It’s that time of the year again. Where Christmas comes early for foodies in Sydney, and a month-long period of gorging begins.
It’s time, for GOOD FOOD MONTH.
The Night Noodle Markets is one of those cornerstones of Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Month: I remember when it all began in what was the Crave Food Festival, then the International Food Festival, and now, Good Food Month. Don’t let the name fool you: this market features food originating from just about every corner of the globe, usually with an Asian slant.
I was very lucky to be invited to the launch of the Night Noodle Markets this year, held at the dome known as the Mercedes Benz Temporium.
With seating being a constant issue for market organisers (you’d be likely to be standing shoulder to shoulder with people every night), sponsors have set up ‘activation areas’ that not only include seating, but lovely surrounds in which to enjoy your food!
At the launch, we got to sample food like Pan Fried Buns: juicy pork mince is encased in a fluffy white bun that is first fried, then steamed, then fried to finish. On the more interesting end of the spectrum, there were also Asian inspired offerings from Woofy’s: Pad Thai Hot Dog (pictured above, at the beginning of the post) uses a pork sausage in a white bun, and then topped with a sweet/savoury Pad Thai Sauce, peanuts, fresh coriander, and bean sprouts to create a hot dog version of the classically recognisable Thai stir fried noodles.
But not content with just staying in our little ‘golden cage’, we needed to venture out into the markets!
This year’s markets was filled with old favourites and new visitors: Jackie M, who made an appearance last year, has a stall again this year, offering popular Malaysian items like char kway teow, affectionately shortened to CKT – flat rice noodles are stir fried with a dark soy based sauce, which carries notes of sweet through the savoury, and bean sprouts, fragrant fried onions and garlic chives – Laksa – smooth strands of noodles are served up in a spicy coconut/shrimp based broth – and Roti – a flatbread commonly found through the South East Asian regions that has a delicate chew, surrounded by a crisp exterior that shatters on the first bite. You can also see Jackie M cooking on the front lines at her stall: almost everything is cooked to order, which means that at the end of the long queue a fresh hot bowl of food is waiting for you!
Chat Thai, who also showed at the Night Noodle Markets last year, takes up a multi-stall space this time around, serving up classic Thai savoury dishes and desserts, like Mango Sticky Rice, $12. Fresh mango is paired with savoury glutinous rice, and drizzled with aromatic coconut milk. Bonus tip: the desserts are pre-packed, which means that there is virtually no queue on that side of the stall!
Another old favourite is dessert powerhouse Gelato Messina. Not content with their legions of fanatics, they have created Asian-inspired desserts specially for the markets, like the suggestively and hilariously named Phuc King Tasty: cinnamon scroll, coffee gelato, condensed milk panacotta, walnut crunch, and Asian spiced cookie. Can you feel the sugar high coming on yet?
Of the new Sydney stalls, we tried The Lobster from Bao Stop, $8.50: Lobster pieces are cooked in a Singapore Chilli Crab sauce and laid in-between soft white bread buns. The queue to order was long, there was a point where they stopped a queue and said that it was another 15 minutes just to order, even though these people had waited all this time in the queue already. But was it worth the wait? Well, maybe it’s because I had completely stuffed my face with other things, but it wasn’t quite worth the wait nor the price to me. For something that was the size of my palm, it didn’t hit any of the spots: the sauce wasn’t quite aromatic enough, the lobster seemed slightly overcooked and dry, and the poor remnants of a half-eaten roll that we waited so long for sat neglected, in a paper napkin, a single portion unfinished by two people.
And I’m very excited to say that this year, there are also stalls FROM MELBOURNE!!
Izakaya Den, a popular Japanese eatery in Melbourne’s Russell Street, had their first showing at last year’s Night Noodle Markets in Melbourne, and have very heroically schlepped their stall to make a showing at this year’s Night Noodle Markets in Sydney’s Hyde Park! For the fried chicken lovers, they have their version of Japanese favourite Karaage, done in their own way. Not pictured here is their Salmon and Tuna Tartare, $14, chopped raw salmon and tuna is served over rice and finished with a pickled ginger topping, which was a great light option for a cool night.
Wonderbao is another of the Melbourne visitors, serving up a mixture of their Gua Baos – flat white buns hinged and shaped like Pac Man’s open maws, to sandwich different fresh and prepared fillings, almost like a burger – and regular Baos – soft white buns fully enclose prepared fillings and steamed to finish. A set of three Gua Baos will set you back $20, and here in Sydney they’ve brought with them Braised Pork Belly, Twice Cooked Pork Belly, and a Tofu option, for vegetarians and lovers of well, tofu.
And to round out the Melbourne wonders: HOY PINOY!! Lovers of Phillipino street food rejoice, as Hoy Pinoy bring over their skewers, where diners get to choose from Pork Belly or Chicken. Aptly described by the owners as resembling candied bacon, these skewers are marinated and glazed with a sweet sweet sauce, and charred over coal and smoke for that deep, rich, flavour. I first had sampled their wares in Melbourne – where they also had WHOLE SUCKLING PIGS roasting in a row – and I’ve been a fan ever since. I highly recommend their Pork Belly with Banana Ketchup – succulent cubes pork belly is threaded onto MASSIVE skewers, and glazed and charred to glorious perfection. This recommendation is also echoed by the owners of the stall with great enthusiasm.
This year, Night Noodle Markets will run 7 days a week (I remember when it was just 4! ) at Hyde Park in Sydney, as part of the Good Food Month Celebration. For your ease and convenience, you can also download a map of this year’s stalls, here!
Come join in the month of feasting! You can find out more about Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Month’s many events on their website, here. I’ll also be blogging my experiences as I go, so stay tuned for more tasty updates!
Insatiable Munchies was very nicely provided samples of skewers from Hoy Pinoy.