The last 12 months has whizzed by so fast, as it does, I can't believe it was a whole year ago that I promoted and reviewed the night noodle market. Looking back at last year's review, like reading an old diary, it was interesting to notice the differences. It made me realise that some of the food stalls I ate from and enjoyed like Hammer and Tong Food Truck wasn't there this year as were a few others missing from the landscape. It was interesting to note that even the colours of the overhead lanterns were different. They were red last year and pink this year. Had I not looked at the old images, I wouldn't have known at all. Not that any of this is important to this celebration of food event that is the night noodle market; it just amused me.
I was at Birrarung Maar for the opening (12 Nov) just before 5pm, waiting to be let into the food stall area on the lower terrace level. There are three levels to salivate over, so make sure you visit them all. The middle and lower terrace seems to have an equal amount of food stalls. The upper terrace had far less, but housed well known food stalls like Chin Chin, Kong, Hoy Pinoy, Messina, Mr Miyagi, Charlie Dumpling, Miss Chu, Thatchers Bar and Floating Market to name some. The new Lucas Group venture, Hawkers Hall was also represented for the first time at the market, ahead of the launch of its restaurant of the same name (Hawkers Hall) which just opened in Windsor on Sunday (15 Nov).
Hoy Pinoy has 3 food stalls, each placed on every level. Personally I found them the best value for money, considering you always pay that little bit more for food at an event like this. You get 2 skewers generously filled with chicken or pork (the upper terrace level didn't serve pork) for $12. On the other hand I paid $8 for a tiny pork slider from Chin Chin, though it was really delicious, as were the chicken skewers. I'm not quibbling about the dollars and expect things to cost more at such events. All I'm saying is, make sure you take a good amount of money as I envisage you won't get much change out of $50 a head if you had a good satisfying feed and something to drink.
Having visited the very newly opened Messina on Chapel street in Prahran in the last couple of weeks, I headed for their stall and was at first confused by their menu. I wasn't sure if they were selling ice cream for which they're renown, or regular food. It seems they had a new asian inspired menu specially formulated for the night noodle market. With names like Bao Chika Bao Bao, David Bao-Wy, Great Balls of Fryer, Red Lucky Money Bar and Gold Bullion Bar (all around $10 to $12) was it any wonder I was confused. I got myself a Great Balls of Fryer which was a deep fried ice cream ball filled with Thai custard gelato, nestled in Messina tinned fruit salad with a choice of caramel or chocolate sauce to top it if you wish. Delicious; but then I'm mad keen on ice cream. You can keep your biscuits and cakes and chocolates, but ice cream is my 'thang'.
Heading back down to the lower terrace, I'm confronted by food trucks and food stalls like Creme Brulee, Ghost Kitchen, Roti Road (which sold no roti, explaining I could get it at the restaurant but for the markets they're just doing meat skewers), Fat Thai, Din Tai Fung, Everybody Loves Ramen, Coopers Bar and so on. Spanthai were obviously offering a lot and expecting more customers as they occupied two whole stalls, which was encouraging to see. Here I picked up a sago dessert; sago gula melaka from Mini Pancakes & Desserts, as I wandered down the line checking out the rest of the stalls. I didn't realise that Lady Carolina was quite a big deal and bypassed them (I was terribly full as well), but I'll catch them and a few other eateries with good reputations when I go back a couple more times before the end of the month.
I then moved on to the middle terrace level which was right at the end of the lower terrace level but elevated. You need to walk along the side outside the partitioning of the lower level (which runs parallel to the upper level) to get to the middle level. Once I got there it jogged by memory that it was the same space I was at, at last years market, where all the entertainment was happening, and where I enjoyed a French songstress performing. Unfortunately I didn't stay long enough for the evening entertainment and only spent a couple of hours at the market, as I was on my way to a theatre show at the Trades Hall to see Project: Hysteria, which is part of the newly launched Poppy Seed Theatre Festival. The festival is still running till the 13th of December, so make sure you do yourself and the art world a favour by catching a few shows. Melbourne is such a beautiful city of festivals and events, take advantage and enjoy. I just love it!
There is another bar up on middle terrace level as there is on every level, along with a spherical construction that houses Mercedes-Benz. Again you'll find the likes of The Bay Thai Cuisine, Lets Do Yum Cha, White Guy Cooks Thai, Beyond India, Teppanyaki Noodles, Waffle on a Stick, Rice and Dice, Overdosa, Harajuku Gyoza, Shallot Thai and so on. I was very tempted by Grilled Calamari, but my tummy was ready to rebel and revolt. I have to admit to thinking that having a Harvey Norman Fit Zone station on this level had to be someone's idea of humour; to perhaps make us feel guilty of gluttony with all that delicious food around. Erm... didn't work!
Walking past the bells of Birrarung Marr, back down to street level, I was ready to catch the tram to the Trades Hall for my play. It's been a long wonderful day starting out with watching a midday show of the new James Bond film Spectre, then catching the UFC international fighters by chance, having a cook off with celebrity chefs like Shane Delia on stage at Fed Square. Had I known there was going to be Open Workouts with the UFC greats from 11am to 2pm, I would have skipped James Bond to see this first time Melbourne event. Sad to say I missed out on seeing Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm (the champ after her fight with Rousey on the 14th at Etihad Stadium) and a few others. That would have made my brother in Perth (avid Rousey lover) jealous for sure.
I hope you'll all take a trip into the city to enjoy all the night noodle market has to offer. Having arrived early, luckily, there were no queues for me and getting the food was no hassle at all. I guess you have to expect the queues with the volume of people frequenting this annual event, considering our population. Just chill and think of it as par of the course. Grab your family and friends and enjoy this big community dining event we are lucky to experience. It does no harm to help keep some small food truck businesses afloat either.
Head to Birrarung Marr (along Fed Sq by the river) before the end of this foodie event on the 29th of November. Its hours are as follows.
Enjoy the rest of the following images, and I've embedded the rest (all 91 - OMG) in a slide show at the end of all the still pictures. It's not so much a photography feat, as it is a pictorial record of every food stall there. Erm.. I might have missed at most 1? OK, perhaps 2? however, I doubt it. You may have to be a little patient for the slideshow to materialise, depending on the kind of service connection you have. Bon appétit!