Ok, so gotta get out of the house and I remember that the Good Food Month Nightly Noodle Markets are on down at Birrarung Marr, just a stone’s throw away (of course!). Opened in 2002, Birrarung Marr plays host to all sorts of festivals and events such as this, and a quick walk from Federation Square, it’s easy to get to and the perfect spot for an after work meal, while the good weather is on display. It’s only quite early, the market having been open only an hour or so, but you know instantly where the markets are by following the crowds streaming there.
An oversized inflatable neko greats you at the entrance to the markets and from there, it’s a total feast for your senses in every direction you look. Incredible smells and people carrying boxes of incredible looking food, it’s all you can do to stop yourself from asking everyone you see ‘what is that, and where did you get it?’ while mopping the drool from your face.
Where do you start? Japanese, Indian, Indonesian or Korean? Korean. Fred loves Korean. And so do I. So I line up for one of their pork bau. Grabbing a beer, I head up over the pedestrian bridge to grab me a spot of grass. There are chairs everywhere, but there are also people filling them. This appears to be a popular spot. The salad, a mix of spring onion, carrot and cabbage is fantastic. And so is the bau. Nice doughy bau filled with gorgeously cooked pork, coriander, crushed peanuts and refreshing cucumber. And a hint of something that tastes a lot like aniseed. Yep, this is good.
I also take this opportunity to crack open my fortune cookie. Proceeds from the sale of these $2 fortune cookies goes to support charity, so just buy one – OK!
I purposely tried to ignore ChinChin and Kong this time, because they are some of the biggest names in town and, aside from having eaten at ChinChin just last week anyway, there are so many other good little places to try, that I feel they deserve pride of place on my menu tonight. So I head back over the bridge and check out another section.
There’s so much food it’s really, really hard to make a choice about what to try next. But hey, I haven’t had Lao before, so that’s where I’ll go next. Lao Lao is selling three kinds of tacos at its stall tonight, so I decide to try the whisky beef taco. Finding myself a table, a lucky spot and a bit of a jog to grab a vacating table, tricky task with a camera, beer and food tray in my hand. Unfortunately this dish isn’t anything to write home about. It’s just really some beef, not really marinaded that well, surrounded by rice noodles and veg. A bit bland, but I think that entitles me to try another dish (just as well it was also on the small side).
Ok, so the yakisoba is looking good, but so are the beef roti rolls at Lankan Tucker, so only because the queue is small at Lankan, I grab a roti roll. Biting into it, I can already tell it’s a winner. A nice amount of spice and vegetables mixed with beef in a nicely crisp roti sleeping bag. It’s wrong to eat this much, but I keep telling myself, it’s for the blog. And as I mentioned, thank goodness these are tasting sized portions (at most stalls anyway), so I reckon I can do one more – just for you, of course.
It’s only the second year this event is being run. Last year it was such a success that it was fairly under catered for, with people reportedly queuing for up to an hour to sample some Asian delights. This year, they have tried to make up for last year’s lack of seating (although clearly there’s still not enough) by hiring every available type of chair in Melbourne and inviting more vendors. There’s also bars for wine, beer and iced tea, toilets and ATM’s. I love how it’s set up in different sections across the park – it makes for an interesting evening browsing around, and gives you a bit of exercise to try and walk off some of the food in between courses. Or you can choose to stick to one area – so will it be Lucky Cat Corner or Tiger Kingdom? Plus there’s a host of entertainment for the evening as well. Tonight were three gorgeous (and gutsy, if you ask me) oriental ladies floating through the air on bendy poles. Absolutely fascinating and a good distraction from the world of food for a few moments.
As mentioned, there’s room for just one more thing. Well actually, there’s not. But we all know sweets is digested by a different stomach, so when I spied Shimbashi’s stall selling Sake Pudding, my hand was in my pocket for a fiver, quicker than you could say, well ‘sake’. I could only imagine how jealous my brother-in-law would be right now – so this one’s for you Mike.
Light and custardy with a dried citrus layer on top, it really was the perfect way to end the evening. Almost like a crème caramel, but drenched in sake. The only thing that would make it better, would be… a shot of sake.
There was no way I could try any more food tonight, even though there were so many vendors and wonderful looking foods that I wanted to try. It’s just as well the markets are running every night until the 30th of November. That’s dinner sorted for the next week then!
I can see why the locals love this event. With the sun setting on the city and a warm evening in the air, where else would you possibly want to be?