Food brings people together. It is something to talk about, something to share, and something to enjoy. I strongly believe that the beating heart of a city’s identity lies within its food culture.
It is with this feeling that this year I made it a priority to visit the Night Noodle Markets when they came to South Bank.
I have lived in Brisbane for around 8 years now. Over this time I have seen the city change and it’s focus shift to really rivaling Sydney and Melbourne in terms of a food centered destination. It is a city that is in the middle of a food and culture revolution and what this means is that new experiences are never far away.
Over my time in Brisbane, I have come to love the stroll through the city, across the Victoria bridge into South Bank. Along the walk you encounter people from all walks of life. They are all heading somewhere. Home for the day or heading out for the night, meeting with friends. There are also many visitors to the city, eager to experience the best it has to offer.
Every time I am in South Bank I get the feeling I am a visitor experiencing Brisbane not through the eyes of a local, but experiencing the city with fresh eyes. To my credit I think that South Bank itself has something to do with this. There is always something new and interesting happening.
One evening on getting off the bus at the Cultural Centre, I walked past a free ballroom dancing display on the grass at QPAC, a French Festival along the promenade, a photography group capturing the city at dusk, and a free live busking event with deck chairs. Creatives from all walks of life converging together in along this one stretch of water.
But apart from the collective of creativity that is encaptured by South Bank, is the single biggest draw card, the food. South Bank has become the place to be for food and drink. Not just through the institutions of bars and restaurants along Little Stanley Street, but through pop-ups and miniature festivals that occur throughout the year. The South Bank social calendar is full, but this year I had placed one particular event high on my radar – The Night Noodle Markets.
Now despite the fact I gave myself plenty of notice and knew that it was fast approaching, I still nearly missed it. I did however get the opportunity to take that walk over to South Bank on Friday after work to check out The Night Noodle Markets on their last weekend in Brisbane.
I arrived hungry and ready to eat my way through the huge range of Brisbane’s finest Asian street eats – and that I did!
Beginning with an ice cold beer on a warm Brisbane winter night, standing under the white lanterns along the edge of the river, we began trying to decide what our first flavour of the night would be. The huge clouds of billowing smoke couldn’t help catch our attention so we joined the que at Hoy Pinoy for a Filipino style skewer of pork or chicken chargrilled to tender perfection. With a perfectly balanced sweet and salty marinade, I didn’t even mind that it was a little messy and I ended up with sticky sauce all over me.
Next up was of course bao. We sampled Bao Stop’s trifecta of bao’s which included a crispy, spicy chicken, a peking duck, and a sweet, sticky pork belly. My favourite easily became the pork belly with the combination of the sticky sauce, soft bao bun and crunchy peanuts, while I did love the generous amount of sriracha that covered the crispy chicken.
After wandering around a bit more and watching the traditional dragon dancers and drummers as they paraded around the markets, we decided that it was probably time to get the ‘signature dish’ of the festival – a big bowl of noodles! We decided on Teppanyaki Noodles and went with the chicken yakisoba which was stir-fried noodles topped with grilled chicken with their special sauce. This is probably one of the sauciest, richest bowls of noodles I have ever eaten. Packed with flavour it was great to find a spot to sit on a milk crate to slurp up the thick egg noodles. I am glad Jarryd an I opted to share a bowl as due to the richness I am not sure I could have finished them on my own!
Our final stop was at Zagyoza for some pork and chicken teriyaki gyoza. While not the best gyoza I have ever eaten (that prize currently sits with Dumpling Republic) it was nice to enjoy them washed down with a drink from another of the pop up bars along the river.
There was so much I didn’t get to try, such as Harajuku Gyoza’s take on a dagwood dog, the Octodog! I actually didn’t really want to eat this, just the fact that they made little Japanese style octopus dagwood dogs is awesome! I also really wanted to try Chur Burgers ‘The notorious P.I.G’, a burger with crispy pork belly, chilli caramel, asian slaw, pickled carrots and aioli because that sounds incredible! Unfortunately my stomach could not handle any more food. The good news is that this is on their regular menu so I might just have to pay a visit to their Fortitude Valley location soon.
And just a final note, I have written here completely about the savoury foods as this is what I gravitate towards, but I can tell you there was so much on offer for the sweet tooth, with a Gelato Messina pop up, and Harajuku Gyoza again going crazy with a desert ramen, complete with electric blue noodles!
I feel I want to mention that this is not a cheap event. It is not the kind of place you come to get cheap street eats. It is about the experience of the markets and the ability to sample some of Brisbane’s best in one location. I heard a few people complaining about the prices, but really it wasn’t that bad. For two of us we spent around $100 which we probably would have spent going out for dinner and drinks on a Friday night anyway. Another thing (which I think is awesome) is that the Night Noodle Markets are completing cash-less. Paywave your way around the stalls and don’t worry about ATM fees and those annoying long lines. The best, seriously. Who even uses cash anymore?
I am sorry I didn’t get the chance to visit until the final weekend so this post comes after they have closed again for the year. But I am sure it will be back, better than ever next year!
Good news if you live in Sydney though – you are up next with the Night Noodle Markets appearing in October. Get more information on the Good Food Week website.
I can’t wait to see how this food revolution continues and I look forward to experiencing many more events along the river in South Bank. These pop ups give you the opportunity to experience a change to routine and something different within a familiar setting. And of course exploring the city through its food is something that I would encourage everyone to do, whether it is somewhere new, or your hometown – I can guarantee it will give you a different perspective.