Mid November of 2013 saw the Melbourne debut of the Night Noodle Markets (it is already an annual part of the Sydney culinary calender), where for 2 weeks, the Alexandra Gardens on the banks of the Yarra River will be transferred into a hawkers bazaar showcasing many of the great Asian street cuisines (Indian, Thai, Nepalese, Taiwanese, Filipino, Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, and of course, Vietnamese).
Serving from 5-9pm Mon-Tue, Wed 5-10pm, Thu-Fri 5-11pm, Sat 4-10pm and Sun 4-9pm, we arrived half an hour after opening and the place was jam packed!
Melbourne had really turned on the weather as well, so with the air full of delicious scents, a promptly found myself in a dumpling queue whilst Sarah queued to get us some nice cold beers.
This would have to be the first event I have patronised in a very long time, where the line for a beer was dwarfed by the lines for food!
Everywhere we looked, there were people tucking into delicious looking (and smelling) plates of dumplings, bowls of steaming noodles, meats on skewers or bags of tasty spring rolls.
Sitting on the grass with our beers and dumplings we began to plot our next move.
Initially we’d had visions of strolling from stall to stall, sharing a few plates of goodies and happily filling our bellies.
The sheer volume of people saw the need for us to revise this plan, so we figured our next destination would be one where we would definitely need to stock up to see us through.
We settled on the delicious sounding menu of Wonderbao (we’re always a sucker for Pork Belly or Duck, and this had the former) so found a place at the end of a very long queue.
We even had time enough for Sarah to leave and grab us some more beer, and 40 minutes later we were 2 people from the front when the young girl behind the counter delivered the horrible news, “We’re sold out of the Roast pork belly gua bao”
Quickly forming a plan B, it was BBQ Pork Buns and a Cumin Chicken Bao instead…
Plan B was simply sensational! The roasted Cumin Chicken Bao (which was realistically a 3rd choice) was the highlight of the evening, and a beautiful flavour on which to call time on our evening.
Last years event in Sydney attracted a record 300,000 people, but considering many dishes were being sold out by 7pm and they had for a time stopped people entering the event, I’ve got a feeling Melbourne is quickly going to set a new attendance benchmark.
We know we’ll definitely be back before the fortnight is over (possibly a few times), if for no other reason than to get our hands on that elusive Roast pork belly gua bao!