The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is over for another year. I only went to two events this year, and the first was the very popular Heat Beads Hawkers’ Market held at the Queen Victoria Market.
Held on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night, there were two sessions on each evening. We attended the later one at 8:30pm on the Tuesday night. A ticket for the event included four vouchers to purchase four small dishes from the various stalls.
I was a bit worried that it would be crazily busy, and the night was going to involve lots of lining up to get food, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. There were twelve restaurants represented, with each restaurant presenting a small selection of their dishes.
As soon as we arrived, we nabbed a table. I specifically chose one that was close to the food stalls and under good lighting.
Alastair and I shared our dishes, so we got to sample eight dishes plus a bonus.
We started at Dainty Sichuan. I was VERY overwhelmed with the choices on offer – the lady at the stall rattled them off at breakneck speed and by the time she got to the end I had forgotten what she had first said! It would have been great to have them listed on a piece of paper. I ended up with a prawn skewer, a chicken wing and some pork ribs. I didn’t actually ask for a chicken wing – I normally steer clear of barbequed chicken – but it ended up on my plate, so I just accepted it. Turns out that the wing was good anyway. The wing and the prawn skewers had a spicy, tongue numbing quality to them from Sichuan peppercorns.
We tried a serve of the goat masala and daal from Chilli India. This was just okay, I thought it was a bit bog standard.
Next up, we tried the pork cheek from Pan Asian. This was VERY fatty, and very tender. I was a bit worried that Alastair would be put off by the fattiness, but it turns out that he was in an eating mood and gobbled it up.
Oh, and remember how I mentioned that I specifically choose a seat with good lighting? At this point THEY TURNED OFF THE LIGHTS IN OUR SECTION. Rahhh! Hence the funny lighting in the rest of my photos.
We had the fish grilled in a banana leaf from Laska Me. The fish was tender and moist, with some subtle spices. It was very nice.
From Maedeya, I selected the okonomiyaki and sweet potato. I was surprised that the okonomiyaki was actually pretty good – it was still nice and hot which definitely helped. The texture was very soft, but it was tasty. One of the best dishes we ate that evening.
We also tried the japchae from Hallah. Points for being freshly cooked, but unfortunately taste-wise I found it to be far too sweet.
By this stage we were getting full and I was running out of things I wanted to try! Lots of places had also sold out of dishes as well, which cut down my options. So I gave a voucher to Kenzan @GPO for a serve of their yakisoba and cooked tuna sushi roll. The yakisoba was just so so - like the japchae, I found it too sweet. The sushi roll was nice though.
Thanks to Bro for the picture!
After this we were too full to eat any more savoury food, so I headed to the ice cream stand. You had to pay for ice cream though, and while I normally wouldn’t have minded, I still had two vouchers left! So I figured a compromise would be a banana fritter from Dumpling King, which came with a scoop of ice cream. I don’t know why they stuck sparklers on their banana fritters, but it was cute! Thanks to Bro for taking the photo, because the sparkler fizzled out before I made it back to our table.
Oh, and the banana fritter and ice cream was great.
For my final voucher, I handed it in at Warung Argus and received a serve of black rice pudding. What I had actually wanted from them was the suckling pig, but they had sold out by the 8.30pm session (BOO). The rice pudding was very runny and coconutty, with the rice still quite firm. It wasn't bad, but it wasn’t amazing either. Pork would've been better!
Bro received an extra voucher from someone who was too full to use all theirs – apparently he looked “deserving”. Heh! He finished with a bowl of laksa!
There was entertainment.... but we were too busy eating....!
While four vouchers each doesn’t sound like a lot, it did end up being quite a lot of food, and we were STUFFED afterwards. While some of the food was just so-so, overall it was a good event and we really enjoyed ourselves.
If it's on again next year, I do recommend going.