With a line spilling out the front door, the 15th annual Taiwanese Night Market welcomed over 500 students to celebrate Taiwanese heritage through food, music and games in the Physical Sciences building Saturday.
“Taiwan is such a small island and not many people know much about it,” said Yvonne Huang ’16, vice president of Cornell Taiwanese American Society, which organized the event. “Night markets are a very famous part of Taiwan and there are certain foods that are unique to it. Our goal is to spread Taiwanese culture and awareness to the Cornell community and what’s a better way of doing it than through free food?”
The event aimed to serve three purposes, according to Tech Kuo ’16, CTAS president.
“For the people who are from Taiwan, it’s a chance to get a taste of home. For people of Taiwanese heritage, it’s a chance to learn more about where you came from,” Kuo said. “For the greater community, Taiwan has a very vibrant culture and it’s amazing that we get to give more exposure to the small country.”
In addition to live music played by the CTAS band and common night market games, a major highlight of the event was the authentic, traditional Taiwanese dishes, including pork belly bao buns, three cup chicken, minced pork rice and shaved ice.
“Every time we make these dishes I learn something new and that is very cool because I get a better glimpse of what my parents’ lives were like,” Kuo said.
Although this is the Night Market event’s 15th year, CTAS has tried to make the event accessible to more students each year, according to Huang. This is only the second year that the event has been free to the public, made possible by funding from CUTonight, an group which finances events for a variety of organizations, and only the first year CTAS had planned to serve 500 people at the event, according to numerous members of the CTAS executive board.
“[The food is] all homemade,” according to Kuo. “The recipes that are used have been passed down. But it’s amazing to see so many people line up. We are just a bunch of college students, not professional chefs.”
Not only is CTAS’ Night Market their biggest event for their publicity, but also a chance for members of the organization to bond, with volunteers within and outside the organization spending the entire week prior to the event planning and cooking in preparation, according to Lily Shi ’17, a member of CTAS.
“You really get to know everyone in the club and it strengthens the bonds between members,” Shi said. “Some people you might not know too well, but you cook one dish together and suddenly you become great friends.”
In particular, Kuo said that Night Market is a unique event because the members of CTAS experience all the cultural aspects of the food by preparing and enjoying it. He added that most cultural organizations at other universities allow caterers and chefs to handle the food when organizing events similar to Night Market.
Winston Lee ’18, another CTAS member, added that the hard work CTAS put into organizing the event was ultimately rewarded when hundreds of students showed up to enjoy the Night Market.
“Planning for the Night Market takes a lot of time and work, but in the end it’s a rewarding experience to be able to see all these people and really appreciate the efforts that we made,” he said.