Although not quite street food friendly, Sydney has been taking steps in recent years to welcome more food festivals. And the night noodle markets is one of the bigger ventures. On Saturday night, it was so busy and bustling, that no spare tables were spied even at 8:30pm. The stalls were packed and you better enjoy queuing because there’s a lot of that to be done
In terms of the stalls, there was a good representation of Sydney staples like Mamak, Ding Tai Fung, New Shanghai & Messina. With the exception of a few dessert stalls, it was all Asian fare. I guess “night noodle market” is deemed to be a more welcoming that “night hawker market”. But the latter term probably better represents the event. There are also sponsored “areas” where alcohol was available with themed setups where for example you could enjoy your meal in the vicinity of a luxury Mercedes Benz, because hey if you eat near one, you might as well be tempted to buy it right?
So…What about the food? In general it’s okay, as in okay I’m not too disappointed but I’ve probably had better in some Chinatown food courts. To start I had chicken Karaage ($8) & duck gyozas ($8) from Harajuku Gyozas which were adequate, with the gyozas surprisingly flavoursome. Then some hipster wholemeal roti & 2 curries ($12) from Spice Villa, again adequate, but come on, wholemeal roti? Look I’m a reluctant hipster at heart but sometimes, just don’t screw around with the staples. Then it was drop all pretences and gird your loins because baby there’s a BBQ pit nearby…
Boasting by far the longest queue of the entire night market was Hoy Pinoy, Filipino BBQ extraordinaires from Melbourne. The one thing I know about street food is that if there’s a giant throng of people around the stall, it’s probably good. Actually it’s probably better than good. JUST LOOK AT THE HEAVING PILES OF MEAT SKEWERS… OH MY!!!
Anyway, they sold Pork Belly skewers and BBQ Chicken skewers (all $5 each) with pork belly basically winning the night (honestly does pork belly ever not win the night? It’s really the joker card of the dining table). The skewer was sticky from the gochujang inspired marinade, smokey from the charcoal grill, beautifully caramelised and just blissful. And who doesn’t love a meal that comes on a dangerous weapon of mass destruction? Those were the largest and thickest kebab skewers I’ve ever seen. You could erect a medieval defense mechanism with them, in fact I was surprised no drunk bogans had impaled themselves by that stage of the night. They were indeed that sharp. Okay maybe said bogans were all too sloshed at the Harvey Norman tent to find their way to a good meat skewer. Hoy Pinoy was a line that I’d be happy to stand in again but unfortunately I was quite full by this time so dessert? y/y?
ALAS, by the time I’d waltzed to Messina in anticipation of their lucky pot pie gelato masterpiece, they had cut the line off so it was not to be. So instead we’d settled for mini pancakes with chocolate & red bean sauces ($10). Lending a slightly sugary and tepid disappointment to the night.
Hawker markets in Sydney are usually more miss than hit. Usually the food is adequately delicious for the setup but it’s the price that kills. Most plates are equivalent to or a few dollars more than their food court counterparts but with a smaller serving. So you’re essentially paying 8 dollars for an “entree” and 12 dollars for a “main”. Compare this to real street food cultures like Hong Kong or Penang where you’re paying only a few dollars for a similar plate. I get that Sydney is an expensive city (DON’T WORRY WE ALL GET IT!!!), but honestly when it costs this amount of money to eat food off plastic plates whilst standing around an assortment of plastic chairs and tables in a park. It feels pretty disingenuous when I can walk 5 min down the road and enjoy a similarly good if not better meal for 2/3 of the price in a much more relaxed setting.
Okay look… maybe it was all worth it for that Pork Belly skewer in the end.
Sydney Night Noodle Markets
Hyde Park, Sydney, October 10 – 26, 2014