Swag kebabs, Kai moana, and Deep-fried ice cream: Hamilton Night Market, Part 2

Check out Part 1 here, where we sample the wares at the Night Market on Friday night at The Base.

Saturday, 4:35pm

Ye-Gon’s supposed to meet Sam and Francis at the Night Market in an hour. He arrives in town way too early. The three of them are going to a fancy orchestra concert because, as previously noted, they’re a bunch of clarinet nerds. Ye-Gon realises he’s way overdressed for the night market in his suit and tie.

4:40pm

Ye-Gon finds a nice cookbook at Paper Plus.

4:42pm

Ye-Gon remembers he doesn’t like paying more than $20 on a book.

4:55pm

[New message from Ye-Gon] “I’m in town now, just a heads up”

5:07pm

[No new messages]

5:15pm

He decides to wonder over to the K-Mart carpark for some early reconnaissance. He recognises another friend and they go for a wonder to check out the scene. It’s bustling, but it doesn’t seem as packed with crowd as the last time he’s been here, which was many months ago, if not a year or more. It may just be that he’s there rather early in the night. Many of the stalls from the Friday market are making reappearances, but there are a few new novelties as well.

5:25pm

Sam arrives, and gets to work on the Chinese stall. The pork bun wounds are still fresh on his mind, and he’s out for justice. These pork buns, ($2) this time from another vendor, appear to be handmade. Naturally split on top, it’s a big change from the one at the Friday market that looked like it was stamped out of a factory. The dough is spongy and moist, almost fudgy, with a creaminess and sweetness that was missing. The filling is meaty with a nice bite.

This vendor also sells some pork and prawn siu mai, ($5) so Ye-Gon takes the occasion to introduce Sam to the art of the chili oil. A decent chunk of prawn sits on top of each one, and the meat remains juicy after the steaming. The wrapper disintegrates without effort as soon as it enters the mouth. The thing really doesn’t need any more salt or soy sauce.

The marquee next door hosts a vendor that sells chips ($2) and samosa. ($2) The chips are okay for having been sitting in the pie warmer for a while, and the samosa is crispy on the outside, and a sharp kick of heat follows seconds later in a strangely addictive way. Ye-Gon is a firm believer that samosa and onion bhaji are mostly just elements of the Expedited Tamarind Delivery System™, so he’s disappointed to hear they don’t have it.

5:35pm

The two decide to wait for Francis out in the open area.

It’s cold and drizzling.

The two decide to immediately go back inside.

5:40pm

Francis is nowhere to be seen, and the two continue to venture on. Ye-Gon sees his ol’ favourite stall; the Swag Stall, named after the ludicrous quantity of swag on their billboards that feature the two proprietors’ mugshots wearing their Oakley shades and pearly whites. It used to be three faces, and it seems the third face is still there, albeit with one face hidden behind laminated signs advertising Fijian-Indian curries. One could only speculate and contemplate upon the K-drama-worthy interpersonal conflicts and struggles that’s led to this unfortunate situation. They get the pork and chicken Swag Kebabs, and both are remarkably tender, intensely savoury, and covered in some good good goop that sticks everywhere. The pork glaze is a sweet soy-based sauce, similar to teriyaki. The chicken is sweeter still, and with a tang. Ye-Gon thinks it’s tomato-ey, and Sam thinks it’s fruity. Only two (or three) people will ever know the answer.

5:50pm

There’s an Asian gentleman who is tapping away at a teppanyaki grill. Ye-Gon inspects the offerings, and orders a donburi with pork belly, ($8) which is also served with a fried egg. He figures the chef is Korean, looking at the pre-cooked samgyeopsal meat and gochujang sauce that makes it into the stir-fry. A handful of mung beans, cabbage and some teriyaki sauce join the party, then they all end up on the bed of white rice. Incidentally, it’s the only spork sighting so far throughout the markets. It’s a novelty to watch the food getting cooked (or at least reheated and assembled) before your eyes, and it’s pretty good value.

Sam finds a stall that sells cakes and other bounties from the oven. He orders a brownie, ($3) which is topped with mini-marshmallows. It’s not bad, and the marshmallows are fun, but it’s not particularly chocolate-y. There’s a little hint of raw flour taste. There’s also Epiphany Café with a selection of donuts, but we’re saving it for a Donut Showdown. (Just casually slipping in that sneak peek.)

[New message from Francis] “be there soon(ish)”

6:05pm

The longest line of the entire market belongs to the stall selling rewena bread, paua, and varous other Maori foods. Customers know best, Sam and Ye-Gon think, and reluctantly join the queue.

6:15pm

Sam’s mussel fritter ($7) comes served inside a split fried bread like a gargantuan burger. They offer to butter his fried bread, but he figures a double bypass surgery will be cheaper than a triple. The mussel fritter is packed with big chunks of mussel, but the flavour is relatively subtle without being overly “seafoody”. It’s crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, which are two descriptors that also apply to the bread on the outside. It’s thicker and fluffier than the lángos from Friday, much closer to a fresh donut in texture, yet with a greasy, salty goodness that is the platonic ideal of the words “fried bread”.

The raw fish ($6) is on point, and the acidity is nicely balanced out by the coconut. Nothing is overpowering, and the fish is “cooked” medium, with a nice chewy bit of rawness still in the middle.

6:25pm

[New message from Francis] “Here”

6:35pm

There’s no sign of Francis.

Sam and Ye-Gon are absolutely stuffed by this point, but they soldier on to the end. Keeping in fashion, the two decide to try another strangely prepared dessert to round the night up. The deep fried ice cream ($4.50) comes with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. The crust appears to be breadcrumbs, but it contains oats, giving it a texture akin to crumble topping. It’s not overly sweet, which is actually a welcome surprise. They also offer toppings like Oreo crumbs and M&Ms for 50 silvers, which is definitely worth it.

Francis arrives at the scene, joining the party in time for one spoonful of the hot-cold concoction. And not a moment too soon; it’s time to head off to the concert. They hear Rachmaninoff No. 2 is on the menu.

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