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, trick or 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.
Sydney’s Good Food Month Noodle Markets are a must.
Good Food Month is my favourite festival in Sydney closely followed by the Vivid Light Festival in June. The Noodle Markets at Hyde Park are the festival’s signature event and have been running for 20 years. It’s the one event that everyone associates with the festival mainly because it’s fantastic and free, as in entry is free and all the food stalls are cash free.
This year the festival has had a slight change in the hours, but is still on for the whole 18 nights. Yay! There are 40 food stalls this year celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Sydney’s Good Food Noodle Markets plus a bar and a beer garden because this is Australia and Australians like beer, they drink beer, sometimes more than a few beers.
If you’re like me one visit to the markets is just not enough. At least two noodle market nights at a minimum are needed to truly get your fill. I’ve been as many as four nights in a row meeting friends after work. Very easy to fit in a non-weekend night, with this year’s festival.
Sydney Noodle Markets at Hyde Park Hours:
- Monday to Tuesday 5pm – 9pm
- Wednesday to Thursday 5pm – 10pm
- Friday 5pm – 11pm
- Saturday 4pm – 10pm
- Sunday 4pm – 9pm
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 out. 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.
Good news this year is that the markets are cash free. Hopefully, this will speed up cashing out, but I expect there will still be long queues especially on a Thursday and Friday night. Personally, I’m thinking of trying Sunday, Monday or Tuesday night. Actually, the NSW Art Gallery is open late on Wednesdays so I might combine the noodle markets and a visit to the gallery. Actually, that sounds like a plan.
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.
Sydney Noodle Market Strategy
Suss Out The Food Stalls and Where to Sit
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 5pm.
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. Also, the practice of saving a table with a jacket over a chair back doesn’t usually work at the markets.
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. 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 steamed pork soup 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. Please be aware that the later you go to the markets the more like popular dishes will be sold out. This year there will be 40 food stalls so heaps to choose from if this happens.
1. Flying Noodle – Pork belly slow charcoal grilled with honey soy sauce, tamarind paste and banana sauce. To be honest, slow cooked pork belly, or in this case slow charcoal grilled, always stops me in my tracks.
2. Mr. Miyagi – Full stop at the Truffle Wagyu Beef Japa-dawg. Be sure to get two if you are with a group because everyone will want a least a bite, if not two or three. Seriously, I mean how can you expect anyone to resist a soft bao roll filled with Wagyu beef-cheek topped with Burgundy onion jam, potato puree, and black truffle mayo? This might be my first stop at the noodle markets this year.
3. Eat Fuh – Many consider Eat Fuh in Marrickville to have the best pho in Sydney. They will have pho at the noodle market, but I would instead go for the Finger Food Platter especially if you are planning on sharing. Then after the markets are over, go get some pho at the Marrickville location.
4. Hard Style Kitchen – The 10-hour wood smoked pulled pork shoulder marinated in honey soy sauce served with shoestring fries.
5. Poklol – Trio of Korean BBQ tacos is a go-to choice every year. Bulgogi beef, chilli chicken and chilli pork tacos with pickled carrots, kimchi slaw, cucumbers, and shallots topped with a pokky sauce. Yum. Again, good for sharing, but you only get one of each.
6. Paella del Mar – Get the Paella Malay and sticky chicken ribs combo. The Paella Malay is 16-hour slow cooked beef rendang with coconut, lemongrass, lime leaves topped with toasted coconut. It’s brown rice paella so it’s healthy, right?
7. Chat Thai – This is where to go for dessert if you are able to resist the donuts. As I mentioned above, sticky rice with mango is my personal fav.
Share your 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.