This post is a long one – DK and Yvn both went on different nights to this annual Sydney tradition to try out a range of all the stalls and we came up with slightly different verdicts on what’s best and where your money will be well spent…
DK’s visit to Night Noodle Markets
I remember having a horrible time at Crave Sydney’s Night Noodle Markets last year because it was pouring down with rain. So I knew I had to try it out again this year and finally found time in its second week. Thankfully this time I was blessed with blue skies and clear weather. Score!
Situated in Hyde Park, the Night Noodle Markets features many stalls (predominantly Asian food) which attracts crowds of people, even on a Monday night. I can see many popular restaurants like Chat Thai, Din Tai Fung, Longrain and Mamak which boasts large lines compared to neighbouring stalls. We end up mostly choosing less busy stalls so we don’t have to wait as long.
BBQ Pork bun, Roast Duck bun – 4 buns for $10
Our first stop is Dim Sum Station to grab some hot buns. The bread is nice, warm and soft and is good to hold since it is getting a bit cold at night. The BBQ pork is plentiful and pretty much the same as those as Yum Cha. I am more intrigued however with the Roast Duck buns as I have never had one before. The fillings are slightly blander and could do with a stronger flavour, but are still sufficiently tasty.
Chicken Yakitori, Takoyaki, Prawn Kushiyaki – $4/skewer or $13 for 4
The next lot of entrees comes from the Mizuya Japanese Restaurant stall. The prawn skewer is warm and grilled, but nothing special – it needs a nice sauce to bring out the flavours. The chicken is soft and seems cooked JUST enough, bordering rawness. The flavour is bland and tastes like only soy sauce. The takoyaki skewer however is the best of the three. Surprisingly, they have managed to make a ‘takoyaki rectangle slab’ instead of skewering balls. It slides off the skewer easily and is flavoursome with the mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce and bonito (fish) flakes.
Chicken Pad Thai, Vegetable Si Ew – $12 per main or for a combination of two
Next we try some Thai food from SpanThai. The stall is a double stall and attracts a large crowd with their enormous woks cooking batches of noodles. We opt for a combination of two noodles since it is the same price as one. The Pad Thai is extremely disappointing. It seems to have dried out in the giant wok; it is bland and stiff, flavourless, and my friend says it tastes like nasty spaghetti with a tomato flavour. Their is also no lemon given, depriving it of the usual zesty flavours. The Vegetable Si Ew is no better; it is salty with no flavours of sweet and does not do the Thai dishes justice. SpanThai, please get your act together
PS. I would also like to give a plug to Channel 7 who sponsored the event. They gave out chopsticks imprinted with their logo, but nevertheless am happy to have received (non-disposable) chopsticks for free
Yvn’s trip to Night Noodle Markets
We had heard about the horrendously long lines for the markets, so we arrived at 5.50pm and made a beeline straight for Longrain and Chat Thai, which were conveniently situated next to each other. After a few short minutes in the queue, I had a Wagyu Beef Rice Noodle soup and Lamb Curry with Rice in my hands from Longrain, while the boy had picked up the signature mango sticky coconut rice as well as some fried fish cakes from Chat Thai and we were ready to roll.
The tables were all packed out already, so we had no choice but to sit on the grass. I would suggest bringing your own picnic rug if you can, just to make things a bit more comfortable.
Now onto the food itself. The Longrain dishes were a bit of a disappointment, considering how expensive they were for a serving which only filled up half the bowl. The beef noodles were ordinary – lukewarm soup (they had pretty much handed a premade bowl to me at the stall) and the thick flat rice noodles were undercooked as they were still stiff and strangely, there were only a few strands in there under all the beansprouts, pickles and chopped chillies. The shredded wagyu beef was interesting texture wise, not too dry but didn’t really taste like wagyu either, just slowcooked beef. The soup was quite salty and definitely soy sauce based, leaving us rather thirsty.
Wagyu beef rice noodle soup, $15
The curry was slightly better. It was not lukewarm for starters, but actually a reasonable temperature and the lamb was nicely done, crumbling away in your mouth for some gamey goodness. They were a bit stingy with the amount of curry sauce they gave, there was hardly enough to mix with the rice and it was decently flavoured but again, nothing out of the ordinary. We paid a premium for very normal Thai food from Longrain, and I would suggest spending your money at a normal Thai restaurant outside of the markets where you would get much better value for money.
Lamb curry with rice, $15
On the bright side, the Chat Thai dishes were amazing. At first I was a bit skeptical about the fried fish cakes with sweet chilli sauce. There were 4 of them on skewers dunked headfirst into a clear plastic bag, but they tasted authentic after you got past the ordinary fried dough on the outside, through to the salty and chewy fish cake. These were pretty good value at only $3 for 4 as compared to the steep prices we paid elsewhere at other stalls.
Fried Fish Cakes with sweet chilli sauce, $3
Then we dug into the sweet mango sticky coconut rice and it was heaven. This was the standout dish of the night – it’s more of a dessert, a fresh mango is sliced on top of a bed of glutinous sticky rice, scented with coconut and drizzled with more sweet coconut milk on top. I cannot stress how much like summer that mango tasted – just bursting with freshness. But it’s again a bit on the expensive side considering the serving size, at $12 for half a container’s worth.
Sweet mango sticky coconut rice, $12
We met up with some friends at this stage and got some drinks as we were pretty thirsty from all that food – the juice stands are selling San Pelligrino sparkling water drinks, we end up with some limonatas which taste like fancy lemon squash and they go down well with the food.
There’s 2 sides to the markets and we venture over to the other side to see what else is on offer. Not much stands out to us as it is mostly yum cha restaurants or the Shanghai dumpling restaurant stands and you can eat those anytime – so we line up at La Mint, a French Vietnamese restaurant offering grilled scallops and “nem” which are long narrow sticks of thin spring rolls (i.e. pastry wrapped around bits of minced pork mixed with some mushroom and then fried).
Grilled scallops with peanut shavings and shallots, 2 for $7
Nem stick, $3
Loved the scallops – restaurant quality at a market stall, fresh and succulent and the finely chopped peanuts and shallots gave it the flavour kick it needed. The nem stick looks deceptively simple at first but the minced meat inside is quite delicious and it’s an interesting twist on a traditional spring roll.
The night markets are a great way to try out a range of different types of food and sample different cuisines all in one night – my tip is to go with a bunch of friends so you can share and nibble on each other’s dishes to try the taste without getting too full. But be prepared to brave the crowds and bring your own picnic rug!