Introducing Tea with the Team. In this series, we meet the souls behind the stalls as we sit down with some of our Night Noodle Markets family to discover how they landed themselves in the wonderful world of food, and why they got involved in our much-loved, hawker-style festival. From family recipes, to cultural traditions and personal favourite tasty treats – our stallholders are giving us a peek into their wok-star worlds.
We’re kicking things off with a chat to Gavin Ooi, the man behind fan-favourite Night Noodle Markets stall, May’s Malaysian Hawker.
Gavin’s passion for authentic Malaysian food is not only evident in the freshly wok-tossed dishes he serves, but in the way he lovingly describes them. There’s a real nostalgic tone woven into his descriptions that almost makes you feel as though you shared his childhood memories of being surrounded by the smoky market smells and punchy, flavour-packed street eats of Malaysia and Singapore.
So, put the kettle on and sit back to enjoy our first instalment of Tea with the Team.
Image: The May’s Malaysian team at the Night Noodle Markets.
Good Food Month: What got you into the food scene and what inspired you to start your business?
Gavin: I’ve been fortunate enough to have my roots in Malaysia and Singapore. Most of my earliest memories have been eating at many of the hawker centres where I remember sitting on low stools around large orange round tables with my family and tasting delicious, yet simple dishes that the many hawkers specialise in. It is with these fond memories, together with a passion for the dynamic nature of the food and hospitality industry that resulted in the opening up of our first restaurant in North Sydney named after my mother called “May’s Laksa House”. Through the years, the restaurant gained a large following and with it stemmed our popular street market stall that embraces the hawker spirit that is evident to this day back in Malaysia.
Good Food Month: Do you incorporate any family recipes or traditions into your dishes?
Gavin: At our stall at the Night Noodle Markets, we have condensed our large Malaysian menu down to 6 of the best sellers from our restaurant. Each of the dishes incorporate our own family recipes and also use the knowledge of traditional cooking techniques that have stayed tried and true over the years. For example, our Char Kway Teow is prepared to order using a seasoned wok, and a classical wok tossing technique is applied over an intensely powerful fire. The smoky wok-hei you taste at May’s Malaysian Hawker will quite simply take you back to Asia and is difficult to replicate with non-commercial cooking equipment.
Images: It’s all about family, and the family business. Meet the Ooi clan, and check out these droolworthy noodles from May’s Malaysian Hawker.
Good Food Month: What’s your top selling Night Noodle Markets dish and what makes it special?
Gavin: All our sizzling stir fries are enjoyed by our eager customers as soon as they slide off the wok, but I’d have to say our Mee Goreng is a firm fan favourite. We can’t produce it fast enough to satisfy their cravings and it’s quite evident that our customers just can’t get enough of these delicious noodles. We go through nearly a tonne of tasty noodles and I’m sure that it’s because they love the special smoky wok taste and saucy texture. It’s not something you would put on Instagram, but I definitely notice people always grin with content once they tuck into their yummy noodles.
Good Food Month: What made you want to be a part of the Night Noodle Markets?
Gavin: The first time I visited the Night Noodle Markets as a customer, I couldn’t believe my eyes how the entire population of Sydney turned up to Hyde Park. The sheer scale of the Night Noodle Markets and how it literally brought Sydney together in an evening filled with fun, frivolity and of course mouth-watering food was something to behold. Theres nothing quite like a noodle-filled atmosphere of happy people, live music, DJs, activations and the distinctive, delightful smoky aromas emanating from numerous sizzling woks and grills. I just wanted to be a part of this amazing hawker style event as nothing in Sydney can quite match a wonderful evening at the Night Noodle Markets. It makes everybody happy.
Image: The crowds (remember those?) at the Sydney Night Noodle Markets, ready for a feed.
Good Food Month: What’s your personal favourite Night Noodle Markets dish?
Gavin: Trust me, they’re all good! Having been wokking it up with the Noodles family for the best part of the last decade, you sort of move through and try many of the delicious cuisines the other stalls specialise in. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong, as the stallholders are very good at creating the dishes they serve up. One of my favourites would have to be those decadent hot dessert waffles, drizzled with chocolate and a very generous serving of vanilla ice cream and pretzels!
Good Food Month: Savoury or sweet?
Gavin: Sometimes I like savoury and other times I like sweet. Sometimes, I like to experience them together. Some of our recipes combine both sweet and umami elements, and these have proven themselves year upon year by our many hungry and wonderful customers who just keep coming back.
Good Food Month: If we’re keen to treat ourselves to some May’s Malaysian before the Night Noodle Markets return, where can we go?
Gavin: We’re a weekly stallholder at Chatswood Mall Markets, and also take part in many other Sydney-wide cultural and community festivals throughout the year, however, until we can get you-know-what under control, our customers might just have to wait until they get their next wok-hei fix.
If you’re like us, you’ll be hoping that it won’t be too much longer before you can slurp on those smoky wok-tossed noodle dishes from May’s Malaysian again. If you’re Sydney based, then keep an eye out at the Chatswood Mall Markets when they re-open, and you’ll of course be able to catch Gavin and the team at the Night Noodle Markets in 2022.