The crowd is slowly filling in on this Friday, as triple digit temperatures blaze the grounds of Fresno’s largest Cambodian temple at Clinton and Valentine.
Guests are taking refuge in corners with shade, watching singers perform on the main stage.
Other visitors braving the sun are lined up at vendor booths, set up in rows along the main courtyard. The smell of cooked meats fills the air. Danny Kim says this is all familiar to him.
“I travel to Cambodia a lot and night market is the most popular thing in Cambodia.”
Kim is a Fresno police officer and board president of the Khmer Cultural Preservation Society. The non-profit has been in talks with the Cambodian Buddhist Society at the temple to bring an event like this to life since 2019. The plan was delayed because of COVID, but was finally launched two weeks ago.
“This is like traveling back to Cambodia, I mean you can come in and you can feel like you are at home. Especially for the Cambodian community, right?” Kim said.
But not just the Cambodian community. Business is brisk for sugar cane juice vendor Huynh Ho, who is bringing his Vietnamese influence to the drink.
“Cococane, mango, strawberry, kumquat, durian,” he says listing off the flavors. “My specialty is sugar cane and I try to juice it with different fruits.”
He says he jumped at the chance to be a part of this event.
“It's good to promote our culture and traditions, especially among Asian populations because we really dont have this kind of event in Fresno,” he says.
Across from Ho’s booth, Richard Songsamayvong is busy taking orders for fresh papaya salad and fried chicken wings.
He’s working at his aunt and uncle’s food booth, Sap Lao.
“We have Nam Khao, we have papaya salad, pork rinds, meatballs, chicken, and it’s all pretty good, all prepared at home,” he says.
As he rushes out orders under the sweltering tent, his aunt fills a mortar and pestle with freshly shaved papaya, tomatoes and adds spicy and pungent ingredients like red chilies, shrimp paste and fish sauce.
“This one just for papaya, right?” she yells over her shoulder.
It’s Jojit Dumag’s first time here at the market.
“Eat a lot of food. Yeah, I like to see around, you know, look around and see what's out here,” he says.
He and his family stand in line at the booth for Mama Kreung's Kitchen. Jasmin San takes orders.
“We sell Pahut sticks, pork bellies, asian snow cones syrups and thai tea, also as well as ice coffee,” she says.
Kaytelen Mep’s mom runs the business. They’re trying to raise money for a food truck trailer.
“We usually don't have anything like this, but now that we do, it's a good feeling because our Cambodian community gets to get together, get to try food and support other businesses, you know,” she says.
Already the event has grown to include four more vendors this week, and there’s a waiting list for more.
Sreymom Yi is selling shirts, skirts and handbags at her booth, all shipped from Cambodia. She lived there two years ago and she says the market feels like home.
“Yeah like, a lot of food. A lot of music over there. And we have the shirt and everything, look like Cambodia. When you come here, you feel like you in Cambodia,” she says with a laugh.
The Night Market will be held every Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., year round with the exception of some holidays. And on hot summer nights, hours may be extended so people can come when it’s cooler.