This is Perth: a vibrant melting pot that sizzles, bubbles and smokes, with crunchy and gooey treasures. It smells enticing and tastes glorious, it excites and comforts. It’s droolicious. This is why I love Perth. The Twilight Hawkers Market is back, 5pm to 9pm on Friday nights in Forrest Place in Perth City, with a short break for the festive season (details at the end of the post).
On the first Friday, 16 November the market was held in Murray Street mall so the City of Perth could stage a special event to mark the unveiling of this year’s Christmas lights and a special appearance by Santa Claus.
The market crowd has a voracious hunger for paella. La Latina Providores‘s got multiple pans on the go, loaded with chicken, pork and seafood.
Most of us probably know churros as a Spanish treat, but Braza Churros makes these crispy doughnuts the Brazilian way, rolled in sugar and filled with either Doce de Leite (caramel – my favourite) or Brigadeiro (chocolate). The dough contains no animal ingredients and the doughnuts are deep fried in vegetable oil.
Fumi’s Japanese Pancakes & Noodles cooks okonomyiaki (Japanese savoury vegetable pancake) and stir-fried egg noodles on the hotplate.
I shared an okonomiyaki with my friend Prez. The pancake was criss-crossed with a busy lattice of okonomiyaki sauce (similar to a sweet Worcestershire sauce), Japanese mayonnaise, seaweed flakes and bonito flakes. The bonito flakes moved ever so slightly in the breeze so our pancake looked like it was being attacked by brown moths.
Marcelita’s Empanadas remains one of my top picks of the market – Colombian empanadas filled with pork and lime, beef, or potato, served with your choice of seasonal dipping sauce. If you’re lucky, a limited edition flavour will be on the menu – I hear there’s chicken and shredded coconut (pollo caribeño) in the works. To wash it all down, refreshing guarapo (sugar cane and lime juice drink).
There’s an enormous Christmas tree between Murray Street Mall and Forrest Place.
Upstairs, someone was patiently waiting for the sun to set.
There’s authentic Moroccan food at Shak Shuka. Its namesake dish features fresh free range eggs broken into a slow-cooked tomato sauce with herbs and garlic and left to poach before being served crusty baguette and homemade harissa (AU$11). For $2 more, get chorizo sausage with your shak shuka. Don’t forget the Moroccan mint tea (AU$3)!
New to the market this year: Butty’s American Style food truck – little birdies have told me that Butty’s BBQ ribs are a lip-smacking cracker.
The market grew intensely busy…
The the crowd went wild as Santa Claus arrived on a sparkling sleigh!
A new water feature spurted up in the centre of Forrest Place. Lots of oohs and ahhs.
The Christmas lights were switched on and celebrated with a spectacular light display projected onto the old GPO building, from festive to fantastical, with candy stripes, wrapping paper, black swans, lush rainforest, glimmering swimming pool, falling confetti…
Street performers wandered through the crowd onto the mall.
Just before I went home, an icy pole by Delish Ice – orange, pineapple and lime.
I went to the market again on 30 November.
The giant cast iron pan at the bratwurst stall was filled with plump sausages, onions and cabbage. They sell slushies too.
El Asador has the biggest barbecue on Forrest Place. It’s Argentinean BBQ, meat lovers’ heaven, vegetarian’s horror show. Get tira de asado (seasoned beef ribs served with chimmichurri, AU$10) and choripan (Argentinean chorizo with chimmichurri served in a crusty roll, AU$8)
At the Japanese Savoury Pastries stall, blobs of batter magically transform into golden balls flecked with vegetables, deftly flipped in their trays for even cooking. Traditional takoyaki are made with octopus, but these ones contain cheese and vegetables instead (8 pastries for AU$7.50). You can get them fully loaded and topped with Japanese BBQ sauce and mayonnaise, dried seaweed powder and dried bonito flakes.
At Gaya, get Korean bibimbap, assembled to order with fresh and home-pickled vegetables, served on brown rice and topped with Korean hot sauce.
There are curries in cauldrons, served on fragrant yellow rice, tandoori chicken, seekh kebab (the ones that look like fat meaty cigars) and more at 2 Fat Indians.
Concentration produces the most delicious food. The ladies at the gozleme stall are serious… about making gozleme and feeding you.
Spiral spuds are one of the most popular items at the market. Personally, I find them hard to eat – once I’ve consumed about an inch or so of potato, I’m at peril of spearing myself on the skewer every time I take a bite.
The Hungry Crepe cooks sweet and savoury crepes made with biodynamic flour. Nutella crepe sounds pretty good to me.
The Woodfired Baker specialises in traditional organic sourdough breads and pastries, baked in a century-old oven in Maylands.
The Woodfired Baker sells hot pies too: organic beef goulash, Cajun-spiced vegetarian or free range chicken and bacon pies.
There 20 to 30 stalls, which vary week to week. Also spotted while I was there:
- Ragin’ Cajun, serving up Louisiana comfort food including chicken gumbo, southern style cornbread and funnel cake
- Snags and Sons. On 30 November, they served up chorizo sausage with chipotle mayo, apple and fennel slaw, balsamic onions and smoked cheese (AU$7.50). I wrote about Snags and Sons earlier this year.
- Maison St Honore, specialising in macarons, all gluten-free, with a special flavour for Christmas – cherry. Other French sweets available, include emeraudes, friands and canneles.
- Maya Masala – Indian cuisine
- Sabor Latino with nachos, buttered corn and an indulgent treat called “elote loco” (crazy corn)
- Gift of Taste hot polish donuts (yellow van), fried to order and filled with jam
- Love & Care Cafe – authentic Malaysian cuisine. Another place to get satay. There’s also paratha or murtabak with curry, beef rendang, briyani chicken, spring rolls, curry puffs and bandung (rose syrup) drink. Love & Care Cafe is on Pier Street, Perth and at the Station Street Markets, Subiaco.
- Edo Shiki – Japanese dishes and steamed dim sum goodies
The first hour is not too bad, but as the night progresses, moving between stalls can be frustrating and the wait for food can be torturously long at the most popular stalls. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful that people have embraced and continue to support the market, but it’s not a place for you if you get stressed out by crowds. The longest queue by far is at Satay on Charcoal.
Deciding what to eat is a challenge. For the gluttons like me, the choices are mind-boggling! I recommend going to the market with hungry friends so you can share food and taste as many dishes as possible. If you’re lucky enough to pass through the city on your way home, Friday nights are looking increasingly delicious.
Street performers on stilts delight and intrigue market-goers, especially the kids.
In the lead up to Christmas, you may spot a portly bearded jolly gentleman (in his summer uniform!) with his lovely assistant.
Each week, there will be live performances at the new stage in Forrest Place. On 30 November, we were entertained by the Undercover Big Band.
There are more places to sit in Forest Place than ever before. Take refuge and chow down at the GPO building steps, or nab a stool in the centre of Forrest Place in the thick of the action, or go for the shaded bench seating around the market.
This is why I love Perth.
Twilight Hawkers Market
5pm to 9pm every Friday night
Started 16 November, runs all through summer until 26 April 2013. There’ll be short break for the festive season on 21 and 28 December, then back on again 4 January 2013.
Forrest Place, Perth City
20-30 food stalls which vary week to week.
Australian readers, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win one of two Cuisinart 1.5L ice cream makers. Closes 9pm WST (Perth time) on Wednesday, 12 December 2012.