Eating with the AU: Night Noodle Markets - Birrarung Marr (Melbourne)

Last week, we popped into one of Melbourne’s most popular events of the year – the Night Noodle Markets. Despite the predicted wild storms, the weather was wonderfully warm and humid, seeing a large crowd taking to Birrarung Marr to feast on mouth-watering offerings served up by some of Melbourne’s best-known restaurants. Renowned for its selection of outstanding favourites and hard to find specialties, the hawker-style bazaar at the banks of the Yarra River offers a wide range of choice to visitors including barbecue skewers, all sorts of fluffy bao, tasty dumplings and scrumptiously imaginative desserts.

This year has seen the flagship event of The Age Good Food Month grow exponentially, featuring a record 56 stalls, three bars and more room to sit and eat. If you arrive on an empty stomach, then you may find yourself perplexed and gorge far too quickly on the first thing that your eyes fall upon hungrily. Thankfully, the Noodle Markets will be around for 18 nights this year, meaning that there’s more than enough time for you to try one of everything on the menu.

Old favourites like Longrain, Red Spice Road and Chin Chin have made a comeback alongside veritable dumpling experts, Din Tai Fung. Meanwhile, international guest chef Diego Munoz from Astrid y Gaston (which is number 14 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list) will be serving up Peruvian Japanese delights at the market's Lady Carolina pop-up.

A good place for peckish market-goers to start is Hoy Pinoy, which is always easy to spot from the crowd. Just follow the plumes of sweet smoke straight to the source for long skewers of succulent BBQ pork belly.

There’s no ignoring the fact that the popularity of bao has taken off in Melbourne, as evidenced by large queues that snake out of Wonderbao’s doors at their alleyway establishment in the CBD. The line is much the same at the markets, but you simply can’t go past the classic fried chicken gua bao. For bao this good, we believe that any wait is worth it.

If you’re after a more unusual take on these dreamboat delights, then head to Baotime for their beef bulgogi with grilled onion and cheese baoger, which will have you licking your fingers in no time.

Don’t worry if you’ve devoured more than you can handle – just be sure to activate your dessert stomach as you make your way deliriously to Gelato Messina for deep fried gua bao filled with peanut gelato. Dipped in milk chocolate sauce and rolled in crushed peanuts, this is one luscious bao that will simply knock your socks off.

For those who are feeling a little thirsty, head on over to the Singleton Whisky & Sugar Bar for a taste of the Singleton Whisky Maple Cookie served in combination with a selection of refreshing whisky-based cocktails. Be warned though, the cookies run out fast so get in early to avoid leaving empty-handed! Though with so much already on the menu to try, you may need to slip your cookie away to munch on in secret at home later when you’ve finally succumbed to your food coma.

Night Noodle Markets

Address: Birrarung Marr, Melbourne, VIC
Hours: November 12-29; Mon – Wed 5pm-9pm; Thurs – Fri 5pm-11pm; Sat 2pm-10pm; Sun 2pm-9pm.

Photos by Serena Ho for the AU Review