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AUthentic Asian – SIFF Night Noodle Markets 2009

Japancake Lanterns

The Sydney International Food Festival’s Night Noodle Markets. I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to attend this year’s event, having read press on the SIFF website selling it as an “authentic Asian hawker market“. I’d never been previously and had heard little about it.

Authentic Asian hawker market. With what seems to be a decent representation of Asians of various nations in the city of Sydney, and with our reasonably close proximity to Asia, this would surely turn out to be one hell of an event, right?

I should have know better. Really, I should have known…

My experience with the Night Noodle Market reminds me of my experiences with westernised Asian food. In other words, rather than being Asian, it’s Asian-like. The signage and menu indicates, at least to some degree, that it’s Asian. The staff are even Asian. However, what you’re served up often lacks a certain “authentic” Asian quality to it. I’m not talking just about some of the food but the ambiance of the whole event. Sometimes the distinction can be subtle. Other times, it can be as overt as having a gozleme stand.

Sure, technically the Turkish are Asians. Perhaps it’s my crazy preconceived notions but when I think “Noodle Market”, gozleme isn’t something that comes to mind. Ever.

Though having said all that, just because the setup is Asian-like (at least in my opinion), it doesn’t meant to say that good food cannot be had.

With my rather naive disillusionment over “authenticity” aside, what can be expected from the Night Noodle Markets?

Night Noodle Market Crowds

Hungry people. Lots of hungry people. This was taken around 40 mins from the opening time.

Food Stalls

Lots of stalls too, hawking a vast array of consumables. Examples include dumplings, curries, satays, Asian inspired desserts, the afore mentioned gozleme and yes, you might just find yourself a few noodle vendors as well.

However, be warned that there will be many a long queue to endure. It may be prudent to find something to occupy yourself with as you wait in line. You know, strike up a conversation, make a call, check messages, tweet on Twitter…

AMP Tower

…or ahh, take random photos just for the hell of it. Whatever gets you through the queue…

Another word of warning – not all long queues lead to good food. Likewise, not all seemingly unpopular stalls have bad or ordinary food.

Din Tai Fung Stall

I started with Din Tai Fung. I’ve heard a lot about this restaurant, most of it positive. However, I’ve never had the mind to make the effort to go there to try it out.

Xiao Long Bao (Din Tai Fung)

Xiao long bao ($5). These wonderful pork dumplings oozes or squirts a warm porcine flavoured soup, depending on how you eat it.

See to eating these dumplings as soon as you can as they have a tendency of sticking to the container, making it hard to remove without tearing the casing and have the soup ooze out of the dumplings.

Vegetable Dumplings (Din Tai Fung)

Vegetable dumplings ($5), which I believe consisted primarily of chives. Nice. Light. Not unlike similar dumplings you can find at a decent yum cha joint.

Sesame Buns (Din Tai Fung)

Sesame Buns ($5). A rather nice, fluffy bun encasing a sesame filling.

Sesame Bun Innards (Din Tai Fung)

Just so you know, black sesame filling in case, as with me, the black sesame seeds on the top of the bun weren’t enough of a clue.

Moving on from Din Tai Fung having satisfied my initial pang of hunger, food items from other stalls were explored.

Chicken Satay

Satay chicken from Pebblle Thai ($4 each). This was good value for money, all things considered. For starters, your $4 bought a whole chicken thigh which works out to be the equivalent of two chicken skewers from most of the other stalls. The satay sauce was reasonably good. Certainly one of the more remarkable ones I’ve had to date. Best of all, this was one of the previously mentioned “unpopular” stalls with little to no queue.

Admittedly, the chicken’s a little tough and a tad hard to eat if you opt to eat it off the skewer rather than use the supplied fork. However, if I were have another crack at the Noodle Market, this would certainly be one thing I’d look to revisit.

Potato & Bacon Okonomiyaki

Potato and bacon “Japancake” ($8 from memory). Yep, for those of you that know Japanese food, this may look like a sorry excuse of an okonomiyaki. However the stall, as with its product, was marketed as “Japancake” so Japancake it is.

This was rather ordinary. Yes, even factoring that it had bacon in it! The thing that got me to most about this wasn’t its taste, weak presentation or cost but the 10 minute wait in a queue of 4 people as these things were made to order. Had enough time to purchase the previously mention chicken satay, take some photos and eat my share before I was able to walk away with my piping hot order.

Staff were cute though, serving customers in their little Japanese kimonos.

Char Kway Teow

Prawn char kwey teow from Singapore Guo Tiao King (around $8, so I was told). Oh the problems with this dish! Initially the prawns weren’t cooked long enough, leaving them somewhat raw. The dish was sent back for a redo. Not a new batch mind you. Just the same one given another run on the griddle plate.

Then came the taste. Let’s just say that it didn’t go beyond a couple of mouthfuls.

Gelato Messina Stall

To cap off the evening’s meal, a scoop or two of gelatos from Gelato Messina were in order.

Gelato from Gelato Messina

… or three. Yep, three scoops of Asian inspired flavours. In my case it was green tea with azuki red bean, Thai custard, and coconut and pandan. Of the three flavours, my favourite had to be the Thai custard, with a rather distinct flavour that only palm sugar can give. The others were nice as well, though I’d wished that the azuki red bean paste were incorporated as veins within the green tea ice cream rather than a smeared afterthought.


You have until Friday 23 October to check out the Night Noodle Markets, so make sure to hop to it if you don’t want to miss out on the action. Though I personally feel that this is far from being representative of an “authentic Asian hawker market” experience, it doesn’t meant to say that there isn’t good food to be had.

SIFF Night Noodle Markets

North end of Hyde Park, Sydney (the end closest to Circular Quay side of the city, near St James Train Station).

5pm – 9.30pm, weeknights until Friday 23rd October 2008.

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Helen (Grab Your Fork) October 22, 2009, 2:55 pm

    I think the best part about the night noodle markets is the novelty of dining al fresco. The queues are horrendous if you don’t get there early, but the fact that Hyde Park is so alive on a weeknight has a nice sense of summer buzz.

    It’s not really an “authentic Asan hawker market” but then, even you commented that “staff were cute though, serving customers in their little Japanese kimonos”. Sometimes packaging, not authenticity, is the way to a customer’s heart. lol

  • shez October 22, 2009, 3:47 pm

    I was wondering when you were going to post about this :)

    Every year I make noodle market plans, and every year I end up eating kway teow, satay and indiscrimintate “Asian” desserts whilst feeling stifled by the crowds and insane wait times. It is nice to wander past on the way(ish) home though for a free bit of chocolate, a newspaper and the sight of Hyde Park all up in lights!

    • Spencer June 13, 2013, 8:09 pm

      Now this is my idea of a good time! I love Asian food so I now I would love the fare on offer there.

  • mademoiselle délicieuse October 22, 2009, 4:51 pm

    The markets used to be better before they got so big but I wouldn’t say they were ever any more authentic. I agree with Helen though – it is more of a case about the atmosphere of al fresco dining and creating a hawker-stall type buzz. If people get excited about food, I suppose it’s a good thing?

  • Jacq October 22, 2009, 5:34 pm

    LOL when I was in the queue at the bar I overheard one of the bouncers saying “What is a gozleme stall doing at a noodle market?!”. I was thinking of getting the “Japancake” but now I’m sort of glad I didn’t! Loved the Thai custard gelato flavour as well :)

  • Moya October 22, 2009, 10:38 pm

    Yep, agree with you all, wandered through about 6.30ish tonight hoping to pick up some dinner but honestly, I wasn’t hungry enough to wait in the queues. Could have had dessert with gelato and poffertjes and a free Ferrero Rocher chocolate but just enjoyed a slow walk through a very crowded park. It was lovely to see that part of the city so alive in the early evening though. Wish it was like that all the time!

  • FFichiban October 23, 2009, 12:59 am

    I’m checking this out on the last day so thx for the recon mang!

  • Simon Food Favourites October 24, 2009, 11:27 am

    love your honesty in this post. well done. i pretty much agree with most of what you said. i can’t believe i went twice this year but it was more for the atmosphere and catching up with friends after work rather than the food which i find mostly disappointing every year and expect it to be as such. for value for money and freshness and quality your better off going to any chinese food court or restaurant in haymarket where you get a ‘clean’ table, service and decent food freshly cooked to order and even cheaper than some stalls were charging, eaten with proper cutlery and plates/bowls. was good bumping into you though. once i get my post up there’ll be a pic of you taking a photo of your chicken satay from Pebblle Thai hehe. i’m glad you picked that one because i had it after as well based on what i saw. such good value — the biggest chicken satay i’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. also had japancake, i didn’t mind it though. that’s so disappointing about that char kway teow which i think symbolises the non-authentic aspect which eludes the Night Noodle Market which I think could be so much better, where’s the Laksas, Wonton Noodle Soups, Har Mee, Chicken Rice, Roti, sizzling satays on hot coal grills freshly smoking away etc etc etc. i think that place had one of the biggest lines I saw too i guess because it looked so authentic. the Jackie M malaysian stall, which i saw one night with a queue about 40 metres long, i believe they did a decent char kway teow. :-)

  • billy@ATFT October 24, 2009, 1:31 pm

    I actually only been to the noodle night market once, and never again. The food is no better than foodcourt quality, and yeah, what’s the deal with Turkish Gozleme and Dutch profitjes at every single night food market?!

  • Simon October 24, 2009, 2:30 pm

    Thanks for the comments. Interesting and varied points of few from all :)

    Though I do agree with a lot of the points raised (e.g. alfresco dining, general liveliness etc.) my issue stems from a number of factors, if it wasn’t already made clear.

    Firstly, for a noodle market, there seemed to be a distinct lack of noodle vendors/dishes (at least from what I saw). Worse still, stalls like the gozleme and Dutch profitjes (thanks for the reminder; totally forgot about them!) I can only see as being an unnecessary distraction.

    Then there is the issue of authenticity. If you’re going to sell it as authentic, then actually put a little effort in to give it an authentic feel. I’m not expecting it to look and feel exactly as Asian noodle markets around the world but surely more could have been done than this. Having noodle dishes as the dominant food item, in whatever form, would be a start.

    Lastly, if the whole point of the event is to enjoy Asian food in the surrounds of Hyde Park during some wonderful Spring evenings, why not give it a name that better reflects the event. You know, names like The Sydney Asian Food Festival, Alfresco Asian Food Fair, Annual Hyde Park Asian Food Market, Night Asian Markets etc. Call a spade a spade, and not a heart, albeit one that’s been blackened, inverted and having a wedge lodged into it.

  • Trisha November 6, 2009, 10:30 pm

    The past two Night Noodle Markets (08 and 09!) were very disappointing! They advertise “Hawker” style food stalls but really, they are quite ordinary food that grow cold as soon as you reach your designated dining area.
    And I agree about the authenticity (or lack of) of the available food. I was looking for noodles but only 3 types of noodles kept re-occuring: pad thai, singaporean noodles, and pad si ew.
    For the cost of the food and the work involved to actually get the food, I don’t think it was worth it.

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