As the week draws to a close and the skyline of the CBD is washed with the pinks of a crisp winter sunset, the day is just beginning for some of the vendors of Dixon Street. Every Friday night, stretching out under the Paifang of Chinatown, the night market unfurls, 50 stalls deep, into the cooling evening air.
Vendor set-ups might be as complex as an outdoor kitchen with specialised takoyaki grills, or as simple as a collapsible table spread with Hello Kitty socks and USB sticks. It’s a calamity of colour and banter, with clusters of friends and families traversing the street.[fold]
Past all the kitsch and plastic ware, the Night Market is all about the food. It’s a movable banquet with everything from chicken feet to steamed vanilla cake – and it’s hard not to graze all the way down the street. Here’s our round up of tasty treats at the Chinatown Night Market.
Sweet and Sour Fruit Liquorice stall: Touting itself as the original fruit liquorice stall, the rainbow boxes of candy are a welcoming sight at the top of the street. Long straps of pliable, multicoloured candy make an eye-catching sugary display. Get a mouthful of puckery lemon and lime, vibrantly pink bubblegum or a fruity raspberry twist to chew on as you wander.
Chicken feet at Ginger Chicken BBQ: Not for the squeamish, people line up for the plastic take away punnets of chicken feet braised in sticky, sweet sauce. The boxes line the counter and there are plenty of other saucy tidbits on offer if the chewy feet aren’t for you.
Lamb skewers at the Red Charcoal stall: Hissing away on sticks over the long tray of red hot, live coals, the lamb skewers at this bustling stall are constantly on rotation as they’re shifted along the open grill. There’s the continuous hiss as juices hit the coals and people order them by the handful.
Happy Snack soy eggs: You won’t find a sign at Happy Snack, but you can’t miss the greyish soy eggs. Hardboiled and stained a questionable brownish grey, their salty taste and creamy texture is a favourite market stall snack.
Dragon Beard Candy stall: Like cotton candy, white and fluffy, this is Chinese fairy floss. Delicate pulled sugar filled with toasted peanuts, sesame and coconut make it a textural combination that’s a market favourite and it’s made fresh to order for a hungrily waiting crowd. Part of the fun is watching the sugar pulling in action to create the cobweb like sweet.
Pancakes at the Japanese Pancakes stall: Pocket sized and filled with red bean paste, green tea or custard, these fluffy, fat disks are turned out of special hot plates about the size of hockey pucks. You can watch the batter squirted into the pancake trays to be coloured and cooked while you wait, or marvel at them stacked up like crumpets in the stall window while production runs like clockwork.
Takoyaki at Colo Tako: Octopus balls might not sound like your thing, but they’re a market treat at Colo Tako where the puffy little Japanese takoyaki batter balls are crisp on the outside and packed full of minced octopus. They’re expertly flipped by teams of takoyaki cooks and come hot out of the special spherical grills. There are prawn and crab variations and the vegetarian balls make a tasty snack too.
Pudding at Colo Snack: Tubs of sweet black rice pudding or purplish red bean pudding are ready for ladling out at Colo Snack. The soupy texture is a favourite treat to finish the food crawl down the street, just make sure you sit down to eat it so it doesn’t slosh out of the bowl.
Hingara stall: An extension of the Hingara restaurant, these guys do a brisk trade in street food versions of dishes from the restaurant. Juicy roast duck rolls are a favourite Night Market dinner, along with whole crisp quail. For the more adventurous, there’s steamed beef offal, or at the other end of the spectrum, five-spice soy sauce gluten if you’re avoiding meat.
BBQ King: BBQ King specialises in anything on the grill and serves up fat chicken and pork dim sim, three to a skewer and grilled until the outside is chewy and the inside still juicy. There’s also the inviting sizzling of baby octopus curling their legs on the hotplate, ready to be skewered up to order.
East Ocean dim sum: For the best array of dim sum look for the East Ocean stall, with huge bamboo steamer baskets of soupy Shanghai pork or glassy, transparent chive and seafood dumplings and pan-fried pork buns. Fat squares of steamed sponge fog up the glass counter, while buttery yellow custard tarts beckon for dessert.
The Chinatown Night Market runs every Friday from 4pm to 11pm on Dixon Street in Haymarket.