Night Noodle Markets '16

It's finally come around again, that time of the year where hundreds flock to Hyde Park to get their Asian food fix in a festival of celebration. During Good Food Month is the ever-popular Night Noodle Markets that take place year after year in the month of October. 
Previously, I’ve avoided the markets like the plague. The huge crowds, long waiting time and lack of seating have deterred me. But this year I thought it could be different after hearing the event was cashless and that could make for a more efficient festival. 

Hoy Pinoy has been the hot shot stall from Melbourne reeling in the crowds at every food festival. 

As a filo, there's a little something inside me that glows when I see people enjoying our food so much since it's not usually as popular as the usual Thai or Chinese takeaway. Watching my culture flourish in the food scene is certainly an exciting thing and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops. 

If you're looking for their stalls there are two; one at the entrance pumping out chicken skewers only at an alarming rate and one further into the markets selling a number of oddities. 
Aptly named Tindahan (store) and looking very much like the small stalls on the streets of the Philippines, you can see the hundreds of skewers in cooking action right before your eyes. 
If my directions weren't good enough, just follow the crowds and billows of smoke and you'll find it. 

This year Hoy Pinoy was also selling liempo, adobo fries and kanin in addition to the popular skewers. For those who aren't as versed in the Filipino cuisine, liempo is a grilled marinated pork that is then fried over heat; adobo is the national dish of soy and vinegar marinated chicken and/or pork. Both dishes traditionally served with rice (kanin). 
Both dishes sing home to me and I loved how Hoy Pinoy kept true to the traditional names of the dishes.  

If you're going to grab some skewers, I always recommend the pork; it's fatty, tender and the banana ketchup caramalizes into a sticky concoction all over the salty meat. 
We arrived to the main stall quite early at around 5 and the line travelled along at a good pace with the card only transactions. However, it may be because it was opening night but just before our order was taken, orders stopped momentarily.

About 20 or so people were still waiting on orders. A fresh batch had just been done for the skewers and after about 20 minutes of frantic assembly, everyone prior to us had received their order. 
As we ordered two pork skewers and the line began to move along, we were kindly informed there weren't any skewers ready and our wait would have to continue. 
Having a quick scan over the BBQ, I could tell the second batch wasn't anywhere near ready, then I overhead in hushed Tagaolog 'no more new orders for pork skewers for now'. 

Looking at my watch, we had been at this stall for over 45 minutes and I was eager to try the rest of the festival before the impeding crowds started to flow in. We swapped our order for the ready to go chicken skewers and left the queue munching on delicious skewers. 
The beautiful marinade was bursting with flavour at every bite and just like that all that remained were the skewer sticks.

Special thanks to Andrew and Vicky for letting us try the NNM Specials on the opening evening 

In pure Harajuku fashion, you simply cannot walk past this stall without hearing a huge scream of "IRRASHAIMASE" (welcome) from the happy girls of Harajuku Gyoza. 
You'll recognize the name from the trend of raindrop cakes that bombarded Instagram for a good few months earlier in the year. 
That and their delicious gyozas are both available at the store in Kings Cross for those who aren't inclined to eat on the grass for your fix. 

Say hello to the Night Noodle Market specials of Harajuku Gyoza!
Octodogs and Loaded Karaage were the new adorable and delicious picks that are probably going to flood Instagram over the next few weeks. 

Loaded Karaage is Harajuku Gyoza's response to the recurring theme of ‘loaded fries’ sprinkled around the festival this year. Stepping it up a notch with lightly battered fried chicken topped with a spicy mayo and cheese sauce, bacon, scallions and cheese dust. 
Not the prettiest dish in sight but certainly is up there with some of the tastiest. 
The chicken was seasoned and juicy and when combined with all of the toppings, was a textural delight. 
Cheesy, indulgent and delicious all at once.  

The Octodog is the cute trio you'll be seeing all over Instagram simply because of how adorable it is. 
This style of presenting sausages is quite commonly seen in Japanese lunch boxes. Preparing a simple dish this way just makes it funner and more appetising. 
Harajuku Gyoza's take on the corndog actually reminds me a lot of the Japanese octopus balls takoyaki. From the breaded batter and kewpie (Japanese mayonaise) combo I couldn't get that flavour profile out of my head. 
The batter was both crunchy and soft and as you bite in your mouth is filled with creamy warm mayo subsidised by the salty sausage. The perfect little snack for kids, but don't be fooled, these are actually quite filling overall. I also wouldn't recommend them if you weren't a fan of mayo. 

The onsite bar is pumping out pimms cocktails, beers, wines and ciders for those looking for a drink. 
Again, at festival prices, they're not going to be cheap but they're comforting, cool and fitting for the night of eating ahead. 

Messina, ever the active festival-goer, released some never before seen flavours for the Night Noodle Markets. 
Playing the South East Asian game, we couldn't go past the two inspired dishes. 
"Only on Sundaes" and "Turon Not" 

(I don't get the pun in the second).

Turron Not - Deep Fried Banana and Brown Sugar Gelato wrapped in filo pastry with ube cream, calamansi puree and coconut crunch

A massive fan of the Filipino dessert Turon (banana slices coated with brown sugar, wrapped in filo pastry or spring roll pasty and fried) I couldn't pass up trying Messina’s take. 

The deep fried banana and brown sugar gelato was clearly the centrepiece of the dessert.  Sweet yet light, I could match some similarities between this gelato and the traditional turon. The filo pastry provided some texture and helped balance the sweet gelato. 

The kalamansi puree contrasted the sweet banana-sugar gelato nicely, lending some citrus tartiness. Kalamansi, an Asian citrus fruit similar to a lime, further reinforced the Filipino vibe. There wasn't a lot of this element overall though to really stand out when combined with the other flavours. 

Just in case you weren't convinced this was a Filipino-inspired dessert, ube was thrown into the mix. A purple yam native to the Philippines, this element provided some neutrality to the sweet and tangy flavours previously mentioned, whilst also lending a creamy texture. On its own though, its neutrality meant it was a little bland. 

The crispy coconut crunch pieces played their part well - they had a nice textural feel and their sweet yet savoury flavour tied in well with the overall theme of the dessert. 

Only on Sundaes -  Salted coocnut sorbet, black sticky rice, lychee tapioca, caramalized puff pastry, lemongrass and white chocolate ganache 
The Only on Sundaes was a must have because of the generous dollop of tapioca on top of the coconut sorbet. That combo with the puff pastry was delicious. The smooth, slightly salty coconut and the sweet tapioca made for a balanced delight all the while the puff pastry adding a smokey crunch. 
The ganache was a little out of place for me; it was a little grainy and the lemongrass didn't quite sit well flavour wise with the rest of the combined flavours. Although the sticky rice was there, it was a little too dense and didn't necessarily add much to the dish overall. The sorbet, tapioca and puff pastry were majority of the ice cream and was certainly more than enough for me. 

Overall the Night Noodle Markets were much more organized and ran smoothly with the introduction of card only transactions. However in saying that, I was there on the opening night so I do expect the crowds to start to flood in as the month progresses. 
There are some big guns like One Tea Lounge and Bao Stop selling some all time favourites, and I'll probably pop into the stores to get my fix of peking duck fries and baos from both of them. 

I'm glad I stopped by this year to see how the event develops as the years go by. Looking forward to the next markets coming up soon. 

Written by Jay Santiago @the.eatventures


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