We don’t want to be a replica of the street fairs and fleas and markets you already see. We want to be cultural and authentic, really featuring as much as we can of the diversity that makes NYC and Queens so great. So, a lot of the remaining task is to get the word our to potential backers as well as potential vendors.
What are you ultimately trying to accomplish?
A: I want our vendors to share their stories with all our visitors, relating what they’re selling to their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I want people to try things they’ve never tried before… I’d love the Asian communities in Flushing to come out and try Latin American street foods for the first time. I’d love Latin Americans to come out to try Southeast Asian and African street foods for the first time. That kind of thing. I want to broaden horizons. We can do something uniquely international, yet uniquely local.