Stinky tofu, octopus balls and a midway greeted revellers at this year’s T&T Waterfront Night Market

Stinky tofu, octopus balls and a midway greeted revellers at this year’s T&T Waterfront Night Market

(Image: Igor Yu) 

What smells like rotting garbage and brings out block-long line-ups? Stinky tofu at an Asian food festival, of course. T&T Supermarket hosted the most recent one this past weekend at its Cherry Street location, one of three such events in the GTA now. These food festivals are a small glimpse into (and sometimes pale reflection of) the night life of pretty much every city of any size in Asia, with street vendors selling everything from cheap toys to grilled skewers of meat. We dropped by to see how the national Chinese grocer fared at its third annual Waterfront Night Market.

In theory, night markets like this are the perfect opportunity to sample the kind of specialty Asian dishes you’d never expect to find in restaurants—which is why stinky tofu is perhaps the signature item at these events. Chunks of deeply fermented tofu are deep fried and served with hoisin and chili sauce, making for a sweet, spicy and decidedly funky treat. The second most popular in recent years has been takoyaki, a kind of Japanese dumpling filled with bits of octopus that’s made by constantly “flipping” the batter in round moulds as they’re cooked. The little balls are then topped with japanese mayo, bbq sauce and, often as not, bonito flakes. Still, at last weekend’s market, grilled meat skewers—beef, chicken, lamb and squid—abounded as well. There were also plenty of dessert choices, ranging from the decidedly non-Asian churros filled with chocolate and caramel to fruit-flavoured shaved ice.

Food wasn’t the only spectacle at this event: there was a stage for live music, hoops for one-on-one basketball, and a midway, brought in to keep people entertained. Not surprisingly, though, the crowd was mostly interested in things they could stuff into their mouths, leaving the games and other non-food attractions a little empty. Likewise, the obligatory booths shilling cars, newspaper subscriptions and political party memberships did not get much attention. All in all, it was still a pretty fun event—as long as you don’t mind holding your nose now and then.