Eat Drink Perth: Twilight Hawker Market
The first Twilight Hawker Market was held last night in Forrest Place in the city as part of the Eat Drink Perth festival. The market will be on every Friday night in March, 5pm to 8pm.
It was a hot, sticky evening but the small market of ten or so stalls created a fantastic atmosphere, serving up home-style street food with international flavours to entice and delight the crowd of enthusiastic food lovers and curious onlookers.
Our first stop was at Marcelita’s Colombian empanadas, where Matt was busy taking orders, with his wife Marcela (head empanada chef), dad and friends hard at work making and frying the empanadas to order.
The empanadas are made with masa (maize flour), which is gluten-free, and filled with either: smoked beef brisket with potato and capsicum; pulled pork with lime and coriander; or potato with paprika and spring onion. They are AU$3 each or for $10 you get three empanadas with a sauce. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to stop at one!
We chose the pork and lime empanadas with fresh guacamole. You have the choice of two sauces – fresh guacamole or romesco (roasted capsicum sauce). The sauces are $1.50 if purchased separately.
Freshly deep-fried and piping hot, this isn’t finger food, it’s fingertip food! The pork inside was moist and tender, the corn pastry pillow light and deliciously chewy. The creamy fresh guacamole tasted strongly of lime and was finger-sucking good. In the great tradition of corny movie lines, I’d say to the pork and lime empanada: “you complete me.” And then I’d eat another one.
The empanadas are made to order, ensuring that the masa dough/pastry doesn’t dry out and they are at their freshest and best. As the crowd grew, the waiting time got longer, but the empanadas were well worth the wait. Matt assured us next time they plan to have more fryers on the go.
Next stop: satay. The aroma of chicken satay cooking on the charcoal fire was mouthwatering! I watched the cook basting the satay using the traditional brush made of sticks of fresh lemongrass dipped in oil, flipping sticks on the grill and using a rattan fan to control the smoke and flames.
The satay stall probably had the best aroma as well as the longest queue. As quickly as the satay sticks were pulled fresh off the grill, they were placed into cups and topped with chunky peanut sauce. AU$7 for five sticks and sauce.
The satay had a delicious authentic charry flavour. We found a spot to sit by the fountain opposite the GPO building where we ate, stalked by hungry seagulls.
The paella stall drew a crowd too, with its enormous paella pan loaded with rice, chicken and seafood, bubbling away and smelling wonderful. Many pairs of hungry eyes watched greedily as raw king prawns were added to the pan, followed by mussels.
The pan of cooked paella was lifted off the burner to be served to the hungry masses for AU$10 a bowl, while a second pan of paella was immediately put on to cook.
We missed out on the first batch of paella, but Juji waited patiently in the line for the second batch. Alas – by the time she got to the front of the line, they had just about run out. She must’ve looked devastated (I know I was, when she got back to tell us what had happened), because the woman serving took pity on her and gave her “sampler” serve of scrapings of the paella pan for $5. No mussels, clams, crab or prawn, but we got a piece of chicken, squid and a bit of pork. The rice was perfectly cooked, rich and flavoursome, and after demolishing the sampler, we were all devastated to have missed out on the real thing! I hope next time they’ll come prepared to cook up more than two pans.
Dracula Catering served up Romanian cuisine, something we don’t see a lot of around Perth. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back in time to try the mici (grilled mince roll with mustard).
I tried a sampler of their zacusca relish with cheese on a piece of bread. It was very good, sweet and spicy but not hot. They sell it by the jar for $7. Next time, Twilight Hawker Market, I have a date with Dracula. I just realised – Twilight, vampire…haw haw!
Catering company Red Hot Spatula served up a selection of Asian-inspired street food.
They had beef curry with roti prata, hoisin glazed chicken (inspired by Peking duck) served in a crispy wantan cup with coriander and cucumber, and vegetarian fried spring rolls with a choice of sweet chilli, caramelised soy or tangy plum sauce. Sadly, we didn’t get there quickly enough and missed out!
Next to Red Hot Spatula was Smokey Jack’s, serving up Bedouin cuisine, featuring Marrakesh pizza bread, chickpea tajin served with bread wedges and chicken tajin with cous cous. There was another stall called Diablo’s Oven, serving up Spanish pintxo. Next time, next time. What’s pintxo?
I used to eat gozleme regularly when I worked in Subiaco a few years ago. This photo was taken before the hoards of hungry people swarmed the stall.
The Spiral Spud – deep-fried spiral-cut potato on a stick (AU$4) was very popular. I guess even when there are other more interesting foods available, many people can’t go past the allure of deep-fried potato! The display spiral potato on a stick made me laugh.
For those in need of something refreshing and cooling, the Waikika Moocow frozen yoghurt and dessert stand served up fresh fruit yoghurt, smoothies and slushies.
This jolly accordion player wandered around belting out accordion’s greatest hits.
The Bizircus stilt chefs and a juggler on a unicycle entertained the crowd.
Around the corner on the west end of the Murray Street mall there was a City Food Fair, where city food retailers set up stalls too – but for me, the atmosphere and food was nowhere as enticing and exciting as the Twilight Hawker Market.
Stalls at the City Food Fair included: Edo Shiki, Reef & Beef, Satay Spot, Jaws Sushi, Acropolis Now, Thali, Burger Edge, Jean Pierre Sancho, Jaws Sushi, Pasta House and Delisio. While we waited for empanadas and satay, Jac sneaked off and grabbed dumplings at the Edo Shiki stall. First, har gow (steamed prawn dumplings)…
…and later on, siew mai (steamed pork dumplings). They were very hot, juicy and porky!
Since the stalls we wanted to try had run out of food, we went back to the empanada stall, which was still pumping out the orders to a crowd that had not diminished. We got beef empanadas with guacamole and more pork and lime empanadas, this time with romesco sauce.
By the time I took the photo below, just after 7.30pm, there was still a good crowd and lots of people queuing up for food, both in Forrest Place and on the mall, but food stalls were running noticeably low on food. A few little birdies told me the empanada stall kept on going, after an emergency run for more avocado and lime!
Congratulations to the City of Perth for putting on this great event. If the crowd was any indication, Perth is ready with a voracious appetite for more regular hawker-style food markets! I think the number of people that turned up to the Twilight Hawker Market took some of the stall holders by surprise.
I had a good time and thought it was worth going, though you needed patience and perseverance to deal with the crowd and queues. I shall remember this as the night I fell in love with pork and lime empanadas – they are pretty special. We met up with a few food blogger and Twitter friends too.
Things I hope the organisers/stall holders address for the next Twilight Hawker Market:
- Spread the stalls out a bit more in Forrest Place to make more room for food stall queues and allow better flow of market traffic.
- City of Perth should consider setting up some tables and chairs for diners in the large empty space between GPO and fountain (the entertainers could perform there too) so the busiest areas of the market will be less congested. Eating at markets is very social, so it would be good to have places set up for people to hang out and catch up with their friends – where they can be close to the action yet not in the way of food stall traffic.
- Some of the stalls barely made it to twilight before running out of food! We’d have stayed longer at the Twilight Market and kept on eating if stalls hadn’t run out of food.
Update: Check out the reader comments at my Facebook page, and Matt’s (Marcelita’s Empanadas) response, as one of the stall holders. The organiser of the event, Sally Lewis, has also sent me an email, assuring me that they will work on making the market even better this week. They had no idea how popular the market would be and the stallholders all wished they’d brought more supplies/staff to feed all the hungry people who came along. Sally’s also posted on my page wall. Thanks, Matt and Sally!
Read my post about the final Twilight Hawker Market – there were improvements!
Did you go to the Twilight Hawker Market? I’d love to hear what you thought. What was your favourite food? What stall/food wasn’t at the market that you wish had been there?
The Twilight Hawker Market is part of the City of Perth’s Eat Drink Perth festival. The market is on every Friday in March, 5pm to 8pm in Forrest Place (at the intersection with Murray Street mall) in Perth city. The City Food Fair was on 4 March only.
My Eat Drink Perth posts
- Eat Drink Perth 2011
- Twilight Hawker Market
- Amusé Project
- The final Twilight Hawker Market… or was it?
- Claisebrook Carnivale, East Perth