The Carriageworks Night Market always promises an exciting, flavour-jammed night but when we heard that Kylie Kwong was curating this year’s event, excitement reached fever-pitch. The much-loved Billy Kwong chef/owner and longtime Carriageworks ambassador is famous for her authentic take on Chinese-Australian cuisine and shining the light on Indigenous Australian ingredients.
“The Night Market will celebrate and pay respect to our country's vibrant Indigenous culture,” Kwong says. “We’re excited to share the diversity of unique flavours and textures of stunning native Australian flora and fauna like warrigal greens, saltbush, wallaby, munyeroo, yabbies, desert fruits, crocodile, lemon aspen, Moreton Bay bugs, quandong, sea parsley, sea blite and karkalla. Visitors will be able to sample unmistakably Australian dishes from some of the country’s most exciting chefs.”
"The day I discovered native Australian ingredients, my life took a step all for the better."
On Friday 9 February, visitors can work their way through over 60 food, drink and produce stalls (Fred’s, LuMi Dining, Continental Deli Bar Bistro, Chat Thai, Saint Peter, Almond Bar and Kepos Street Kitchen are just a handful); catch talks by Indigenous multi-award-winning writer Bruce Pascoe; Indigenous educator Clarence Slockee; National Centre for Indigenous Excellence’s Cultural Ambassador, educator and elder Aunty Beryl Van-Oplo; and watch Dwayne Banon-Harrison conduct a traditional fire making demo while discussing the importance of fire and smoke in food.
We caught up with Kylie to get to the crux of her program and find out her top five to try.
The line-up at this year’s Night Market is incredible! What did you want to highlight?
I really wanted to make Australian native ingredients and Indigenous tradition and culture central to my theme for this year’s Summer Night Market. The invited chefs and producers are having a lot of fun and creativity with my brief, which is to incorporate native ingredients into their dish and beverage offerings.
Also, from a much more broader viewpoint, I am always asking myself, ‘How can we chefs, foodies, restaurateurs act as an instrument or lifeline through which cultural societies and biodiversity can be preserved?’ I am so delighted and excited at the delicious and innovative creations the chefs have come up with and can’t wait to share and highlight the unique tastes, flavours and textures of this country, with everyone.
How do you go about curating the program? It must be a tough gig.
It doesn’t feel tough to me actually because I am surrounded by many high quality, innovative operators whom are my colleagues in the food and beverage world, and from the art and music industries. We are just so fortunate in this country to have such an abundance of amazing local talent. I love the art of curating! I absolutely love it! I love shining the light on other people’s raw passions and talents and then bringing them altogether under the one roof, to share with everyone - it's SO much fun and deeply rewarding. The first thing I do is decide on a theme, and then I draft my ‘wish list’ of talent, and then pray that they all say yes! It's also one time in all of our busy years, that we as a cooking community can all get together and collaborate and connect, I love this energy and camaraderie.
"How can we chefs, foodies, restaurateurs act as an instrument or lifeline through which cultural societies and biodiversity can be preserved?"
It’s an exciting time for native Australian ingredients with more chefs spotlighting them on their menus. Would you agree that it’s important for chefs to consult Indigenous experts?
Yes, I would always encourage the use of native ingredients and yes, I would also advise that we chefs consult Indigenous food experts to fully understand the cultural and traditional uses and significance. When I first came across these stunning ingredients in 2010 I spent a lot of time with Mike and Gayle Quarmby as well as doing my own research on all of the different ingredients. Plus, I did lots of experimentation with my chefs in my BK [Billy Kwong] kitchen and of course, still do. I have met several amazing Indigenous people along the way including Aunty Beryl, Clarence Slockee, Josh Whiteman, Clayton Donovan, Uncle Max Harrison - all of whom have taught me immense amounts about this land, the bush foods and this country’s original Australians. The day I discovered native Australian ingredients, my life took a step all for the better. I am now able to offer my guests a truly authentic and meaningful version of ‘Australian-Chinese’ fare.
Name five to try for those short on time but after a taste of the Market...
5 x native ingredients:
- Old man saltbush
- Bower spinach
- Sea blite
5 x chef’s/ producer's dishes on offer on the night:
- Commercial sea urchin diver: Craig Shephard’s freshly harvested sea urchin roe with Josh Niland’s sea urchin yoghurt
- Biota Dining: Kangaroo bolognese toastie
- Flour & Stone: Quandong macadamia sable tart
- Billy Kwong: Steamed organic savoury pancakes with Moreton Bay bugs, munyeroo, XO, sea urchin mayo
- LuMI Dining: Kangaroo mortadella, fermented potato roll and bush tomato ketchup
Friday 9 Feb, 5pm - 10pm, $10 (free entry for children under 12).
Tickets and full program available here.