Saturday, 12 November 2011

Pakuranga night market

Not a great photo but you get an idea of the crowd
I was pretty excited when I first heard about the Auckland Night Market, given the lack of good late-night food options here in Auckland. But my enthusiasm cooled significantly when I found out its location - Pakuranga. Nearly 20km away from Mt Albert! Why bother? Tonight I finally found out why.

We found the entrance easily enough, and the sea of vehicles in the carpark of the otherwise closed shopping mall was the first sign of its popularity. Inside, it was another sea - of people. And a real mix too - Kiwis, Pacific Islanders, and every kind of Asian, it's almost as if someone directed the crowd to embody the quintessential multicultural Auckland.

There were plenty of toys, clothing, jewellery and other wares for sale, but I was only really interested in the food - and I wasn't disappointed. Stall upon stall of Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Sichuan, Xian, Beijing, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Filipino, Italian, Belgian, American food, it was all there. I'd never seen so many delicious-looking and affordable food stalls at any other market or event - not even the Lantern Festival. And this happens every week?

Best of all was the atmosphere - stall owners loudly hawking their wares, visitors mulling over food choices then waiting patiently for their skewer of squid to finish grilling or their takoyaki (octopus ball) to be formed, great clouds of chili smoke permeating the air, making everyone cough, wok fire licking the metal frame of the easy-up shelters, making you nervously wonder if there are any fire extinguishers nearby. All this is a world away from the well-heeled, genteel folk nibbling on croissants and sipping on lattes at the French Market - which is still nice but in a different way.

I've always been annoyed by the fact that it always seemed like the only late night entertainment on offer for Aucklanders is the bars in the Viaduct, and all its associated bawdiness. But the large (family) crowd at the night market showed that there is clearly a demand for this sort of stuff, if only it existed.

It seems the Pakuranga night market has been so successful they've expanded to the Shore on Sunday nights. But where is the one for the CBD? Or even Mt Albert, which has one of the highest ratios of Asian residents in the city? A 20 minute drive on the motorway (in no traffic) is fine I suppose, but wouldn't this sort of thing be exactly what would liven up the central city? Wouldn't the Wynyard Quarter carpark be perfect for this?

Either way, I will definitely be back, while dragging along whoever will come with me, and I hope they continue to replicate the concept. Auckland will be a much better city for it!

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