The first ever Canberra Night Noodle Markets are on right now as part of the Enlighten Festival. I was kindly invited, along with other Canberra food bloggers and writers, by Canberra Times Food and Wine Editor Natasha Rudra on a tour and taste of the food stalls before the markets opened. The Night Noodle Markets are based at Reconciliation Place more towards the lakeside rather than Old Parliament House side. It was a huge space and the Operations Manager of the event mentioned it is about twice as big as the Sydney Night Noodle Markets.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets lucky cat
The lucky cat greets you at one of the entrances

There are 15 food stalls available. Which is just a handful compared to the number of stalls at the Multicultural Festival. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the number of people attending on opening night. One of my friends said that by around 8.00pm, queues were a minimum of 40 minutes long.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets crowds
The sea of people queuing up

So here are my 5 tips to make the most of your noodley experience at the Night Noodle Markets:

  1. Get there early. The markets open at 4pm on Saturday and Sunday nights, and 5pm Monday to Friday nights. Yes get to the entrance by those times to get in first. It means less wait time in the queues! If you do get there early, I recommend applying some sunscreen, wear a hat and sunnies as it’s quite hot in the sun with not much shade available.
  2. Go with a few friends to make it more fun. Friends can also help secure a table, increase food options by sharing and make it not seem like you’re queuing the entire time. Sure you’re catching up in the queue but its more fun.
  3. Strategise and set your target. Of the 15 stalls listed here, plan for which ones you want to visit that night. If price is an important factor, quickly take photos of the menu and prices to help you keep track of what you want to buy. Remember the markets are on for 10 nights (9 nights left!) so you can eat at two or three per night if you plan to go all week. Alternatively, if you are with a small group of friends – divide and conquer. E.g. Two people line up for one stall, another two at another stall etc, order enough for everyone and then meet at a predetermined spot to share your bounty.
  4. Have dessert first. A lot of people are interested in N2 Extreme Gelato and seeing their ice cream made in front of their eyes using liquid nitrogen. Many save dessert for last but with the crowds I saw last night, this might not be the best move. Why not have dessert first? Since gates open at 4pm this weekend, you could head directly to the N2 stall first as it’s still technically afternoon tea time right? Life’s too short, eat dessert first!
  5. Wear comfortable walking shoes. The markets are set on the lawns which can be uneven in certain spots. When it gets dark and you’ve had one too many, comfy shoes will be worthwhile. Plus you can then walk around to see the light projections and other activities as part of Enlighten.

Now for some food shots. On our tour, we met the owner and chef of Canberra’s Thirst Thai Restaurant and Wine Bar making their debut at a market event.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets ThirstThirst is selling yellow chicken curry with potato and rice noodles and a fried pork and glass noodle cold salad with tamarind and chilli jam (photo below) both priced at $12.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets Thirst Wine Bar glass noodlesNext we got to try the meat skewers from Daniel San of Manly Beach. These come in Chick, chick boom chicken yakitori or Mr Miyagi sticky pork and maple glaze pork. These giant skewers are $6 each or 2 for $10.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets Daniel San skewersLots of meat! Good to share if you can’t finish it all.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets Daniel San chicken skewerWe got to meet Mork’s mum of Mork’s Restaurant on the Kingston Foreshore, who described the family’s boat noodle soup recipe being made at the stall. A much darker broth than pho is used for this one-off dish at the markets.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets MorksYou can get this two ways – dry or in a rich broth (pictured). The broth is served in a large soup cup and we sampled the sliced beef, crackling, beef balls, tripe and of course noodles. I didn’t have too much of this as it was such a hot afternoon. But I might get a cup to myself later in the week if it cools down.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets Morks boat noodlesHoy Pinoy from Melbourne is serving up Filipino BBQ and street food. Look at the production line of people and all those skewers cooking over charcoal!

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets Hoy Pinoy bbq skewersPork belly and chicken skewers are available – the pork belly is covered with banana ketchup glaze and the chicken in a soy/cane sugar glaze. The charcoal only enhances the amazing flavour. Delicious! I believe it’s two skewers for $10. I’m still salivating at the thought of these. Will definitely be going back for more. Highly recommended!

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets Hoy Pinoy pork belly skewersNext we got to try N2 Extreme Gelato. I’ve tried this in Sydney where you get to watch your gelato being made in front of you using liquid nitrogen. This was no different and those at the front will be able to see the nitrogen vaporise as it hits the mixing bowls.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets N2 GelatoThere are only two flavours available both for $8. The Ferrero Reveal has nutella gelato, crushed hazelnuts, crunchy rice bubble choc top and a warm chocolate ganache syringe. The Brokeback Moment has vanilla gelato with layers of honeycomb bites, honeycomb choc top and a warm caramel syringe. I enthusiastically over-injected and spilled over the side of the cup oops.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets N2 gelato shotsLet’s Do Yum Cha from Sydney was a popular choice for those wanting some dumplings. I noticed a queue forming early on in the afternoon.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets Let's Do Yum Cha food truckThere’s also a Let’s Do Yum Cha stall in the main area offering the same menu of chicken dim sims, BBQ pork buns, prawn and chive dumplings, har gow, vegetarian dumplings and vegetarian spring rolls.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets Let's Do Yum ChaRoti Road from Footscray had these huge BBQ chicken wings that looked so tasty. Will need to go back for that.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets chicken wingsI was thankful for a lemon, ginger and mint iced tea ($5) from SpanThai to cool me down. Just what I needed.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets mint iced teaWaffle on a stick were offering waffles with flavours such as caramel and lychee, warm nutella, maple and sesame, and melted chocolate for $10.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets waffleThere was a Chinese lion dance that slowly made its way around the crowd.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets lion dancingSeats under the lanterns were popular as the sun went down.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets lantern areaVery pretty lanterns and a great night out with most of Canberra.

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets lanterns lit upThanks to the Canberra Times for the invitation and opportunity to dine as a guest. I’m planning to go back several more times. Another tip, weeknights might be a better option and less crowded.

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