Oops, it looks like you’re in the wrong year! If you’re looking for my 2016 coverage of the Night Noodle Markets, click here! If you want to relive some old memories, feel free to read on!
Ah, so it’s that time of the year again. October, the month where the amount my wallet lightens is proportional to my expanding waistline. It’s like eating money, except more delicious, because I’m eating food bought with said money.
Hurray for a laboured introduction, right? Well, Good Food Month has been going on for nearly half of October now. If you don’t know what that is, you are either not a Sydneysider or you have no taste buds. While the number of events is staggering, one of the more recognisable receptions that even non-foodies can’t avoid hearing about is the Night Noodle Markets. The theme is essentially Asian hawker, with 50+ stalls this year all vying to win a piece of your stomach capacity. Oh, and that wallet.
Last year, I made the terrible mistake of putting up my post on the Night Noodle Markets after the event had finished. My legendary propensity to be late really bit me hard on that one. I won’t make that mistake again – be prepared for a live post! Check back here for updates, or follow me on any social media platform for announcements. I’ll be hitting up this place a LOT.
Date Last Visited: October 2014
Address: Hyde Park, Sydney
Recommended Dish(es): read post for details
For the record, updates to this post will be made in reverse order. Thus the latest updates will be shown first.
As per the course since 2012, I attempted to abide by my philosophy of venturing off the beaten track – avoiding stuff like get-it-anywhere dim sum or every-other-street-corner chow mien joints, and funnily enough the result was pretty much anything BUT a noodle dish. For now, at least.
Visits 5 & 6 – 21 & 22/10/14
The finale – some old, some new, mostly awesome. The way it’s meant to be.
In my slow but sure quest to conquer all four of Messina’s flavours, I tried out the Phuc Khing Tasty. The name isn’t exactly G-rated, so I wonder what parents will do when deciding on a flavour for their kids. Hmm….
…these are the things I think about while waiting in a line.
After my disappointing experience with the Street Hawker flavour (search for it below in the post), I’m glad to report that the Phuc Khing Tasty is indeed…well…Phuc Khing Tasty. The textures are all spot on – the walnut crunch is addictive, the coffee gelato is surprisingly moreish (being partial towards coffee helps), and that condensed milk panna cotta tastes really nice! It reminded me of banana, and that really tickles my fancy.
In short, this dessert is definitely up my alley. Yes, it also gets rich after awhile, but I was actually able to finish this without feeling too terrible. My seal of approval to this one.
Would I Get This Again: happy to!
This is the fourth time I’ve been to Wonderbao, and yes, I admit I have a problem.
But when you’re looking at the prospect of delicious, delicious gua bao, it’s a crime to say no. The most prime example of something that doesn’t need fixing in all of the Night Noodle Markets.
Besides, the venerable Chocolatesuze even works here – as if that doesn’t instill the confidence required to brave the (admittedly long queues) for these parcels of heaven? Suffice it to say, I have an addiction and in no way need to be cured of it.
Would I Get This Again: three times isn’t enough to convince you?
Izakaya Den & Poklol
I maintain that Korean Tacos and the Den Fried Chicken are still some of the winners at this year’s Night Noodle Markets. Crispy and juicy, the chicken is all sorts of yum. I needn’t describe it much more because – fried chicken – come on!
As for the Korean Tacos, I finally managed to try the bulgogi beef and chilli chicken flavours.
Confirmed: Poklol is continuing to win my heart. First with banh mi, now with this. When are you guys setting up a proper store?
Would I Get These Again: already repeat offenders
Yep, we got four more skewers, but I forgot to take a picture! Suffice it to say – get these. Fellow brogger (bro blogger????) RamenRaff who’s Filo himself enlightened me that the secret glaze they use to bring out that deliciously sweet flavour is banana ketchup!
I haven’t even heard of the stuff before but I’m instantly glad it exists in this world Hoorah!
Would I Get This Again: bring on the sweet banana ketchup!
I had completely passed “Fuh” (a play on Vietnamese Pho) on my previous visits. They definitely do not escape my attention this time with a massive banner reading “$2 Fuh”. Yeah, I’m a sucker for cheap tricks but I knew what I was getting into.
Clearly, I have way too much time in my life, and I was in this queue for a good 15 minutes. All for…
A pot of pho that’s not even as wide as my palm. Ok, fair enough – what were you expecting for $2? I can understand this. An attention grabber for sure, and it most definitely worked.
On the plus side, it actually tastes pretty damn good! Once more, given the weather’s been pretty chilly lately, a bowl of hot pho is really, really hard to beat. If you’ve got the time, may as well join the line!
Would I Get This Again: for $2, why not? Not worth the queuing though
Gelato Messina (LOL)
It was a long and difficult journey, but I got there in the end. Yes, the final Gelato Messina flavour. I’m happy to conclude that the disappointing situation with the Street Hawker flavour is an outlier – the Happy Taste Bud Time is as good as the Phuc Khing Tasty. In this case, the gelato is refreshing, along the lines of the Bangkok Holla. The macaron (which is that huge half shell) has bundles of sweetness to keep the rush going, and the mango puree maintains a fruity element to it all.
I’m not a fan of the cream, but I disparage cream in general, so I just scooped it out. Other than that, worthy of the purchase.
Would I Get This Again: sans cream, yes!
For something completely unexpected, I decided to close off with whatever goodness the two-hatted Longrain could produce. Having just been to David Thompson’s Nahm at Quay event (sorry, this one’s an Instagram special!), I was hankering for a bit more of a Thai fix.
Crispy noodles and succulent pork make the headlines of the green curry of Murray Valley pork. While the dish looks good on paper and in person, the taste was overall quite flat. There was no tang, no tartness, almost no spiciness. Basically everything that makes a Thai dish Thai was…not there.
With all of that said, we still finished it because the texture of the crispy noodles was quite nice. But we’re just eating for mouthfeel at this point. Not particularly appetising.
The spiced chicken w/turmeric fared a little bit better, in that the chicken was somewhat flavoursome, and the rice was very well cooked. For once, I felt no guilt eating the rice just by itself – though that was a function of there being far too little chicken compared to the rice.
Overall, it was still a bit disappointing as it lacked the fieriness (both literal and figurative) of Thai food. I was really surprised, as this was twice in a row! Surely the flavours of these dishes were not dumbed down for a wider palate?
The last dish we got from Longrain were the potato & lamb curry croquettes. I wasn’t sure what made these Thai, but they did taste better than the previous dishes. Fluffy potato, a good deal of lamb which was had the slightest hint of spiciness. These were decent, but I could only eat one. They are very heavy.
You may be wondering what the pho is doing there – don’t bother. It was from the stall two to the left of Longrain. I forgot the name but I wouldn’t recommend getting the pho from there. It is literally the worst pho I have ever had.
Yeah, I know, harsh words for sure. But, I’m technically not slandering – the words “worst pho I have ever had” is a factual statement from my point of view. The soup was bland, the noodles were short and tasteless, and the meat was chewy and of course, bland. No deal!
Would I Get These Again: not particularly
Visit 4 – 17/10/14
This visit was a doozy, hoorah to the power of multiple people!
I did say I would get it again, and I’m true to my word!
There is a place in Sydney called Belly Bao which does bao of similar quality. Unfortunately, they’re only at the Paddington Markets. Set up a store in Sydney’s CBD and I’ll gladly give you all my money. Same with Wonderbao!
You hear me????
Would I Get This Again: if already twice, why not thrice?
If you read about my third visit, you may have noticed that Izakaya Den also serves a “Den Fried Chicken”. Now, whenever you’re talking fried chicken, you’ve got my attention.
Thing is, there are so many kinds of fried chicken that one would have to be quite choosy given one’s available stomach capacity.
I have no problems stuffing my gullet with Den’s Fried Chicken though! First up: consume immediately. I waited about ten minutes and the chicken went down to a tepid temperature. Never waiting for friends again.
That said, I could tell it was good – the skin is very crunchy as opposed to crumbly, but it wasn’t ever too oily. The inclusion of Kewpie is as delicious as it is mandatory for Japanese fried chicken.
This was a ‘large’ serving, but it will always be ‘small’ to me. You could never get enough.
Would I Get This Again: gotta get some more JFC lovin’
Jackie M Malaysian
So I finally got my first noodle dish. Sheesh, that took long enough. As other bloggers always go on about how good her Char Kway Teow is (and uhh, having had it last year myself), I decided to not fix what isn’t broken.
There’s no doubt about it – paying $16 (or $14 for the chicken version) is expensive for CKT, but when I found out that renting a stall at Night Noodle Markets can cost as much as $2000 a day…I suddenly became a lot more sympathetic.
Putting price aside (and really, you must put price aside otherwise you will detest every bite), it’s a great CKT. Once again, I get comments all the time from purists who go “it’s better here, it’s not authentic because of this” – and once again to that I say…
…well I don’t say anything. I don’t care. The bowl in front of me tastes great, and I’ve got no particular complaints, other than that the noodles are cut a bit short, so it was almost easier to eat with a spoon than with chopsticks. That could definitely use some work!
Would I Get This Again: CKT in general? Hell yes. For $16? Not as such.
Poklol was one of my favourite new discoveries from the 2012 Night Noodle Markets. Their innovative takes on traditional banh mi won my heart, and I prayed that they would be here this year.
Solid. Except, they’re not doing banh mi! I was disappointed, but when I saw Korean Tacos on the menu, my curiosity could not help itself. And so…
You can thank my friends for this feast that lies before us. Still, makes for a pretty awesome photo 😛
I only ended up trying the chilli pork one, but it was delicious. Even the taco bread, while not served warm, was moreish. Korean meat is never, ever boring. It has never, ever disappointed me and if I exercise discretion, it’s likely it never, ever will.
Definitely get one or two or twenty of these tacos. I’ll be back for the chicken and beef flavours for sure.
Would I Get This Again: likely
One Tea Bar & Grill
You probably saw this coming the first time I wrote about the rice burger. The combo of pork rib and rice patty was unbeatable. So I conducted a thought experiment: what would it be like with a beef patty?
Please, my food-related thought experiments always end up becoming reality.
Unfortunately, this was nowhere near as good as the pork rib variant. The patty was just too bland. I felt like I could make it at home from store-bought mince. There was little seasoning, and it was dry and crumbly.
My recommendation for the pork rib patty solidifies: this one is probably the best! GO GET IT.
Would I Get This Again: not this particular version
So…what haven’t I had? Well, I still need to revisit Hoy Pinoy, and I’m keen to try out some Taiwanese stuff as well. That’s right, the updates will keep on coming. SOLDIER ON PEOPLE. SOLDIER ON!
Visit 3 – 14/10/14
Visit 3 was a short one, being that it was a pit stop on the way to Chinese class. Two dishes to mention here.
Like Wonderbao, Izakaya Den also hails from Melbourne and have been kind enough to set up a stall at this year’s Night Noodle Markets. There’s a few things on offer, but given I was only after a bit of a snack before class, I decided to grab the Oden – vegetable hot pot
Sure, there’s no meat you say. Yes, I’m practically violating my own food policy, but given that this dish is actually quite good that all goes out the window. I highly recommend getting Oden when the weather is chilly, as this is a very warm (nearly hot) dish that’s extremely hearty. Ever had Sukiyaki hot pot? This is like drinking its soup. Delicious umami all around with a kick from the mustard. It can get a bit salty, though the portion is not too big. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
One downside of the dish is that it’s pretty expensive for what it is – at $14 for something I can cup in my hand and contains no meat…it’s a tough pill to swallow. In fact, everything else I’ve had at the markets has so far been cheaper.
I have a post ready to go on the original Izakaya Den in Melbourne, so stay tuned!
Would I Get This Again: no, price-prohibited
Wonderbao isn’t the only bao purveyor in town. A contender comes in the form of Bao Stop. Admittedly these guys came out of the left field for me – I knew practically nothing about them until I showed up at their stall.
Their menu includes the usual bao items, but my stomach capacity forced my interest on just one particular item – the lobster roll.
Yeah, it’s small – barely the size of my wrist. For $9 you say? Keep in mind there’s at least 20-30g of lobster meat here, so $9 is something I can swallow – provided it tastes fabulous.
Unfortunately, the lobster was overcooked. The poaching clearly went a bit too far, with several parts of the meat being particularly difficult to chew. The allegedly sweet chilli sauce lacked the chilli zing at all, so it mostly tasted like a tomato sauce to me. The bun was nice though – one redeeming quality.
Would I Get This Again: no
That’s all for this update – more to come!
Visit 2 – 13/10/14
One Tea Bar & Grill – The Rice Burger
You know where this is going.
Last year, we were introduced to a particularly interesting mutant food fad – the ramen burger. My 2012 Night Noodle Markets post contains the details. Suffice to say, it was along the lines of “interestingly delicious, but I wouldn’t pay $13.5 to have it again”.
This year, the ramen burger returns, but we have a newcomer in the form of the rice burger. Boo at me all you want, but wouldn’t you rather me try out this apparent X-food than you shelling out your hard-earned?
Because I love you guys, I took it upon myself to see what the fuss behind this burger is all about, just like for the ramen burger. I was also a little curious, as the queues started before the Night Noodle Markets even opens. I’m lucky to get to the markets at around 5:05, and yes, there were already 12 orders in front of me (I later found out I’m order number 13).
Yes, I’m clearly a sucker for punishment, lining up like this just for a fad food that may not even be very good.
Twenty five minutes(!!!) later, the stall finally opened – late, I might add. A 5:30pm opening when official start of the Night Noodle Markets is 5pm is a tough pill to swallow.
My numerous reproaches aside, I was wondering if I would even like this burger.
Turns out, holy moly. This is probably one of the top three things I’ve eaten at this year’s Night Noodle Markets. Remember I’m Asian so I’m going to be a bit biased here.
See, it’s the rice patty. It’s browned to the extent that Mr Maillard should have named his effect after discovering it from this patty. An excellent crispiness that’s imbued with sweetness and that slight edge of burn. The pork rib is what really sealed the deal for me – it truly is “tendrous”, succulent and delicious pork. The sauce is generous, which makes sense as the rice needs it, as is the amount of flavour.
When you think about it, it’s essentially pork ribs with a side of rice – presented in a different way. In that sense, it’s no surprise the burger tastes so good.
The downsides: you can’t actually eat this like a proper burger – the rice will break apart. The patties aren’t that strong. You also may get different results with the choice of other patties – I think the pork rib is the only one that’s less a patty and more broken pieces of pork. Funnily enough I think that actually works better. Don’t get the beef/chicken and go telling me it sucks!
Would I Get This Again: yes, definitely.
Yep, I went back to Woolfy’s. Sharp readers may have noticed a banh mi dog on their menu in addition to their regular and Pad Thai dog. My stomach capacity is finite but evidently my return visits are not. Thus: MINEEEE.
When it comes down to it, this dog is much tastier than the Pad Thai dog. While the latter is more inventive and interesting, the lack of sauce was what let it down. Not so with the banh mi dog – there’s plenty of spicy mayo to keep the fun going. The sausage is the same kind which means it’s great. I’d have liked to see a variety on that front though.
The downside? It really shouldn’t be called a banh mi dog – the only aspect that’s remotely like banh mi is the inclusion of chopped vegetables. And nope, they aren’t pickled very much. The bun is also a hot dog bun and not a Viet bread roll, and of course, there’s no pate. Not really banh mi at all.
Do I care? A little bit yes, but only a little – flavour always wins in the end.
Would I Get This Again: no, it’s very delicious but I don’t need to eat a ubiquitous item twice.
Heh, there’s just no rest for me, is there? Diet is not on the cards when it’s October, that’s for sure.
It’s almost as if I’m determined to try each Messina flavour hmmm…..
In any case, the Street Hawker was my pick of the day. Unfortunately in record time, I had to hand over the award to the Bangkok Holla. This particular flavour was just not that great – the peanut gelato was somewhat flat, there was too much creaminess in the jam, and the bottom cookie base was too heavy and difficult to lift out of the cup. I didn’t actually finish the base – the first and hopefully last time I discard a Messina item!
There was one redeeming quality – the peanut crunch. That was incredibly addictive. I wouldn’t have minded just a tub of that instead of the gelato, to be honest.
Would I Get It Again: thanks, but no thanks.
And that finishes off visit #2! Stay tuned for further updates!
Visit 1 – 11/10/14
If you don’t know what bao is, you are unlikely to be Chinese. Bao, or steamed bun (in all its forms e.g. baozi or gua bao etc.) is one of the quintissential Chinese dishes. It’s almost as famous as fried rice. Popularised by the likes of Din Tai Fung (yes, Xiao Long Bao) and Taste of Shanghai, there was no way the bao would not make its way to Night Noodle Markets 2014.
And what a glorious entrance it was with Wonderbao. I’m amazed that they haven’t yet opened in Sydney, given that there are almost no stores here that specialise in this snack (or meal replacement, if you’re like me). This point is further driven home by the fact that Wonderbao possibly makes the best bao outside what dad makes at home.
We ended up getting the 3-pack gua bao snack pack, which includes the braised pork bao, the twice-cooked pork belly bao, and fried tofu bao.
The fried tofu bao was surprisingly delicious. Wholesome crunchy tofu (crispy shell, silken innards) surrounded by Wonderbao’s signature fluffy bun makes for a winner. The sauce that tofu needs to deliver flavour definitely drove its sweet message home.
My favourite of the three is the twice-cooked pork belly bao – there’s a good balance of meat and fat here, and boy is the pork game strong with this one. So delicious, there’s really no material issues to raise here. It’s all bao love.
The braised pork belly bao is a decent bao, but the amount of fat was so high that for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of it, it can be a bit overwhelming. It was kind of like eating bao with butter at times, so make sure you eat it in a way that incorporates the lean portion of the meat with each bite.
Bao is so fun to say!
The “Would I Get This Again Test”: hell yes.
When Woofy’s announced they had a Pad Thai hot dog well…you know where this is going. Let’s just say I headed there so fast, The Woofy’s cart needed a pad to brake my trajectory.
Ok that was terrible and I admit it, but the Pad Thai dog was not.
The thing about this roll is that it works! The dog contained the whole shebang – rice noodles, coriander (pick your battles, cilantro haters), peanuts, and heck even my favourite dried onion flakes. The chilli sausage was spot on, full of flavour which is the real star. This dog would have made my night, except it did lack one crucial element of sauce. With no sauce, the dog was quite dry, and there was no adhesive element to gel everything together.
When is a good hot dog ever without sauce?
Would I Get This Again: maybe, definitely if sauced up.
There’s already plenty of Instagram coverage on Hoy Pinoy, as it is reportedly very authentic Filipino BBQ skewers. More important than its authenticity though is that it’s delicious. When I saw lines already developing for this place (and this was before 6pm!!), I knew I had to queue myself up.
The pork belly one is succulent and never overly fatty, with a perfect crunchy-soft texture. The glaze is fabulous, and this is probably what makes it Filo – I haven’t had anything exactly like it but it does bring me back to the old days when skewers were common on the streets in China. The sauce has a strong garlic presence which is awesome.
The chicken on the other hand is a bit drier, but the sweet soy sauce more than makes up for this. It’s a bit smokier, and different enough that it’s worth getting this as well.
Oh boy, I don’t know which one I liked better. Both the chicken and the pork belly are extremely delicious. In fact, they’re the most flavoursome, delectable things I have had at Night Noodle Markets so far. Do spend the $10 and get at least one of each skewer. You will not regret it.
Would I Get This Again: I already intend to
I never intended to get Messina, as it would have been one of the most cliched visits to an affair that isn’t even Asian.
But it is difficult to resist Messina’s quirky charm – they may not objectively have the best Gelato, but their constant twist on existing and invention of new flavours always keeps people coming back.
All menu items bought at the Night Noodle Markets come with a fortune cookie, in which there’s a chance to win a prize.
Our choice of the Bangkok Holla was well-rewarded with a remarkably refreshing and delicious sorbet. The pandan flavour was subtle but showing, though perhaps boosting the flavour would be even better. Can’t have enough pandan! What really set this one apart was the lime sponge at the bottom of the cup, it’s not in the photo, but this was a sweet textural addition that was most welcome, particularly as a foil to the sorbet.
As for that cookie? Oddly addictive! Hello carbs!
Would I Get This Again: no, must let variety work its magic!
Now for some misc shots of the markets:
Those who have read my post on Khao Pla should know exactly what to do here. No, seriously. GET THOSE RIBS. I just hope they’re as good as what the restaurant in Chatswood serves up! It’s a great opportunity for those who can’t easily get to Chatswood to try out why this place is my favourite Thai restaurant!
This post isn’t done until I say it is! More to come!
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀