The pasar malam, or night market, has become a hit in many American cities as the Asian population in the United States continues to grow.
These markets have popped up not only on the west coast, such as in California, but also in other parts of the US, including in Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland and New York.
They range from grungy open-air affairs held in parking lots to Anthony Bourdain’s more upmarket version in the meat-packing district of New York City, which is expected to open in 2017.
The food on offer is no different from what one might find on the streets of Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore or Hong Kong.
Hungry visitors get to feast on skewered squid and shrimp, spring rolls, waffles and bubble tea, while the more adventurous can opt for Asian-fusion fare like ramen burgers (fried ramen replaces the bun) and Japanese burritos.
“This is the only time you’ll see the squid and shrimp cooked in front of you on the street,” said Ms Lyna Le, office manager at Bridgecreek Reality which organises the Asian Garden Night Market in Westminster, California.
The market, which opened in 2011, is about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles and has about 60 stalls selling mainly Vietnamese cuisine. It is open three nights a week for 12 weeks and is held in the parking lot of the Vietnamese Asian Garden Mall.
Ms Le said the mall owner, Mr Frank Jao, was inspired by the markets in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam and wanted to bring the concept over to the US.
Since then, several have sprung up in other cities in California.
Mr Jonny Hwang, founder of 626 Night Market, first organised a night market in 2012 in Pasadena, California. From just 80 stalls at the time, it now has about 300 vendors in the market in Arcadia.
He has even expanded his venture and will hold a Lunar New Year themed market in Santa Monica next month.
Mr Hwang said his Asian night markets cater to the large Asian population in Southern California that loves night markets and also provides “exposure to businesses in the Asian communities”.
But Asians are not the only ones who frequent such markets, which are proving popular with people of other ethnicities looking for a new experience and some good, affordable food.
Said Mr Hwang: “People are very interested in food, especially Asian cuisine.”