If you've ever wondered what an aloe drink tastes like or what brand of instant miso soup suits you best, this is probably a good time to go to 99 Ranch Market in Irvine (the one on Culver) to find out via free samples. Today, April 21st and tomorrow, Sunday, April 22nd, the market is holding a Japanese and Korean Food Show…and it's as massive a sample fair as I've ever seen them host.
I went this afternoon and found the sample tables not only occupy the entire foyer, but also the aisles at the back near the seafood section, extending all the way to the produce area. Expect to slurp instant noodles from Ajisen Ramen, bite into freshly fried gyoza, sip soup, gobble down curry rice, and take shots of flavored soy milk and Yakult to wash it all down. There are at least two dozen vendors frying, boiling, putting into little sample cups what is effectively going to represent your lunch–one round trip tasting these free samples and you'll be full enough to skip dinner.
Of course, the whole point is to come away buying a few products you wouldn't have otherwise. I picked up the aforementioned gyozas after discovering the spicy beef was better than the pork, and because I liked what I sampled, I also bought a bottle of that aloe drink. And oh yeah, Pocky…but I didn't need a sample to convince me.