The smell of soy sauce and the vibrant beats of Bollywood music lingered outside the doors of Pomona College’s Edmunds Ballroom, where the first 5C Night Market event was held this past Saturday. Students from across the 5Cs formed a line that roped around the Smith Campus Center, eager to get a taste from the wide variety of food stalls featured at the event.
Night markets are a popular form of nightlife in Taiwan, where people can gather for a midnight snack or buy clothes from local vendors. Ashley Cheng PO ’22, an event coordinator for the Taiwanese American Student Association, explained how inspiration for the event came from what TASA members typically missed most about Taiwan.
“Personally, being Taiwanese American is a big part of my identity, and I remember running around the night markets in Taiwan as a kid, surrounded by all the delicious things I could think of,” Cheng said. “Whenever the [TASA] board members and I talk about missing Taiwan, one of the first things that comes up is the night markets.”
Cheng further recounted how others who were not familiar with night markets were intrigued by the idea, motivating TASA to recreate the night market experience for the 5C community at large.
“Friends who haven’t had the chance to visit [Taiwan] always talk about how the concept of a night market sounds like a dream and is something they’d like to try,” she said.
TASA coordinated with eight different student organizations across the 5Cs to create a bustling event, full of favorite foods and entertainment. Participating groups included the Chinese Student Association, Cantonese Club, Vietnamese Student Association, South Asian Student Association, Korean Student Association and more.
Upon entrance, students were given reusable plates and silverware. Stalls featuring food, drinks and DIY activities lined the walls, and tables for students to sit and enjoy their meals with friends were placed in the middle of the ballroom.
Students were exposed to a wide variety of cultural delicacies, from Taiwanese braised pork to Hong Kong egg waffles to Chinese dumplings. Lines formed at almost every stall, as attendees eagerly awaited a taste of culture from their fellow students.
Every student affinity organization represented at the Night Market shared a similar goal to the TASA organizers — they wanted to present a little piece of their own culture.
The South Asian Student Association served mango lassi, gol gappas (crunchy shells filled with chickpea and potato) and bhel puri (a puffed rice and vegetable snack).
“All of this is famous street food in South Asia, so we figured what better than gol gappas and bhel puri [to serve at the market],” SASA member Ananya Sen PO ’22 said at the event. “It has been really fun but surprisingly hectic. We are running out of food faster than we expected to.”
According to TASA, approximately 400 students attended the event, a number that even organizers did not anticipate.
Not all stalls served typical food at the Night Market, though. Calvin Ng PO ’22, a member of the Food Science Club, spoke about the unique activity the club brought to the event.
“We are doing molecular gastronomy spherification. We mix sodium alginate into a calcium lactate bar and it forms a film around the liquid, so you can bite into it and it pops,” Ng explained.
Attendees got the opportunity to choose an alginate from a variety of colors, including red, blue, green and orange. They collected the alginate into a syringe, and released the mixture into a bowl of calcium lactate, creating colorful, edible spheres.
A particular favorite of the hundreds of students that participated were TASA’s scallion pancakes. A group of students from Pomona kept sending a friend back in line every now and then to grab more of the salty snack to share with their table.
Tramy Nguyen PO ’22, president of the 5C club Tea Circle, was also involved in the event and spoke about what she hoped attendees would get out of the market.
“I hope that students who come just embrace curiosity, try everything there, talk to the people there — not only those who they come with, but also people running the stalls,” she said. “And maybe look into why these different foods are important and what they mean to people individually.”