Asian hip-hop, pop and R&B media company and arts collective 88rising is bringing the fourth installment of its Head in the Clouds Music & Arts Festival to Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena Aug. 20-21.
While the music lineup includes performances by Jackson Wang, Niki, Rich Brian, Bibi, Jay Park, Chung Ha and about two dozen other acts, the cuisine served up at the festival has also become a major draw thanks to the 626 Night Market.
“You’re going to be well fed, you don’t have to worry about that,” 626 Night Market marketing director Jennifer Sanchez said during a recent phone interview.
626 Night Market made its debut in Old Town Pasadena in 2012. It’s modeled after the open-air night markets in Asia and features a varying lineup of vendors including all-star local chefs, entrepreneurs and artists. The flagship market includes about 250 vendors and is now held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. The market also has events at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton and recently added a mini night market in Santa Monica.
For Head in the Clouds, the market is bringing in a dozen of its most popular food booths. Even for those with the biggest appetites, it might be impossible to sample items from each spot, so Sanchez shared her five must-try menu items for those attending the festival.
All Dat Dim Sum
It’s all about dim sum, the delicious little dumplings that can be devoured in a couple of bites. They’re filling, tasty and easy to handle, so a perfect festival food. For Sanchez, the go-to dim sum is a dish called “Kevin’s Creation,” which is beef bulgogi dumplings in house oil and chili sauce.
“It’s just drenched in chili sauce and just so good,” she said. With all that chili sauce, topped with green onions and sesame seeds, this dish almost resembles dim sum soup, so be ready to slurp from the bowl once you’re done with the dumplings.
Bao buns are steamed, fluffy balls of goodness that can be stuffed with just about anything. Tao’s Bao serves up pork belly buns with options like miso and kimchi.
“These are gourmet buns you’re getting,” said Sanchez, who recommends the miso pork belly. “They put an orange miso sauce on top and then they sprinkle it with seaweed and it has cucumber in it as well. That’s what I always get.”
These fried Japanese noodles are street food royalty. At the festival, Tokyo Yakisoba will be the king of this ubiquitous dish. Noodle dish options include beef, broccoli, omelet-style and vegan. You’ll get quite the show when you order, too.
“You go there and they’re throwing up the noodles, they’re frying the eggs and slipping it on top,” Sanchez described. “Obviously it tastes amazing, the presentation is fantastic and it’s always a fun dish to eat.”
And the flavor?
“It’s a little sweet, it’s definitely savory and the noodles are just very chewy,” she said. “Typically with noodles, they can feel heavy and this one doesn’t feel that way to me. You can eat it over and over again.”
Boba is a hot commodity. The sweet milky tea made with chewy tapioca balls has become one of the hottest summer drinks and festival goers can get their fill at Bobaful. Sanchez’s personal pick is the coconut purple rice drink, which is made with rice bits instead of tapioca balls.
“I think the purple rice at the bottom of the drink really gives it a good chew,” she said.
Korean fried chicken sandwiches have been all up in the feathers of Nashville hot chicken joints lately and at the fest, you’re going to want to bite into anything on the Chimmelier menu. There are a lot of fried chicken options out there, but Sanchez said Chimmelier stands out for its combination of perfectly crunchy, yet tender chicken served between toasted sesame buns.
“They also have the pickled slaw,” she said. “It’s very good festival food.”
Other vendors coming to the 626 Night Market at Head in the Clouds include: Baozza with its pizza stuffed bao; Shake Ramen offering a wide variety of flavors; Chick N Skin with its low carb skins served plain or for dipping or nacho-style; Flavor Fusions Cafe mixing tropical fruit drinks in Instagram-worthy buckets; Luckyball Korean BBQ with squid, chicken, beef or pork skewers; Takoyaki Tanota will serve its battered octopus with a variety of toppings; and Waffleland will bring its sweet and savory chocolate, coconut, mochi, original and sesame and seaweed waffles, teas and ice cream.
Head in the Clouds Festival
When: 2-11 p.m. Aug. 20; 2-10 p.m. Aug. 21
Where: Brookside at the Rose Bowl, 1133 Rosemont Ave., Pasadena
Tickets: $275 two-day general admission; $425 two-day VIP admission; $750 two-day South Bay Surf Club VIP admission; Parking is $50-$100. All passes are available at la.hitcfestival.com.