The other day, Una and I went to the 素食夜市小吃園遊會 Happy Lantern Green Night Market — a 100% vegetarian (and mostly vegan) Taiwanese street food festival which took place in Alhambra. If that sounds on the surface impossibly niche, consider the following.
- Taiwan is the cradle of the night market.
- Taiwan is, after India, likely the second most-vegetarian country in the world.
- Metro Los Angeles is home to the largest population of Taiwanese outside of Taiwan.
Once one is aware of those three facts, the event probably seems less strange and indeed, in the time it took for us to eat $50 worth of vegetarian Taiwanese street food, business was brisk and seating in short supply.
The event took place on 16 February in the Green Menu Center. It marked the anniversary of that organization’s foundation… and additionally fell reasonably close to the Lunar New Year. Green Menu is a non-profit organization which, since 2010, has promoted vegetarianism. It does so, in large part, by partnering with hundreds of vegan, vegetarian, and veggie-friendly restaurants. However, unlike most of its counterparts, decidedly skews toward Asian restaurants and cuisine (which is fine with me, as a vegetarian who’s not a member of the kale kinwa kombucha klan). Members can save 10%-25% of the restaurant bill at participating establishments.
Night Markets, for the uninitiated, are typically outdoor bazaars in which people eat, stroll, eat, people watch, eat, shop, eat, and play games. They’ve flourished at least since the 1950s in Taiwan, where they can be found in every town of even modest size. Big cities like Taichung and Kaohsiung each host about half a dozen. Metropolis’s like Taipei host more than 30. Night markets are now also common in Cambodia, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and of course, the world’s great pan-Asian Metropolis, Los Angeles.
The 素食夜市小吃園遊會 Happy Lantern Green Night Market wasn’t, strictly speaking, a night market — or at least not in the sense that I’ve experienced them in Taiwan. For starters, it was held indoors and all of the food seemed to be prepared by a single organization (Green Menu). Even more importantly, it mostly took place during the daylight hours of afternoon and early evening, from 15:00-20:00. Also, there was no stinky tofu — which given the indoor setting, was probably for the best.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you, as everything was delicious and exactly the sort of delicious xiǎochī you typically find in a Taiwanese night market. Los Angeles’s night markets, on the other hand, are still seemingly in their embryonic phase and typically feature far fewer vegetarian options than do their Taiwanese counterparts — doubly strange given Taiwan’s vegetarianism and Los Angeles’s status as the American capital of vegetarianism.
Along with giving up meat, perhaps the impactful action individuals can take to slow climate destruction is to give up driving — especially within cities. The Green Center is located along Metro‘s 78 Line, and connects Downtown Los Angeles and Arcadia‘s Arcadia Station via Chinatown, Dogtown, East Pasadena, East San Gabriel, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, Rose Hill, San Marino, South Pasadena, and Temple City. Additionally, Metro’s 260, 378, and Rapid 762 lines all stop no more than a block away, at the intersection of Main Street and Atlantic Boulevard.