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Rochester group brings a taste of home, culture to Night Market

“We're one community, and for people to experience that I think is very important,” Elsa Salazar said.

elsa salazar night market
Elsa Salazar, right, poses with members of Southeast Asian Taste while others assist customers at Night Market in Rochester Saturday, July 30, 2022.
Abby Sharpe / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Twelve years ago, Elsa Salazar moved to Rochester from the Philippines. Though she believes Rochester is inclusive and diverse, there aren’t many places nearby to get Filipino food, adding to her hunger for home cooked meals.

Now, Salazar is one of at least 14 rotating vendors at the Night Market, an event that showcases Asian cuisine among other international flavors in the style of markets seen across Asia. On Saturday night, July 30, 2022, 20 vendors selling a wide range of foods, condiments and art gathered near downtown Rochester.

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Salazar, her husband and two friends operated a booth at night markets this year after visiting the market last year and enjoying the representation of different cultures.

“It’s like you're going around the world, per se,” Salazar said.

Salazar’s group, Southeast Asian Taste, makes and sells food that represent multiple countries and cultures — the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. The menu on Saturday consisted of sticky rice, beef or fish meatballs and Pinoy hot dogs with banana ketchup.

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Salazar didn’t grow up loving to cook. She’s the youngest of 10 kids, so, growing up, she was tasked with minor chores and didn’t develop impressive cooking skills. After she moved to Rochester, Salazar “learned how to be independent.” She’s influenced by recipes on social media.

“I still video call my mom on how to do things, like in our way of doing it versus just watching a video,” Salazar said.

So, how did Salazar come to operate a food vendor business if she didn’t grow up wanting to be a chef?

It all comes back to the importance of culture.

elsa salazar night market
Meatballs and Pinoy hot dogs are prepared by members of Southeast Asian Taste at Night Market in Rochester Saturday, July 30, 2022.
Abby Sharpe / Post Bulletin

Sharing the food she grew up with is important to Salazar. For example, serving a hot dog might not seem too spectacular or representative of Filipino culture. But that assumption is wrong.

“I know it sounds like oh it's just plain — it's a Filipino hot dog. But it's special because we just don't see it in a store, in a Walmart. We get it from the Asian stores because it comes from the Philippines,” Salazar said. “And that brings me a lot of memories. It's part of our culture. You see it on the streets. You see it in some dishes that we cook, because hot dogs are cheaper back home.”

It promotes culture through food, as Salazar put it. People in Rochester have a chance every other Saturday through Sept. 10 to experience different cultures without leaving town. That’s the vision organizer Tiffany Alexandria had for the market and a vision vendors are running with this summer.

For Salazar, it’s less about how much money her group makes. “Profits are just a bonus for me,” she said. She enjoys connecting with the community and gathering with friends to make food that feels like home.

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“We're one community, and for people to experience that I think is very important,” Salazar said. “We have to learn from each other. Having these events helps the community to learn from each other, and promotes unity.”

Related Topics: FOODRESTAURANTS AND BARS
Abby Sharpe joined the Post Bulletin in February 2022 after graduating from Arizona State University with a sports journalism degree. While at ASU, she created short- and long-form stories for audio and digital. Readers can reach Abby at 507-285-7723 or asharpe@postbulletin.com.
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