Twenty-nine years ago, my family arrived in Australia from Taiwan. We left Asia behind and started a new life in a foreign land. Who knew, on that very anniversary, Australia would be celebrating Asia with the Enlighten Night Noodle Markets! I was very much looking forward to a taste of the homeland, particularly in the usual style of Asian street food - a night market!
Night markets should probably be renamed "meat-on-a-stick market" due to the enormous varieties of meat-on-a-stick you can get at these sorts of markets. The Night Noodle Markets were no different and in fact, took it to an all new level with, wait for it - GIANT SKEWERS!
Giant skewers with giant pieces of meat were everywhere. With FOMO starting to kick in, we headed for the closest queue, which happened to be the Daniel San stall. The lightning bolt signage confused me at first, and I wondered if this was a spin-off of AKIBA, a local Canberra establishment. However, I soon realised this was a completely different business.
The line for Daniel San moved fairly quickly (only waiting about 10 minutes), probably because the food was ready to go as soon as the order was made. We got two giant skewers for $10, one of each flavour.
While the sticky pork and maple glaze skewer sounded more appealing to me, I actually preferred the chicken yakitori because the meat was just so tender. The pork one by comparison was a bit tough and dry.
Next, we tried this stall, which had no obvious name. It was located between Shallot Thai on the right and Kiyamachi Tei on the left.
It was 7pm by this stage and the queues were much longer and moving much slower. Wait time for most lines were now at the 40 minute mark, but I did notice that the Daniel San queue seemed to go much faster than other queues.
When we finally got to the front of the queue, we ordered pretty much one serve of everything on offer.
The sign for the sweet potato balls were what prompted me to immediately head to the end of the queue to line up for this stall. I was not disappointed. It was like eating a deep-fried ball of sweet mochi. It was soft and chewy and I could have had way more of these. Hands down, it was my favourite food item of the evening. At $8 for a small cup of these sweet potato balls, they didn't come cheap - but as they aren't commonly found anywhere else in Canberra, I would get these again.
The serving size of the soft shell crab was disappointing for $14 (note the size of the spoon next to it for comparison). The crab tasted good, but the baos were tough and dry (not soft and fluffy as they should be).
The Chicken Crisps ($6 per serve) were fried chicken skins. If you liked these, Papparich also has fried chicken skin in their snacks menu.
The Nonya Lollipops ($10 per serve) were chicken drumsticks coated with Malaysian nonya spices. Delicious.
A friend kindly shared a giant chicken skewer with me from Roti Road (2 for $10). I loved the spicy marinade, which was well-infused into the meat. The chicken was also cooked beautifully, and as tender as the Daniel San chicken yakitori.
One of the best dishes of the night, however, was the gyoza from Zagyoza. From the outset, the gyoza looked beautifully wrapped, but that was only the beginning. The texture of the dough was perfectly 'al dente' and the filling was flavourful. It didn't have the crisp bottom that pan-fried gyoza generally has, but what was amazing about this particular gyoza, was that when you bit into it, sauce exploded in your mouth. It was like they had wrapped the dipping sauce right into the dumpling to save time! The exploding gyoza reminded me of xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) and I loved it. It was also pretty good value at $12 for 8 pieces.
The amount of people lining up for food scared us, so we decided to abandon the Night Noodle Markets for the night and checked out some of the other attractions.
Strangely, I didn't end up ordering any noodles from the Night Noodle Markets, but there were plenty of other great dishes to try. The stunning visual projections on iconic architecture and the wonderful performers, especially Lake Street Dive, really made the night memorable.
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Which dishes did you try at the Night Noodle Markets? Which dishes would you recommend? Comment below, I'd love to hear your thoughts!