The Night Noodle Markets is back at South Bank this year, with 19 eateries ready to warm your belly, starting this coming Wednesday.

The hawker-style market will host Bao Down, Black Star Pastry and Hoy Pinoy from Sydney and Melbourne. Locals such as Taro Akimoto from Taro’s Ramen will once again make an appearance.

“It’s great fun to get out of the kitchen and work in the open air,” Akimoto says. “Because the event goes on for a long period of time, restaurants that wouldn’t consider going out to weekend markets can justify this.”

This year he’ll cook alongside restaurants including Madame Wu, Fat Noodle and Saké Restaurant and Bar.

Given much of the food is a notch above what you’d typically expect from a market stall, this place gets crowded. But Akimoto reckons that’s not a bad thing. “It gets really busy on weekends from 6pm to 8pm, but it depends on what you’re looking for: that’s the time to go for excitement and buzz,” he explains. “I’m a family man with kids, and I always tell my family to come on weekdays early when it’s quieter.”

While Akimoto’s ramen lives up to its promise, there’s plenty else to choose from. Here are seven stalls to keep on your radar.

Bao Stop
There are a number of places now serving bao in Brisbane, but Sydney’s Bao Stop doesn’t limit itself to its namesake dish. As well as bao with various fillings, you can also try Peking-duck fries – fries topped with shredded Peking duck – and Bao Stop’s own Peking sauce.

Taro’s Ramen
Taro Akimoto is known for his dedication to creating the perfect bowl of ramen, and his offering at the Night Noodle Markets is no exception. While his tonkotsu ramen is usually served with a traditional thick and sticky soup, the tonkotsu broth for the markets will be a slightly lighter, saltier and creamier version in order to offset the outdoor chill. The truffle ramen is also returning. Made with truffle tapenade, truffle oil and fresh Australian winter truffle, this is as luxe as a bowl of noodles gets.

Black Star Pastry
Black Star Pastry, from Newtown, Sydney, has a cult following. It’s known for its strawberry-watermelon cake with layers of almond dacquoise, rose-scented cream, watermelon, strawberries, pistachios and dried rose petals. The delicate original is on offer, and so is a “cake smash”, which is Black Star’s signature cake beaten into N2 Gelato and topped with rose petals and pistachios.

Fat Noodle
Just across the river from its permanent home at the Treasury Casino, Fat Noodle will have its popular pho on the menu, as well as a few other market specials, including a reimagining of fish and chips. Try the Japanese-style karaage barramundi with sweet-potato chips, or for dessert there’s an Asian Yam Roll served with wasabi-chocolate dipping sauce. Fat Noodle’s star chef Luke Nguyen will also make an appearance at the markets on Friday night.

Harajuku Gyoza
If you haven’t tried Harajuku Gyoza’s Instagram-worthy take on the raindrop cake, now’s your chance. Putting its own spin on New York chef Darren Wong’s jelly-like cake, Harajuku Gyoza serves the coveted dessert with kuromitsu (brown-sugar syrup) and kinako (roasted soy flour) mixed with sesame powder.

Hoy Pinoy
Always a crowd favourite at the Night Noodle Markets, Melbourne’s Hoy Pinoy returns again this year to fire up the barbeque. Of all its Filipino skewers the inihaw na baboy is the most popular. Pork belly marinated in a banana-ketchup glaze doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does. Order it with rice and atchara (pickled green papaya).

Saké Restaurant and Bar
What’s a hawker market without dumplings? Saké’s menu includes steamed Chinese prawn-shumai dumplings with a spicy ponzu sauce, which is made from a citrus-based soy popular in Japan. These markets aren’t the most vegetarian-friendly hangout, but Saké will also have vegetable udon moodles with fried tofu and wakame.

Night Noodle Markets runs from July 20–31 at South Bank’s Cultural Forecourt. Visit from 5pm weekdays and 4pm on weekends.