Okie Sonata: An Evening at the Asian Night Market Festival

The first time I met an Asian person—Vietnamese, to be exact—it was in 1990, when I transferred to the Classen Fifth Year Center for the last month of the school year. Having grown up in a small town in Texas for most of my then-life, the closest I ever came to that culture was on Saturday’s kung-fu movie double-features that aired on the old UHF stations. It was good afternoon entertainment but made for poor personal relations.

Now, however, many years later, my life has been continually enriched by living around and immersing myself in such a resounding atmosphere as the Asian District in Oklahoma City. It was relieving to see how many of my neighbors and other friends agreed by overflowing Military Park with support for the peoples of this district and this town by coming out for the annual Asian Night Market Festival…

A yearly event that showcases mainly the seminal culture and food of the area, located around N.W. 25th and Classen Blvd., it was also my own personal return, having missed it last year due to extenuating circumstances, namely death. Riding my bike to the park, I was actually a little early, giving me enough time to do a bit of shopping at the always incomparable Super Cao Nguyen, who apparently had a 40th Anniversary celebration earlier in the day.

As the musically diverse D.J. spun mixes of the various hits of both yesterday and today, I saw Mayor David Holt walk by, stopping every so often to, of course, take a self-aggrandizing selfie. I would have stopped to take a picture with him, but, for a slight moment, not far behind him a cameo by the Thunder Girls garnered my momentary attention. (I would have taken a picture with them, but the back of my shirt was drenched with sweat and I could only picture their painfully collective withdrawals in disgust.)

The festival emcees welcomed us all to the celebration with the cursory “Let’s get this party started!” stump that is so prevalent at all major get-togethers these days, announcing the names of the heroic food trucks that made it out, many of which already had long lines forming; it seems hungry festival-goers were getting their food and a good seat before the various teams competed in the meticulously choreographed Lion Dance competitions.

On my first pass, the Oh My Gogi truck—labeled as “Korean Mexican Fusion”—caught my eye and, on my second pass, I decided to stop and try their provocative Gogi Tacos ($7.00), ordered swiftly and delivered quickly with all the precision of a well-oiled mobile food unit; a mixture of Mexican know-how and Korean skill, the two tacos were composed of tender beef bulgogi, tangy cabbage, and spicy mayo, as well as cheese, onions and cilantro. I really think I could’ve eaten them all night.

To drink, by the way, I had Oh My Gogi’s flavorful tea—a strawberry-hibiscus mélange ($3.00)—which was a refreshing cupful that mostly cooled me off, the sun shining with a skin-charring burn that the tea momentarily relieved; of course, the storms came back a couple of hours later that evening, the thunderheads in the distance giving off an ominous vibe as a chill set in.

As the vaunted eggroll-eating contest begun, I looked covetously at the participants and their plump treats; having ran into a handful of old friends, however, as the sky grew darker I decided to head back home, walking my bike down to Classen, riding my own Schwinn dragon off into the cloud-covered sunset.

_

 Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.