Dr. Atkin’s Letters Home: The Sydney Night Noodle Market

Faculty Member Bob Atkin

Faculty Member Bob Atkin is currently in Sydney teaching at the Pitt Business Global Business Institute.

So this is my first blog ever, so please excuse me if I sound like a newbie!

Do you like noodles? I do. All sorts of noodles. Especially pasta. And pasta in all forms, because somehow the same basic ingredients, flour and water, taste different because some are, say, linguine and others shells. Who knows why?

But noodles are also central to many Asian cuisines, and Sydney has just the venue to show off Asian noodles and their kindred form, Asian dumplings and buns.

Enter, the Night Noodle Market.

noodle marketIngredients? Start with half a mid-city park, mix warm spring evenings (we’re south of the equator here folks, kinda’ like April-going-into-May for you) with 50+ noodle and dumpling and bun vendors, add a gelato stand or two, toss in a food-crazed city, and you’ve got this bizarre celebration of the Night Noodle Market.

The Market happens once a year, for two weeks, in the middle of Sydney’s food month (and in the middle of the fall term). That’s right: Sydney has a food MONTH!

Like I said, I’m fond of noodles and I made it there three times. Access is easy. It’s more or less mid-way between where we live at the Meriton Apartments Waterloo and the ACU campus where class is held. Go to class, get on the bus to go home, stop half way, and eat. Then back on the bus and go home. No problem.

Night-Noodle2-599x302The real problem is choosing which of the 50 vendors you want to try. Do I go with the ones with the big queues (it’s mostly locals that attend and after running this gig for more than 15 years, you gotta’ assume they know the best ones) or the short lines (“ ‘cause I’m starving!”)? Of course I could have used any of a number of on-lines guides but life has to have a few mysteries, eh mate?

noodle2First time I showed up was about the second night, right in the middle of the “trading hours.” Big mistake. Huge lines. Saturday night and daytime temps were about 28 (Celsius, folks, about low 80’s). So I walked around town exploring a bit and returned about 9:15 pm – lines much thinned (but remarkably clean grounds, certainly not a Pittsburgh-Kenny-Chesney-crowd) and the vendors were all pushing through the food as closing was at 10 pm.

oI happened onto May’s Laksa House and ordered a dish of flat rice noodles with shrimp that had a vaguely smoky taste – I wrote down the name, but lost the piece of paper. Good stuff. But I had dozens more stands to sample! Hit one more to bring home some Japanese style fried dumplings for later.

These “stands” aren’t your typical food truck – most are pretty elaborate and have several cooks doing their thing at once. The queues are orderly and people just wait, chat, finally order, get their food (most stands are only selling one or two or three items, so there’s not much wait after you order), and either find an empty table or sit on the grass or – what I did – walked while I ate. The magic of crowds, springtime, and the noodles in my gut. Sweet.

After that first night, I learned that May’s real place (click the “View all 6 photos” button to get good shots) was only a 10 minute walk from campus – be making that walk a lot, I think. And as I finally looked at the on-line guide listed above, I realized that May’s is one of the places mentioned as “likely to be mobbed.” Who needs these guides anyway?