The canopy of lanterns have been hung. The giant lucky cat is about to be inflated. The Enlighten Night Noodle Markets are back – and they've doubled in size this year.
For nine days starting on Friday, Canberrans can get their fix of noodles and Asian street food while taking in Enlighten, the festival of colour and light in the Parliamentary Triangle. (On the 10th day they can still have a Sunday session at the final day of the noodle markets).
This year's Enlighten festival features a collection of giant seven-metre tall rabbits from artist Amanda Parer, stiltwalkers in solar-powered bug costumes, aerial circus, and the trademark colourful light projections on the walls of galleries, libraries and other institutions.
Meanwhile the noodle markets feature more stallholders from Canberra, including Japanese Peruvian dishes from food truck Mr Papa, a "street boodle" from Filipino restaurant Kusina and lobster rolls from Lilotang and Chairman and Yip.
Other returning vendors include the very popular N2 Extreme Gelato, who have collaborated with cult Sydney bakery BlackStar Pastry to do an extravagant "cake smash" dessert involving strawberry watermelon cake and gelato.
There are also bright pink "ramen fried chicken" burgers from Melbourne food truck Everybody Loves Ramen, Filipino skewers from Hoy Pinoy and bao from Sydney's Bao Stop truck.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr encouraged Canberrans to head out to Enlighten and the noodle markets for a night out.
"The Night Noodle Market was an amazing success in 2015 which has lead to us growing the event this year to cater for more people," he said.
"This is a great time of the year in Canberra with so many opportunities to enjoy our city. I encourage Canberrans to once again come along to the Night Noodle Markets in 2016."
When the Enlighten Night Noodle Markets arrived in Canberra for the first time last year, more than 150,000 people – equivalent to half of the city's population – went through the gates to sample noodles, dumplings, bao, and extreme gelato.
They ate their way through 25,000 gyoza, 258 kilograms of Nutella and thousands of serves of noodles.
The noodle markets are run by Fairfax Media, publisher of The Canberra Times, and are part of The Canberra Times Good Food Month, which features more than 30 events at restaurants across March.
Fairfax Events' head of food James Laing said the event had doubled in size after the long queues of the first markets last year.
"We're looking forward to bringing the markets back to Canberra after last year's inaugural event. We probably underestimated the local appetite for this event in year one and as a result we struggled to cope with the sheer volume of patrons," he said.
"This year we've doubled the size of the event and brought in a host of new stallholders, many of them local businesses who have been keen to be a part of the energy and excitement that is the Enlighten Night Noodle Markets."
Enlighten and the Night Noodle Markets begin on Friday, March 4. Enlighten runs until March 12. The Night Noodle Markets run until March 13.
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