As I came back from China on the 15th of October, I didn’t have much time to be very active in 2013′s good food month. This includes the flagship event – the Night Noodle Markets. That said, I still managed to go twice just three and two days before it closed on the 27th. The side effect of that however, is that my post on it inevitably only comes out after the markets have ended.
Still solid progress, especially after my coverage of the 2012 markets.
Oh well, honestly, I never really thought of my blog as a guide for dining – it does serve that purpose, but only as an externality to its true purpose – simply great, mouth-watering pictures with what I hope is a writing style that is ever improving. Besides, NNM doesn’t need my marketing, that’s for sure.
Read on for the deliciousness – and may it entice you to attend NNM 2014!
Date Last Visited: 25/10/13 (two visits)
Address: Hyde Park North, Sydney
Recommended Dish(es): everything in the post
When I do NNM, I have a pretty simple rule: don’t buy things that you can readily get elsewhere.
The keyword here is “readily” – I can get my Thai noodles, Chinese fried rice/dim sums and Viet pho anywhere else, and almost certainly of a better standard than at NNM. With this rule, 95% of the stalls get ruled out. That isn’t to say I disparage people who queue up for miles behind the “brand names” like DTF and Zilver, or Jackie M or Chat Thai (in fact we did get something from Jackie M), it’s just that I know I can get what they serve so easily outside of NNM, often for cheaper. Heck, all of those restaurants are within walking distance from NNM
Even with that rule in place, this year’s NNM definitely brought about several dishes which I’m glad I tried.
Ah, a Japanese influence (the Torii Gate) to start off with – promising! Ironically, almost none of the stalls in the NNM were Japanese….
On that subject, I’m deeply saddened to find the absence of Japancake Okonomiyaki. I really loved what they had in last year’s NNM.
Now brace yourselves, because this one’s going to take you by surprise…
JOKES! By now EVERYONE has heard of the ramen burger, and half of everyone have tried it. It’s exactly what it sounds like too: a patty where the buns are instead made from specially-prepared ramen. Following a craze that originated in – you guessed it – ‘Murica, it inevitably spread to Australia, spearheaded by On Ramen.
On Ramen’s procedure involves freezing the ramen to get it to hold together. It supposedly takes quite awhile to make. I guess they gotta do what they gotta do to justify the burger’s $12.50 price tag.
It comes with a choice of four patties – beef, pulled pork, chicken or a vegetarian option. Being carnivores, we got the former three.
The burger in all its top-down glory. Whether it’s an appetising sight or not is up to you. As for me, I was….curious.
Curious because it’s new, but also curious because this burger has split up the foodie community down the middle. Some people love it, praising the rich flavour profile the ramen brings out, with flavoursome patties. Others deride the entire experience – the buns hard to chew, no real flavour, wtf is that salad doing on the side, just a novelty experience and so on…
My thoughts are, as usual, somewhere in between. Novelty definitely makes queues, and I would say that the queue is undeserved, but only insofar as if the burger has been around for yonks and wasn’t a newcomer. The patties actually taste pretty good – the pulled pork is apparently amazing (and I totally digged the beef patty – yes I’m calling it as far as NNM standards go). The ramen ‘buns’ themselves were alright – indeed quite hard to chew and mostly kind of like chewing on rubber that slowly gives way. That said, they had decent taste if you could crack your teeth on the whole thing.
I gotta say – I’m amused by the pittance of a salad they put on the side. “Dressing it up”, as it were.
I wouldn’t be paying $12.50 for it again, but I don’t regret the experience – I’m glad I had it because it was enjoyable for that first time.
While not the best example, the ramen burger exemplifies the uniqueness I’d like to see more of in events like the NNM. Simple as that.
Oh yeah, we lined up pretty early (which is when they start cooking the stuff) and there was already a queue.
At around 5:20 the queue was already this long. Later on, it was constantly more than 40 people in line. Goodness we skipped all that…
The Fei jai stall right next to On Ramen’s took my attention due to one dish – the mapo dog.
Yeah it’s exactly what it says – it’s your regular hot dog, frankfurter included, with a generous amount of mapo tofu all over on top. Now that’s not something I can see on your every day menu. The taste? Really, really good. Mapo tofu made well can’t go wrong, and the frankfurter was meaty and fulfilled my expectations.
The bread roll was the only weak part – and I mean that literally as well as it fell apart very easily under all that saucy tofu. You have to eat it really quickly if you decide to use your hands, as the sauce will wet that bread up pretty quickly.
After this point, we decided to walk around for a bit, and see what else was on offer.
I was curious to try these, but sweet items were not on the agenda. In fact, at NNM they never are unless they’re really something else.
Awhile later, we approach a banh mi stall by the name of Pok Lol. Banh Mi? The Viet bread rolls you can get almost anywhere for for less than half the price of the rolls here? Seems like a big rule-break to me…
Thing is, these rolls came highly, highly recommended to me, and also, there’s an option that I’ve never actually seen elsewhere (in a banh mi shop, anyway). That’s the pok lol roll.
And it makes sense, because this isn’t strictly banh mi – it’s a Vietnamese/Korean fusion. Kim Chi for starters, and I haven’t ever had banh mi that uses pork belly. I fear I could be starting an authenticity debate here but honest I could not care less…
…because the taste is awesome. Probably one of the best “things in a bread roll” I’ve ever actually tasted. How did I come by that criteria? Well, I think of other subs/banh mi’s I’ve had and I ask myself – are they definitively better than this pok lol? The answer is no most of the time, and at best, inconclusive.
So yeah, it’s friggin amazing. With extra chilli sauce, it’s elevated to an even greater level.
Possibly my favourite of NNM 2013.
Would I get it again for $10? Errr, hell yes.
My friends ended up getting the gaytime-style dessert at Pok Lol which tastes more or less what you’d expect – a gaytime. Good, but $2.5 gaytime pop > $8 pok lol gaytime anytime.
By now, the markets are getting real crowded. Yet, we still manage to find a table. SCORE!
I had a serious CKT craving that day, so I figured I may as well play it safe and do it Jackie M style. We queued up for about 15 minutes and ended up grabbing a plain CKT, radish cakes, as well as an otak-otak.
By the time our order actually came to our hands, the light levels have fallen too far for me to bother taking a picture (flash has no place up in my business). CKT and radish cakes aren’t exactly photogenic in plastic boxes anyway. In terms of the CKT, there wasn’t enough wok hei and lacked enough of the soy flavour for me. I’d have topped up somewhat. Still, a good carby fill.
The radish cakes on the other hand were really flavoursome, and I liked them quite a bit. Crunchy skins and softer centres, delicious.
Now, for my second visit to NNM, the day after.
This time, I went with The Lady, and it would be a crime not to give her the opportunity to try out Pok Lol’s awesomeness. We tried the lemongrass coconut chicken w/half pate (we asked for less) and I personally came out feeling even more satisfied than the pok lol I had yesterday. The Lady, who’s got a Vietnamese/Chinese upbringing instantly deemed it her favourite – a title that lasted the two times she visited NNM.
What really works about Pok Lol’s rolls is how well the bread is made – it’s tough where it should be, but it’s never hard to chew when you begin chowing down. The ingredients form the other side of the story – they’re full of flavour. Cannot go wrong, just can’t.
Our next stop is the Eat Art Truck – err – I mean the Citi Truck??? Yeah, they repainted for NNM, which I can understand as Citi (+ Rekorderlig) is practically sponsoring the whole event. I have visited Eat Art Before, and absolutely loved it. This time, I got to try something new, though it’s one of their stalwart dishes.
Oh it’s just heavenly. What really works about this dish for me is the fishy textures of the kingfish married to the crunchiness of the “tacos” (I’ll just call them Doritos) they’re served with. It’s really satisfying to eat as a result. The spicy mayo brings everybody home. Yum!
At this point, I really couldn’t find much else that was unique, so I decided to focus on noodles (because it is the night NOODLE markets) and value (because I’m Asian??? Heh.)
Where we ended up was a Woolies-sponsored stall by the name of “Evergreen Noodles”. A new brand I have not heard of before, they’re frying them up in every which way and begging for me to eat them.
So I did. For $12, there’s over half a kg of food to eat and it’s combination on top of that – value indeed. It was a delicious eat, especially after a carb-fast earlier during the day. The noodles themselves were average, but when properly mixed with the sauce (at the bottom) they became something I call a “bottomless feed” – something I could just keep eating nonstop. Thank goodness I was sharing.
My impressions of NNM 2013 have been extremely positive. As usual, long queues, overpriced everythings are there – but they’re part and parcel of the package. The key, as I’ve found, is to look for the unique stuff. That way, you don’t get that annoyed feeling when you’ve just splashed $10 for four dim sum (seriously? Are you kidding?). Expectations management: big, big thing.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
No Score (special event)