You’re surrounded by strangers on all sides, not one of whom is speaking the same language. Red paper lanterns swing overhead, casting everything and everyone around you in a warm, eerie glow. Vendors man stalls on either side of you, aggressively advertising their wares to anyone who stumbles within earshot. Each stall boasts a variety of food, none of which look familiar, but all of which smell quite tasty.
Looking away from the stalls, you step out just in time to be cut off by a man carrying a tray of banana spring rolls and his assistant, sporting a half-dozen batter-fried banana-on-a-sticks in each hand. Dodging them, you look behind the stalls, where you see a row of pans, grills, barbecues and ice cream machines manned by frantically working cooks, all busily making the goods being hawked up front.
And then you turn and see that you missed the Stinger and you realize that you on the Tech campus.
Friday, April 9, the Taiwanese-American Student Association (TASA) hosted its annual Night Market in the biotech quad. Students from Tech’s Asian student associations got together and sold food, trinkets and games from their home countries.
The event’s focus, however, was undeniably the food. While a few stalls did have carnival-style games, the vast majority chose to bring dishes from their home countries.
There was sushi from Japan, fried rice from China, barbecue from Korea, and dozens of dumplings from pretty much any Asian country imaginable. One of the more popular items for sale was bubble tea—a popular drink made from milk, sweetened iced tea and large tapioca pearls and drunk through a straw large enough that the pearls can be slurped up.
Some items were a little less common than others. For example, while Japanese students brought well-known items like sushi and rice balls, they also brought a few lesser-known Japanese treats.
One table had a tool for making tako-yaki (battered octopus dumplings) and another brought a large collection of mochi (rice gelatin dumplings often stuffed with sweet bean paste and flavored with green tea or sesame seeds).
Other atypical items included SunO — a frozen dessert similar to ice cream made from shaved ice, condensed milk, and toppings—from Korea, fish dumplings from China and savory scallion pancakes from Taiwan.
The event worked on a ticket system, where students could buy tickets for $0.50 apiece at the entrance and trade them for food. Prices ranged from one ticket for small things like two mochi or two fruit jellies, to three for a serving of curried fish, to six for a Korean vegetable roll.
Tech students were also joined by several Asian student organizations from other Atlanta colleges as well. Emory TASA co-hosted the event with Tech’s TASA and held the event last year on-campus at Emory. Ten organizations from Tech, eight from Emory University and one from Georgia State University took part in the event.
The Night Market is based on the traditional Taiwanese night market, which functions a lot like TASA’s. Vendors simply set up booths or carts in the street and sell whatever food they happen to be making to passers by.
TASA’s purpose on campus has two sides to it, in that they both spread Taiwanese culture and provide a community for Taiwanese and Taiwanese-American students. Ginger Tsai, fourth-year BME and president of TASA, said, “What we do is try to share the culture of Taiwan, without any kind of political leanings. [We do] movies, games, food, music, etc. We try to empower our members identities…and just make a community where they fit in.”
The purpose of the event mirrors that of TASA.
“It’s for all the organizations to network [and] do a joint project that’s really big on campus. It’s also to get all the organizations names out there, get the publicity, and just hold a really fun event for everyone on campus,” said Tsai.
Currently, TASA claims about 65 members. According to Tsai, the split between native-born Taiwanese students and Taiwanese-Americans is about even.
Night Market is one of TASA’s two big events of the year.
“Our other signature event is called Taste of Taiwan. It’s off campus, typically at the Chinese Cultural Center in Chinatown. That’s when we combine with the other TASA’s—from Tech, Emory and Georgia State. It’s kind of like the India Club Holi Show; we have games, we have performances, and we have lots of food,” said Tsai.
TASA also hosts several smaller events throughout the year, many of them also centered around Taiwanese food. Movie showings, mahjong, and games are some of their more popular events that showcase their culture.