A Busy Saturday (Part 2): Hawkers Market

It has been a busy past few weeks, amd last Saturday was one of those days where just one of those days where it was just packed.

In the last post, I talked about the apple tarts that I created for the Calgary Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale, which raised a whopping $1058 for local Calgary charity Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids. It was a shame I couldn’t have made it to the sale myself, but as they say, “duty calls.”

Because that same evening, after finishing up at my job at Co-op, I made my way downtown to Test Kitchen, the site of this month’s Hawkers’ Market.

For those of you who don’t know, Hawkers’ Market is a collaborative night market consisting of many up and coming chefs and food lovers, pulsating to loud house and electronic music, with beer provided by local craft breweries. First begun in Vancouver, the idea has spread across the Rockies to Alberta, with markets happening in both Edmonton and Calgary.

Working with Jay and Eats of Asia, we have found a nice home here. The crowd is friendly and receptive to our brand of Asian street food, and the atmosphere between each booth is not of stern competitors, but more of friendly, yet collaborative, rivalry. Each booth brings a different thing to the proverbial table, and you, the diner, gets to try each one — and all without the hassle of running around this city to do so! It’s kind of like speed dating, but with new cuisines. And the results are always delicious!

Photo courtesy @calhospcareers

Photo courtesy @calhospcareers

The evening’s atmosphere was enhanced by the phat beats coming from the DJs of Calgary’s own BassBus. I’m not a big electronic/house music kinda guy, but something about their spinning really makes me get in the mood!

Pull dat noodle!  (Image courtesy @calhospcareers)

Pull dat noodle!
(Image courtesy @calhospcareers)

Every Hawkers seems to bring in new vendors every time, and in a way Jay comes up with a new item to wow our audience. Of course there is my now seemingly legendary noodle pulling act, which always seems to draw a crowd. What will my next performance be like? You’ll have to go to the next Hawkers to find out!

Laksaaaaaa... (Photo courtesy Bernice Hill)

Laksaaaaaa…
(Photo courtesy Bernice Hill)

As for the food, on top of the freshly hand pulled “dan dan” noodles, there is our laksa, a curry-based soup with rice noodles, tofu puffs, fish meatballs, prawns topped with cilantro. It’s proven to be quite popular!

image image image image

But it’s not just us dealing in the goodness — our friends over at the Spicy Jamakin (also at the Market on Macleod), Billingsgate Fish Market, Taiko Taco and Made by Marcus Macarons were also there. I have to say I was deeply impressed by the Earl Grey chocolate ice cream sandwiches from Marcus, and the jerk chicken from Lyle. One was perfectly sweet with floral notes, while the other was fiery as the Caribbean sun.

With all this food around, it certainly doesn’t feel like what one would consider work!

Dim sum caaaaaart!  (No tea dresses needed!)

Dim sum caaaaaart!
(Photo courtesy of @calhospcareers)

A new addition this time is the collaborative dim sum cart, in the style of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco. Each vendor contributed an item onto the cart, which was rotated around the venue. To access the goodies that ranged from Electric Jelly’s donuts, to Eats of Asia’s chili wontons, to Brix and Morsel’s wonderful lamb barbacoa steamed bun — all of which I didn’t get to try, a sad indeed. But if you were in attendance and didn’t get to stop the cart — never fear, as the cart will return to YYC for the next event, which is slated for February.

Eating for a good cause!  (Photo courtesy @calhospcareers)

Eating for a good cause!
(Photo courtesy @calhospcareers)

Also new is Hawkers’ partnership with Mealshare, which “makes dining out into helping out”. Guests were encouraged to make a donation to the program, which brings meals to local shelters such as the Mustard Seed and the Calgary Drop-In Centre. It truly makes you feel good about what you’re eating!

There is so much more that I didn’t get to show you, like National’s oyster and whiskey bar, but below is a video put together by Jay’s sister Kristina. which showed off some of the highlights from the evening.

And with that, another night and another Hawkers Market is in the books. The market will return in 2015, bigger and better — and plus, I’ve heard a rumour that the next location will be super nice. So if you are curious, come on down and check it out!

Thank you to Bernice Hill, Adrian Hopkins and Calgary Hospitality Careers for the photos!

A Night at the Circus (Concessions): Circle the Wagons

It’s no secret that I enjoy street food immensenly, and when Calgary’s street food revolution took off I am proud to say that I was (and still is) swept up in the fervor. But these days, I’ve gone from merely eating street food to making it.

These past few months on Sundays, I’ve been spending time working under Chef Jay del Corro at his Eats of Asia booth inside the Market on Macleod (formerly called the Kingsland Farmers Market), learning the ins and outs of various Asian street food dishes, as well as learning how to cook on a line in a small kitchen. So far, this has also taken me to events like the Food Lovers Urban Market and the first ever Hawkers Market held in Calgary.

Last Saturday, however, was a new frontier for me as Jay and I served Asian street food at the first ever Circle the Wagons.

Jay and I arrived early to the site, the Marda Loop Community Centre. Our friend and market neighbour Margaret from Primal Soup was already there, not for the event but for the Marda Loop Farmers’ Market. The scene was serene and calm, until of course the parade of food trucks arrived around 9:30am, led by the BassBus.

The food trucks arrive...

The food trucks arrive…

Once the trucks had pulled into the park and settled, it was time to get the trailer ready before hungry patrons arrived to take in the circus atmosphere and the various music acts. Getting the power generator on, getting the equipment fired up and ready, and getting the ingredients ready for service — it was a lot to get done in 90 minutes in a small space, but we got it ready.

The hungry masses...

The hungry masses…

And when service finally began, it was go-go-go. Like in any kitchen, the words “stop” or “break” does not exist when you are serving hundreds of hungry patrons eager to try out your wares…especially if it’s something that they’ve never seen before, and you’re eager to introduce them. And by and large, I think we succeeded in making quite the impression on the festivalgoers especially with our cooked-to-order, hand pulled biang biang noodles in a sesame dandan sauce, as well as the kimchi dirty fries.

By the time Jay’s brother David (also a fellow aspiring chef) and sister Jenny arrived to help out after they had closed up at the market, the dinner rush was already on when they arrived, and let’s just say incoming calvalry is always a welcome sight, especially when the chits are lining up. And lined up they were — at certain points, we were six or seven orders deep, with even more folks waiting.

It's a beach volleyball court. In a hockey rink.

It’s a beach volleyball court. In a hockey rink.

Despite it being busy, I did find a bit of time to check out some of the other vendors. Our market friends from Billingsgate was nearby selling fresh sashimi, while others brought their own unique items like Shogun Grill’s takoyaki (Japanese squid donuts) to Family Squeezed Lemonade’s lemonade with mint, Happy Fish’s seafood tacos and Ranch BBQ’s pulled pork made on-board their truck. And that is on top of the purple hippo that spewed fire, the acrobats, the fire dancers and did I mention the various indie music acts?

#StackPaper!

#StackPaper!

In a small space and with a crew of four, we sent dozens upon dozens of hungry festivalgoers away happy. By the time we closed, all of us were exhausted but we had a blast doing it. Sure, the space may just be a smidge bigger than our usual accommodations at the market, and MUCH smaller than the kitchen at Co-op, but it was fun. It was an exhiliarating, long 16 hour day, but the smiles and the “Oh my Glob look at that noodle being stretched!!” made it all worth it. It kinda almost makes me want to open my own food truck…oh right, that’s what I want to do!

This is definitely not the last event I’ll be working in temporary kitchens. Rumour has it there will be a Hawkers Market on October 25th and 26th at the Commonwealth Bar — maybe I’ll see you there?