Sunday, August 7, 2011

Auckland Night Market, Pakuranga

If you love street food, the closest you can get to the experience in Auckland is at the Auckland Night Market, held weekly in Pakuranga on Saturday evenings. We first discovered this thriving bunch of stalls (not so much on the street as in the covered parking area of the Westfield mall, underneath The Warehouse) nearly half a year ago, and were totally blown away by the variety of food available.  From Philippine meals to Italian desserts, to all sorts of Chinese snacks, you couldn't help but get excited.

Lots of people at the Auckland Night Market, especially if you go at dinner time
We returned again last evening, and while some stalls have changed, there were just as many people as ever. There was even a live musical performance.

Unique Offerings

Here are some things I saw for sale yesterday, which I have not seen anywhere else in Auckland:

1) Goose eggs
[Added 14 January 2012: I have since seen goose eggs for sale elsewhere, from Dahua (79-83 Dominion Road) to the Avondale Sunday Market.]

Large goose eggs in a basket
2) Freshly pressed sugarcane juice, available for $4 a cup at a stall selling a strange mix of snacks.

Man squeezing sugarcane through a pressing machine
3) Hong Kong style gai daan jai (雞蛋仔), a.k.a. eggettes, egg puffs, bubble waffles, HK cakes, Chinese egg balls, etc.  These could do with a bit more crunch, like the best ones in Hong Kong, sold from a little store in North Point, but they had the right flavour.  Yours to try for $3.

Egg waffles as sold in Hong Kong

[Added 14 January 2012: I have now discovered these for sale in town also, from a little shop in the Mid-City Arcade called Citizen Ice Shop.  There, they charge $4 for these "QQ Egg Cakes", which were unfortunately filled with raw doughy bits.  I guess they need a bit more practice in the cooking of these waffles, but at least they cooked them to order.]

[Added 26 Feb 2013: Errm, and the Citizen Ice Shop is no more.]

[Added 20 April 2014: You can now buy "Egg Puffs" for $4 from Togoo on Lorne St. They are a bit more spongey than I am used to, but they still taste pretty good, with a bit of crunch at the edges, and an optional sprinkling of black sesame seeds.]

4) Dragon's beard candy (龍鬚糖), a.k.a. Chinese candy floss; sugar pulled into tiny strands, in this case rolled and filled with chopped nuts, dessicated coconut, etc. in front of you ($4 for a box).

Freshly rolled dragon's beard candy

You don't actually get to see the formation of the sugar strands at the market, but YouTube has an amazing video of the Korean version of this candy being made:

A Fantastic Range of Foods

Of course, there were also many items which could be found elsewhere, but which you perhaps wouldn't normally go out of your way for.  Although many of the stalls at the market were Chinese, there was a good range of specialties from different ethnic groups:

1) Sri Lankan appa, thin, bowl-shaped pancakes made from a fermented batter of rice flour and coconut milk, and filled with a topping of your choice.  These were made by the people of 7 Siri, a restaurant in Mount Roskill.  I ordered the egg one ($3), and watched as the lady oiled the pan, swirled the batter around to coat it, then cracked an egg inside.  It was delicious with the spicy sauces served on top.

Egg appa, topped with delicious spicy sauces
2) Steamed rice noodle rolls (豬腸粉), a Cantonese dish served with sesame paste, sweetened soy sauce and optionally chilli sauce ($3).  I love sesame paste!  The same stall offered combos with hot and sour soup (which was also delicious), as well as soy sauce chicken wings and fish balls, which we didn't manage to try.

Steamed rice noodle rolls, simple yet satisfying
3) Japanese takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and obanyaki; octopus balls, savoury pancakes and filled sweet cakes respectively.  There was sushi for sale too, but I guess people prefer to eat more interesting hot foods, given the option.

Piping hot takoyaki balls
4) Maori hangi, and rewena bread; a smoky mix of root vegetables, chicken, beef and pork ($8.50), and potato bread ($1 per slice).  The hangi had unique flavours, for sure, but having food pre-packaged in plastic boxes and reheated in the microwave didn't really help to sell it.  The bread was fresh and moist, but not something you really want to fill up on when there were so many other things to taste.

Hangi food stall
5) Lángos, Hungarian deep-fried flatbread ($5 - $9).  I've seen this stall before at the Grey Lynn Park Festival, and even at the Opening Day of Wynyard Quarter earlier on in the day, and it's always had huge queues.  Not here at the Auckland Night Market however, even with free samples offered, perhaps because you could buy Chinese deep-fried bread sticks for less money just a few stalls down.

Man offering a sample of langos
6)  The Chinese deep-fried bread sticks, mentioned above
It was fascinating watching the dough expanding and being twirled around in the hot oil
7) German style sausages from Fritz's Wieners, served in a bun with onion or sauerkraut. I'd noticed that their tiny Customs Street shop was no longer around, so it's good to see that they are still trading from a mobile stall.

Bavarian style sausage stand
8) Korean pancakes, at two for $5, even cheaper than the hugely popular No. 1 Pancake corner shop in town.  A variety of fillings are available, from the sweet (choco, red bean paste) to the savoury (beef, pork, potato & cheese).
Korean pancakes are tasty fresh and hot
9) Wok-fried seafood.  Not sure what kind of food this was supposed to be or whether it tasted any good, but the flames and action of the cooking definitely drew the punters in.

A dash of fire with your mussels?
Let me tell you there were many, many other stalls that I have not described.  I tried to ignore the desserts (profiteroles, cakes, frozen yoghurt with fresh fruit) and baked goods, as well as the fairground junk food like popcorn, candyfloss, potato chips, deep-fried spring rolls and mini donuts, and there were still many dishes to be tasted.

Products From Past Visits

Given the huge amount of items on offer, we weren't able to try everything that we wanted to.  Choose wisely, because something you are saving for your next visit may not be available then.  Here are some dishes that we have seen before, but which we were not able to find last night.

1) Hand-pulled noodles
Man pulling noodles for beef noodle soup
2) Fresh Malaysian satay

Malaysian satay stall
3) Chinese sticky rice dumplings (糉子), a.k.a. zongzi, wrapped in bamboo leaves.  You could choose to buy them hot (for eating immediately) or cold (for taking home) and they came in both the sweet (plain glutinous rice treated with lye water) and savoury (filled with mung beans and pork) varieties.  Unfortunately, I didn't manage to take a photo.

4) Bibimbap from a van, oddly enough sold with coffee.  I was hoping to try this last night to see how it compares to those from Korean eateries around town, but it was not there this time.

Unusual food van offering of bibimbap and coffee
5) Skewers of chocolate coated fresh fruit pieces, not that it was particularly amazing, but variety is always good.

Possible Improvements
I think the Auckland Night Market at Pakuranga is great already, but there are some things that would make it even better:

1) The atmosphere of the venue could be improved
If this could be held outdoors, or somewhere that doesn't look like a garage, it would be that much more pleasant to eat there

2) More vegetables in the offerings
Yes, there are already vegie stalls, but I am thinking a bit of greens for dinner.  The stand selling three ripe avocados for $3 made me wish for a bit of Mexican street food!  At least let me pretend I am having a somewhat balanced meal, please.

A Great Experience

Overall, I would highly recommend a trip to the Auckland Night Market.  Parking isn't an issue, as long as you are happy to walk a little, and it is definitely an experience that you won't find anywhere else in Auckland.  Don't forget to bring lots of cash (although some stalls offer Eftpos), and go with a group of friends so you can share the food and try more dishes (finding a table to sit together at could be difficult though)!  I can't tell you what stalls will be there when you visit, but you will be sure to find something interesting and delicious.

Market Details

Auckland Night Market
Westfield Pakuranga, 2 Aylesbury Street, Pakuranga

Market hours:
Saturdays 6pm - midnight

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