Today, LUCKYRICE is a nationwide series of feasts, dumpling dinners, ramen slurp sessions and cocktail parties. But it began as a food stall-packed night market under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn. “When I started LUCKYRICE in 2010, I wanted to bring the traditions and cultures of Asia to life and I thought a night market would be a perfect platform,” says founder Danielle Chang. “Food is the lifeblood of Asian culture and night markets are the heart beat.”
Night markets are street markets (typically open air) filled with food stalls and local producers. That may just sound like a nocturnal farmer’s market, but night markets are much more intense. “They assault you from every level,” Chang says. “Visually, it’s a spectacle. There are tons of people and lights. From an olfactory perspective, there are fermented foods, fish sauce, stinky tofu, cigarettes. And it’s very loud. The Chinese describe it as ‘renao,’ which means hot and noisy. It’s frenetic chaos.” A lover of the bright and busy fests and a native of Taiwan where the night markets are stuff of legend, Chang dedicated much of her new book, Lucky Rice (on shelves now), to recipes from night markets across Asia: Taiwanese beef noodle soup, curry laksa from Singapore and anything you could ever want to grill on a stick.
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If you ever get a chance to attend a LUCKYRICE night market or visit one in Asia, Chang has some advice. First of all, remember that there are no rules. “Point, eat with your hands. Burp. Sit on the street,” she says. Secondly, keep an open mind. “Always try something new. Don’t have ideas about what you want ahead of time,” she says. “Try a grilled squid on a stick—improvise.”