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The Melbourne Night Noodle Markets are set to put some sizzle back into your evenings as they take over the CBD's Birrarung Marr park once again. This open-air hawker market brings the best of south-east Asian and pan-Asian cuisine with over 20 stalls frying, steaming and slicing you the best in moreish street food.
Rosie Pham from bao stall Wonderbao says it is the variety at the Night Noodle Markets that gets her all fired up. "It is pretty rare that you can have a bowl of noodles, set of sushi, a twisted potato, and some buns all in one evening with your friends, normally you would have to be going to eight different places to get that experience but it's all in the one spot, and an open-air venue," Pham says.
The go-to buns at Wonderbao are the gua baos – a fluffy Asian taco – stuffed with braised pork belly, roast pork or fried silky tofu. But the newcomer of Korean fried chicken is catching up fast, teamed with some of the stall's housemade pickles.
For James Meehan at Hoy Pinoy the Night Noodle Markets are as much about the position as the food, he loves the marketplace by the river and feels that Melburnians really appreciate getting out at night after the colder weather.
"Melbourne is in a beautiful location," says Meehan. "From the top terrace in Birrarung Marr you get a view back across the river and across the arts centre which is awesome."
Hoy Pinoy serves up Filipino barbecue, the sort of street food that Manila locals pick up after work. Meehan and the crew serve up skewers of barbecue meat and they have a special rotisserie for the lechon, a roasted suckling pig dish that is the specialty of the island of Cebu.
An important part of Hoy Pinoy – and the night markets in general – is the theatre of creating the meals. "There is always a lot of action happening while you are lining up," says Meehan. "You can get to see the food being cooked, it is always cooked fresh on site; you are part of the experience of the food coming to you."
For Hoy Pinoy that means your skewer comes straight off the barbecue and straight into your hand.
The theatre, the diversity, the sights, sounds and smells combine to make the Melbourne Night Noodle Markets a must in the lead up to summer. You can watch traditional Chinese dragon dancers and grab everything from the Chinese Dim Sum King and Shallot Thai to Oriental Tea House and Waffleland; it's family-friendly and cash-free to help speed up the lines.
But a line is a good thing, in Singapore hawker markets you generally find the stall with the longest queue and just join, knowing you are in for a treat. Try that this November in Melbourne, you won't leave disappointed.
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Want oodles more noodles?
Extend your Night Noodle Market experience with these bricks-and-mortar Asian eateries in the city.
Melbourne's rock 'n' roll Thai eatery with big, brash flavours, loud pop music and walls adorned with lowbrow art. The share plates served here – chilli salt chicken wings, duck red curry and steamed pork belly – have seen patrons queuing around the corner for years.
Or you can try Go Go bar, the back alley sister restaurant around the corner where you can wait for a table upstairs with a drink in hand, or eat at your table – or the bar.
For a bowl of soupy Vietnamese goodness head to I Love Pho where the menu is simple but everything is in perfect balance. Go for the classic special combination beef pho, or mix things up with a chicken and beef combo, this is some of the best pho in the city.
This eatery in the QV shopping complex just off Swanston Street serves up food influenced by the whole of south-east Asia from Cambodia and Laos to China and Vietnam. Kick things off with a betel leaf with salmon, smoked chilli and lemongrass and settle in to a plate of lamb ribs with tamarind barbecue sauce and herbs.
Central Melbourne Asian diner La Kuazi puts its Asian flavours in a shaker and comes up with cocktails like the Lychee Gat, a gin and tonic flavoured with lychee liqueur, or a Vietnamese Espresso Martini. But these are just appetite-whetters for the fusion menu with tempura fish tacos and Indian curries.
A regular on Melbourne's best dumplings lists, HuTong's open kitchen lets you watch the perfectly plump dumplings get made while you wait. The signature here is the xia long bao, Shanghai dumplings filled with meat and a rich soup (be careful it's always hot!) but they also do a range of great Chinese dishes from drunken chicken to fish fillet in hot chilli oil.
Citi customers looking for some luxury can head to the Citi VIP area to enjoy a dedicated bar and table service at the Night Noodle Markets. Not a customer? You can still enjoy the comfort of the Citi lounge, with heaters and blankets to keep you warm.
This is just one way Citi shows its commitment to dining in Australia, with the Citibank Dining Program rewarding Citi cardholders with a free bottle of wine every time they dine at one of our 400+ partner restaurants, and pay with their Citi card.