The 10th-annual Night It Up! market returned to Markham on Friday, offering delicacies, food and games that give GTA residents a unique glimpse into Asian culture.

The event is modeled after the night markets in places such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where residents work during the day and wait until intense heat and humidity fades away before going out to shop into the night.

"The atmosphere is very vibrant. There is a great hustle and bustle that you can't really find at other markets, and from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. it gets pretty crowded," said Yang Liu, the event's director of marketing.

While Toronto's large Asian community already shows off its food and culture in neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Liu said the market's vendors offer specialties that are hard to find anywhere else in Toronto, such as smelly tofu.

Vendor Kang Wei deep fries his fermented tofu in a distinctive mix of soy-based sauces and seasonings including garlic, sugar, vinegar and pepper.

"Open your mind. Nothing scary," Wei says to visitors. He insists the natural fermentation process of the tofu is the same as milk turning into cheese. He says market-goers just "gotta try it."

"Everything is natural. We've been (at the market) for 10 years and always have long lineup for smelling tofu," Wei said.

Wei ferments the tofu for about one day in a fridge and sells five pieces for about $4 with a serving of cabbage, admitting it "tastes much better than the smell."

More than 60,000 people are expected to attend the two-day market, sampling several other unique foods like Hong Kong-style egg puffs, spiral potatoes on a stick and Taiwanese shaved ice.

This year, the market will also offer merchandise booths, an outdoor screening of the martial-arts movie Ip Man 2 and a paint-a-thon where visitors can paint on large canvasses to raise money for charity.

Visitors can also participate in a large outdoor sports zone and watch traditional martial arts and dancing.

Giving back to the community

Night It Up! is run by the Power Unit Youth Organization, a not-for-profit student group. PUYO was created when a group of York University students from Taiwan wanted to bring a part of their culture to Toronto.

In 2002, they created the original Asian Night Market, which has since evolved into this weekend's event.

Liu said the students always intended to give back to the community. Since 2002, the group has raised over $65,000 for various charities, with last year's outdoor market raising over $10,000, she said.

More space, more vendors

This year, organizers moved the event from its usual location at Markham's Metro Square to the Civic Centre located at 101 Town Centre Blvd.

Liu said the move will allow more than 120 vendors to participate in the event. The new location will also allow offer more parking spaces.

Daven Wong, a first-time vendor at the market, said he is happy about the change in location because he attendees will be able to access the event more easily in the downtown Markham location.

At his booth, Wong is offering a new twist to traditional Chinese desserts by putting them in a cup.

Wong said he was inspired by a food craze that was popular in Hong Kong a few years ago that put specialty drinks in a cup. He said he wanted to create a healthy dessert choice that was easier to eat on-the-go.

Wong's booth will offer specialties such as mango supreme and coconut milk in sago served over ice, for about $3.50 per cup, as well as a selection of specialty teas.

Night It Up! began Friday and runs Saturday from noon until midnight. Parking is limited, and a shuttle bus will run every 20 minutes to half hour, from Metro Square to the new location with stops in between. For directions and more event information, visit their website.