MELBOURNE’S inaugural Night Noodle Markets finishes on 30 November. Carene Chong drops in to soak in the hype and slurp some noodles.
Having attracted almost 300,000 visitors in Sydney last year, the Night Noodle Markets arrived in Melbourne recently for the first time as part of The Age’s Good Food Month celebrations.
After hearing renowned eateries like Chin Chin and newly opened gelateria Gelato Messina were coming, I had to give it a go.
Unsurprisingly, the markets caused quite a buzz and crowds thronged the event, causing quite a number of people to leave hungry and disappointed due to long waiting times. So I descended upon the markets with some friends on a wet Saturday at 5pm and thankfully managed to avoid the queues.
Food stalls selling all sorts of Asian cuisine dotted the grounds. From Chinese dumplings to Vietnamese Pho; from Pad Thai to satays, the event is truly a celebration of authentic Asian flavours. Plenty of seats were set up for patrons around the grounds next to the food stalls so everyone dines al fresco. The downside to this was – especially on a wet day – that unprepared patrons had to scramble for shelter when the skies opened up. So my advice: definitely have an umbrella on hand, as you never know.
Our first stop was popular Thai fusion eatery Chin Chin which is one of the first stalls you’ll see.
I ordered a pork slider for $9. The mini burger comes in a choice of either tofu or pork and is served with Asian slaw, Japanese mayo and hot sriracha sauce sandwiched between fragrant mini burger buns. That killer combo definitely worked in their favour as the pork was perfectly smoked, the slaw fresh and the sauce aplenty.
However, a gulp is all it took to consume the burger and it made me wonder whether it was worth the money spent.
Next up was a good serving of Pad Thai from Le Bangkok which serves a variety of Thai food. The Pad Thai was good enough, though I think it was missing certain elements of crunchiness and spiciness to make it truly authentic.
I had a craving for Vietnamese pho (rice noodle soup) and decided to pay I Love Pho’s stall a visit to get their signature beef pho.
It was as good as I expected it to be. Beef tender, soup flavourful and plenty of noodles for $10. Now that’s value for money.
My friends settled for nibbles and snacks to fill their stomachs, which is a good move if you plan to give the market’s offerings a thorough try. Japanese food stalls Izakaya Den, Hihou and Nama sell some great finger food such as Den fried chicken and the hihou dog.
The bite-sized fried chicken came with a Japanese mayo for dipping and was perfectly crispy and succulent. The hihou dog, a pork sausage sandwiched between a sesame brioche and topped with pickled cabbage, was a beautiful combination of savory, slightly tangy flavours from the cabbage and sweet from the brioche.
But the highlight of my gourmet experience at the Noodle Markets was definitely the beautiful dessert from Gelato Messina. I ordered a sundae named En-Thai-Sing which, as you can guess, was a Thai-inspired sweet treat with a pandan coconut sorbet, sweet sticky rice with coconut milk, topped off with fresh mangoes.
Refreshing yet not too heavy, the sundae was the perfect palate cleanser to finish off the wonderful night.
Even though everything we ate was great, it really was more about the unique dining experience with great company – sharing food, taking swigs of Rekordelig cider under the stars while having a great chat and laugh.
With its overwhelming popularity, I do see great potential in the event becoming an annual fixture. Here’s to more Night Noodle Markets in the near future.
The Night Noodle Markets is held at the Alexandra Gardens next to the Federation Square and will run until November 30.