The red lanterns have been hung, the bamboo steam baskets are stacked ready for action, and the scent of lemongrass, cumin and fresh squeezed lime drift softly in the air surrounding Hyde Park. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Sydney’s Night Noodle Markets have begun.
As an American expat, October use to mean Halloween, tricker treaters and eating way too much candy, oops sorry, lollies. But now, living in Sydney, October means one thing. Food. Good food. Like really, REALLY good food.
Good Food Month
Good Food Month is my favourite festival in Sydney closely followed by Vivid. The Noodle Markets in Hyde Park are the festival’s signature event and have been running for 12 years. It’s the one event that everyone associates with the festival.
This year the festival has gotten even better with new extended hours: 18 nights and open until 10pm each night. Yay! There are 40 food stalls this year plus a bar and a beer garden.
With the additional nights and extended hours, here is NO excuse for missing it. If you’re like me one visit to the markets is just not enough. At least two noodle market nights at a minimum are need to truly get your fill. I’ve been as many as four nights.
Waiting in line, the crowds and then finding a place to sit.
Those are the usually complaints I hear from friends when I suggest going. The truth is it really isn’t all that bad if you have a strategy. Now I’m not talking drafting up plans of the stalls and synchronising your watches before heading down. I’m merely suggesting chatting with the group of friends you’re going to meet up with to see who will arrive first and what food stalls everyone is interested in trying.
Oh my God, I’m so hungry!
That is usually the first mistake. There is no way you’re going to wait in a queue for a couple of dumplings at Din Tai Fung if you’re starving. Instead, what usually happens is a quick dash to a food stall with no line and then quickly inhaling whatever looks good, before even finding a place to sit down.
The end result is usually disappointment for not getting what you wanted and for not even really enjoying what you ended up with. Don’t do this to yourself. Instead either try to arrive early or have something with your afternoon tea to tied you over until you can make it to the markets.
What if you can’t or have to work late? This is when chatting and texting with the group you’re going to meet up with is key. Remember I mentioned discussing who is going to arrive first and finding out what food stalls your friends are interested in? So this is how that works.
The Noodle Strategy
Suss Out The Food Stalls
Of course it’s best to arrive early and avoid the lines but to tell you the truth lines start forming at the noodle markets pretty early usually around 6pm.
If you have someone in your group that is ok with arriving early then that’s perfect. They can be your table scout and suss out what stalls look good. Be careful though as one person sitting at a large table all by their lonesome for a long time is just bad form especially as the crowd starts to grow.
Picnic In The Park
Another idea is to bring along a picnic blanket as there are usually plenty of spots on the grass tucked away from the crowd plus there is the rest of Hyde Park open to noodlers. Of course you cannot bring alcohol from the noodle markets but you can eat in peace and always return for drinks.
Divide and Conquer
Divide and conquer the queues by splitting up who waits where. Find out if anyone is keen to try want you are after, then simply split up. One person waits for drinks and the other gets in line for food. (Don’t forget your faithful table scout.) Or one person gets in line for dessert instead of drinks unless you’re planning on going back for seconds. In that case rise and repeat. You don’t have to get the same thing but try two different dishes and share. Sharing is caring they say, unless it’s Dai Tai Fung’ssteamed pork dumplings. You might not want to share those. I won’t, just saying.
It’s a good idea to get all the waiting done in one go. Splitting up the food, drinks and dessert queues takes care of all your “necessities” at once. Remember the portions at the markets can be small so having enough room for dessert is very likely. Plus Chat Thai‘s sticky rice with mango is worth it.
7 Food Stalls Worth Queuing For at Sydney’s Noodle Markets
There is nothing worse than waiting in a long queue at the night noodle markets and then being disappointed with what you get. Here is a list of food stalls at the market that I recommend. What’s being served by each changes with every year but the restaurants I’ve list have been consistently good each year.
1. Taiwanese Noodle House – The 16 hour slow cooked beef brisket noodles are amazing.
2. Din Tai Fung – These dumplings are perfection. Din Tai Fung is consistent every market and there is no noticeable difference between what you get in the restaurant and what they serve at the markets. There is just less of a selection.
3. Mamak – Exceptional Malaysian famous for roti. Waiting in line here is not so bad if you get a change to watch them making roti.
4. Cloud Thief – I will wait in line again and again for the Old School Trifecta – Braised Pork Belly, Fried Chicken and Peking Duck Bao. Be sure to also get the Peking Duck Fries – crispy fries with shredded Peking duck and Peking duck sauce.
5. Poklol – Trio of Korean BBQ tacos is a go-to choice every year. The Chichi Fries are insane and food coma inducing so be sure you are some place comfortable before you dig in. You can choose bulgogi beef, chilli chicken or chilli pork served on top of beer battered fries with cheese, kimchi, shallots topped with japanese mayo and a sweet korean bbq sauce. I recommend the bulgogi beef.
6. House of Crabs – Get the Soft Shell Crab Po Boy. You will thank me later.
7. Chat Thai – This is where to go for dessert if you are able to resist the pancakes. As I mentioned above, sticky rice with mango is my personal fav.
Share you noodle market favourites
What’s your favourite food stall at Sydney’s Night Noodle Markets? Leave a comment with your recommendation. I would love to compare notes! Plus it will give me something new to try.