New Zealand's new Night Noodle Markets build on a huge following in Australia
In Australia, it's become an institution on the festival calendar, to the extent that attendance is counted in the millions. And while initial expectations might be more modest for the inaugural Night Noodle Market when it launches in Christchurch next week, the introduction of this annual celebration of Asian-style street food to New Zealand is hoped to be the start of something much bigger.
Fairfax Media started up the markets almost 20 years ago in Sydney, gradually spreading the event further as more cities welcomed the food festival.
Last year, more than 2 million Australians ate their way through boxes of noodles, skewers of barbecue pork and trays of Pad Thai.
The grounding principle of every market are affordable prices, a huge range of cuisines and a festival atmosphere the whole community can be a part of. The Australian markets have grown to the extent that the Sydney and Melbourne events run over weeks instead of days, with most major Australian cities now hosting the markets.
Fairfax market co-ordinator Brett McMeekin says the move to bring the markets to New Zealand was an obvious next step. Talks were already underway to bring a food event to Christchurch to support the rebuild, and Night Noodle Markets was a good fit for a trial run. Provided it goes well, Wellington and Auckland should see their inaugural events within a few months.
McMeekin is hoping about 40,000 Cantabrians will head to North Hagley Park for the event. It runs across the same weekend as Sparks in the Park and the Coast to Coast, both of which attract tourists to the city who are expected to welcome the chance of a night out at a unique event.
The Christchurch market is shaping up to be a whirlwind tour of Asia. Vendors include local cooks who specialise in their traditional dishes and prominent restaurants serving up a slice of what they offer in their own premises, plus some imported talent.
Hoy Pinoy, a long time trader at the Australian markets, will be touching down in Christchurch to offer its traditional Filipino barbecue street food. The Melbourne-based business has been a noodle market vendor over the ditch for the last four years.
The Hoy Pinoy stall is a food project backed by a large hospitality partnership with major restaurants and stalls under their belts including Frankie Says, a recent addition to the Melbourne food scene.
Hoy Pinoy's contribution will be a real treat for foodies. One of the business partners is Filipino and the menus are based around truly traditional flavours her family uses at home.
"We use authentic ingredients and methods to replicate the same favours and food experiences you would expect while travelling through the Philippines," co-owner Brendan Phillis says.
In Christchurch Hoy Pinoy will dish up Inihaw na Manok (barbecue chicken) and Inihaw na Baboy (barbecue pork belly) cooked over charcoal in custom barbecues.
"The noodle markets are always such a well run event that it gives everyone, guests and traders alike, an amazing environment to be a part of."
"We can't wait to see what Christchurch has to offer and hope everyone grabs hold of it and comes down to experience the first ever New Zealand noodles, before the rest of the nation has the chance."
Local businesses included in the line-up include Pot Sticker Dumpling Bar, serving up fried dumplings, and Zaffron, offering dishes like salt and pepper king prawns and beef panang. The Christchurch Casino is using its Chinese restaurant, Chi Kitchen, as the inspiration for its stalls, and Dragon's Den Social Lounge will be serving up modern ramen.
Markets in other cities will use local providers in the same way.
AT A GLANCE
Christchurch Night Noodle Markets
* 5 nights from Wednesday, February 10 to Sunday, February 14;
* 18 food vendors;
* Traditional lion dancing and Japanese drumming;
* 40,000 people expected;
* Free entry; no eftpos but mobile ATMs will be on site;
* The site is licensed for alcohol sale and consumption, and full security provided.