The OC Night Market

The OC Night Market has been on my list of things to do in Orange County for the longest time. This modern food fair is inspired by Asian eats of all kinds, from sushi burritos to pork belly gua bao. Best of all, it’s a place where munching, nibbling, and sipping are entirely acceptable and in fact, celebrated!There are several perks to taking part in an Asian food fair and free Pocky is one of them. Upon entering the market, we were greeted by a cheery red Pocky truck, with a costumed lady handing out boxes of Pejoy, otherwise known as inside out Pocky. After trying them, I’m officially convinced that regular Pocky are superior to this new invention, but nonetheless I am always thankful for handouts.
There are two main drinks to refresh with when at the OC Night Market…the first is Japanese beer and the other is tea. Many of the teas at the market are served Taiwanese style, infused with modern additions like tapioca boba and fruit jellies. These certainly aren’t your $30 per ounce variety of teas, but they are satisfying, perfectly portable, and best of all…tasty!Here’s a view of some black tea leaves post-steeping, used for making Hong Kong Milk Tea. This Chinese twist on a British classic is one of my favorites, a balanced blend that’s bold and creamy. I tried to make small talk with the tea guy at this booth hoping to find out exactly what kind of tea leaves they used, but he was super secretive about it and refused to budge. I’m guessing a mix of Ceylon, Assam, or English Breakfast. Any ideas?Food on a stick is popular at the OC Night Market. But unlike the deep-fried corn dogs and twinkies you find at your local state fair, Asian food on a stick tends to be low-carb. Korean beef, Thai spiced chicken, lobster balls…a skewered snack in one hand and a cup of chilled tea in the other and you’re set.Here was my first tea choice of the day, Watermelon Green Tea, made from fresh watermelon juice and jasmine green tea. Only mildly sweet, this cooling refresher is easy to make at home and ideal for sipping on as the days longer and hotter. And speaking of hotter, how cute is this dim sum inspired tank top? In addition to all the fair food, you can expect many craft and art vendors at the OC Night Market. I can’t say that I would be comfortable sporting this tank around, but I can certainly appreciate the person who could.
In addition to all the regular booth vendors, you’ll also find several food trucks a the OC Night Market. It’s always great to know you can hunt down your favorite food finds long after the fair is over. Buddha Bing and Tokyo Doggie Style are a few of the food trucks that caught my eye. Non-dairy boba milk tea? Leave it to the food trucks to think of everything!
If you plan on making it to one of the future night markets, it’s a good idea to get there early. Just as the sun starts setting, you can expect seriously long lines. One of the longest lines we came across was for takoyaki, pancake-like balls made from a wheat-based batter with pieces of octopus mixed in. Takoyaki are delicious when served with hot green teas, especially savory ones like genmaicha.
Our last stop of the evening was for twice cooked pork belly buns. What set these buns apart from your everyday Chinese buns is that they are deep-fried after being steamed, and hence twice cooked. The filling inside the buns was much like char siu pork filling, except less reddish in color and also less sweet. I suppose the less sweet filling was to accommodate for condensed milk, drizzled atop the hot buns just before serving (yes, you read that right!).
If you’re a foodie coming through SoCal at the right time, you should definitely check out the OC Night Market in Costa Mesa or it’s sister food fair, the 626 Night Market in Arcadia. These food fairs typically run 2-3 times a year, and the venues continue to grow in size as they grow in popularity. Come thirsty, hungry, and with an open mind and I’m sure you’ll find some tea foods that you never even knew existed!

Boba Thai Tea Shooters

A few months back I received an email from my blogger friend Lan over at morestomach. Lan had messaged me to ask about making Thai Iced Tea, that much-loved sweet orange concoction that Thai food lovers can’t seem to get enough of.

In our chats, I shared with Lan a few tips on making Thai tea and some ideas on where she might be able to find some (you can find it at Asian markets, Amazon, or Teavana). We then discussed how the tea gets that strange yet inviting bright orange color. Lan’s food style is pure, clean, and elegantly composed, so I had to break it to her gently…that neon coloring is artificial.

I put this recipe together to use up the last of my Thai tea stash that’s been hanging out in the back of my tea cabinet over the last year. Since it’s Halloween this week, I figure I should put that orange brilliance to good use and make some festive Thai Tea Shooters in test tubes, complete with a few boba balls for an extra spooky effect.

Today I’m using plastic test tube favors to make these shots. I found them on sale at my local craft store (Michaels) over the weekend (part of the Martha Stewart line), and can’t get over how adorable they are. Glass tubes would be so much classier, but hey, it Halloween, so a bit of tackiness is allowed right!?

There’s really nothing to making Thai Tea. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool down so that it doesn’t melt the ice that you serve it with. Luckily, that’s not an issue here because these shots are made with well-chilled tea. This way, there’s no need for ice and the tea keeps its strong flavor and creamy appearance.

Another tip for making good Thai Tea is to boil the tea for a long time. This type of full flavored tea isn’t sensitive to heat like traditional brews are, so it’s fine to boil the tea for up to 15 minutes instead of just steeping it. A darker, more concentrated brew will be tastier than a lighter one, since you can always adjust the strength of the tea with the stronger version.

What character are you planning to be this Halloween? If you’re having a get together and know that your guests are Thai tea fans, be a Mad Scientist and make some ghastly Boba Thai Tea Shooters! These curious little treats will be the delight of any creepy bash!

Boba Thai Tea Shooters

Makes 12-15 test tube shots.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup loose leaf Thai tea

1 quart of water

1/2 cup sugar, or to taste

1/2 cup half-and-half

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup boba tapioca balls, prepared according to package instructions

Equipment:

large pot

large heatproof pitcher

a double layered piece of cheesecloth

fine mesh strainer

test tube favors (I used Martha Stewart brand)

tall basket or test tube holder

Directions:

1.)  Boil the water in a large pot, add the tea, then lower the heat to a rolling boil for 10-15 minutes. After 15 minutes, strain out the leaves by pouring the tea through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer into a large heatproof pitcher.

2.)  Add the sugar to the tea just after boiling. Feel free to play around with the amount of sugar to suit your taste. Let the tea cool to room temperature. Mix in the half-and-half and vanilla extract, then place the tea in the fridge to chill completely.

3.)  Pour the tea into test tubes until they are 3/4 full. Just before serving, add a few boba balls to each tube, then cap with the corks and place the test tubes in a test tube holder. You’re done!

*** Entertaining Tip: It’s a good idea to have some fat boba straws for your guests to use for drinking. If the boba sits around at the bottom of the test tubes for a long time, they may tend to stick there. The straws will allow for easy drinking if you happen to need them, especially if you are wanting to make the shots ahead of time.