Last week I went to the noodle markets that overtake Birrarung Marr annually for 2 weeks during November. I was pumped, excited and ready to indulge in some delicious Asian food!! I have visited the noodle markets the past 2 years, and even went twice last year (despite living in Mornington, a reasonable distance away from the city involving a long boring commute via the not-so-great Frankston train line)
Of course, the day that Jack (the other half) and I decide to make our commute into the city for our annual night noodle market tradition, Melbourne provides us with rain and a thunderstorm! Not only that, it was one of those muggy, hot days where you just cannot escape the heat. Nevertheless, we wandered into the markets at 5pm, and to my shock I was left wondering where lots of stalls had gone. The market had massively shrunk in comparison to previous years, meaning the food variety was just not there. To be honest, I was underwhelmed, however Jack and I still tried to make the most of it.
The Hoy Pinoy stall were selling both pork and chicken skewers again this year, and they were a huge hit with Jack and I last time we went, so we made sure to grab some. I love the marinade they cook their skewers in! I then went to Wonder Bao and grabbed myself the 3 classic bao’s – barbeque, tofu and vegetable and egg custard. The barbeque was to die for- I love bao’s, and was lucky enough to experience some authentic delicious bao’s when I went to Thailand on my volunteer trip in January this year. I am not sure if the bao originates from Thailand (I think it is Chinese), regardless, the bao’s I ate in Thailand were so delicious; I was even eating it for breakfast (substituting my much loved vegemite on toast for it).
This was the extent of what I ate at the market. Jack grabbed 2 more pork belly skewers on the way out. I wasn’t that excited about the rest of the food at the markets, although I think this was slightly influenced by the fact that a massive black cloud was hovering in the distance and I did not want to get caught in the storm, so we left.
The noodle markets really got me thinking about Asian food, and how much I love Asian flavours. The Asian diet is inherently quite healthy, full of fibre due to the high vegetable content in many of its dishes, in particular cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, and its super tasty!
Research has shown us that Asian populations, particularly the Japanese, are living longer than us, with lower rates of chronic disease and cancers. This gets me (and others) thinking about the differences in their diets that may be responsible for this. It is not as simple as a singular food or drink in the traditional Asian diet leading to a lower risk of chronic diseases; it is instead the whole diet approach that the Japanese, and other Asian cultures, follow. For example, Japanese (and other Asian cultures) portion sizes are often much smaller in comparison to that consumed in the Western diet. In particular, the Japanese only eat until they are 80% full- I know that I certainly do not do that myself and love to over-indulge. Also, soybean products are consumed in higher amounts amongst Asian cultures. Soybean products contain phytoestrogens, which research suggests possess many health benefits (although there is still a bit of controversy over this one!).
Despite the awesome delicious food that one can find within Asian cuisine, some dishes can be pumped up with soy sauce and other sauces that are high in salt, so just be aware. A good point of advice: when reading the nutrition panel on the back of a sauce, <120mg per 100g is considered low in salt/sodium. Knowing this should help you find any hidden sodium sources that may be in your dish. Be sparing and mindful of the amount of sodium you may be putting into a dish, particularly if you have cardiovascular issues, otherwise just be aware but don’t be too concerned.
Time to indulge in some noodles and some bao!!