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Taste of the Top End – Rapid Creek Markets

Rapid Red Paw PawMost people know of the Mindil Beach Markets in Darwin.  On Thursday and Sunday nights, they’re a bit on an institution.  But have you heard of the Rapid Creek Markets?  Located in small non descript suburban ‘business village’ painted a suitably tropical aqua, it is Darwin’s oldest market, specialising in Asian fruit and vegetables, fresh ingredients, snack and sweets.

My word!  We had not walked five paces before I was buying a fresh, home made steamed pork bun for $3, which we sensibly shared.  It was enormous, with a pork filling that had all the traditional flavours plus half an egg but with none of the red food colouring.  The stall holder tried to convince us to buy one of the steamed chicken buns as well and leave it to pick up later, telling us they sell out quickly but we chose to save our appetite for the next treat.

This turned out to be only five more paces on where we bought an ice block made on fresh fruit, from the guy who was also doing a roaring trade in green coconut drinks with their tops sliced off and a straw inserted.  The tiny icy treats were in a clever contraption I’ve never seen (though they are probably common in the streets of SE Asia).  A round metal barrel (looking all for all the world like a steamer) contained small metal moulds standing in a purpose built tray, cooled with ice from below.  The ice blocks were plucked from the ice, dipped in hot water and slid out of the mould.  Simple and efficient.  A snip at $1 each.

Iceblock Trio Rapid Iceblocks 2 Rapid snake beans 2 Rapid Asian veges 4

It was time to get serious though.  I had limes and mint to buy as well as some snake beans.  Twenty paces later I was waylaid by the first of the sweet stalls.  More sticky rice than you can imagine.  It was an array of glutinous rice flavoured with pandan, palm sugar, kaffir lime, coconut and a wild array of very artificial colourings.  We opted for a mixed bag of sweet potato, banana and coconut fritters to fortify us for our continued market crawl as well as a take home pack of rice desserts.
Sweet Rice trio

Ten paces on we stopped to order some Thai green paw paw salad ($5).  Made freshly in front of us in a huge mortar and pestle, it was full of all sorts of good things including salt, palm sugar, peanuts, chilli (one was enough), tomato, fish sauce, sugar syrup, lime juice, fried shallot and of course, green paw paw.  Tart, spicy, light and refreshing, this salad and the rice desserts became our lunch the next day in Litchfield National Park.

Rapid paw paw salad prep

Rapid paw paw salad sign

Rapid paw paw salad ingredients

Litchfield NP, Northern Territory

By now my sister-in-law had come to hunt us out as she had finished her shopping.  What?  We were only halfway down the main corridor of the market.  Time to pick up the pace and grab a vege samosa to keep us going.  As we rounded the corner, I spied the limes I was after (yellowing and juicy, not green and hard) – a bag of eight for $2.

Rapid samosa 2
Around the next corner and into the carpark which serves as the real ‘food court’ of the markets.  We stopped at a juice bar for a huge mango and lime juice blended with crushed ice for $5.50.  As I cast my eye down the length of the carpark I realised we had wandered into ‘juice alley’ with every stall holder competing on fantastical combinations of tropical fruit, juice, icecream, milk and spices.  So hard to resist!
Juice Trio
We were there barely an hour and the experience was totally unexpected.  The fruit and veges on offer were from true market gardeners who had a few bags of this and a little of that.  It took me a while to hunt down the mint as only a few stall holders had it (luckily I had that samosa to keep me going) and my purchase of a bunch just about cleaned out the market.  I certainly wasn’t expecting so many food items prepared on the spot and it was all so cheap!  A final container of takeaway Chicken Pad Thai $7.50 and it was off to the car for a late lunch at home.
Rapid Asian veges 1
Rapid Asian veges 2

Rapid Creek Markets
48 Trower Rd
Millner   NT   0810 (northern suburb of Darwin – 20 mins from CBD)
Fri: 3pm – late & Sun: 6.30am – 1pm

The number 4 bus travels from Darwin to Casuarina via Rapid Creek every 30 minutes on Sundays

4 comments… add one
  • Lizzy (Good Things) June 16, 2013, 5:04 pm

    Loved these markets too, Fiona…. so much beautiful produce!

    • Fiona Bris-Vegas! June 16, 2013, 6:23 pm

      I really, really enjoyed this one Liz. Very casual, under cover, bargain prices….and of course, great food!

  • Brooke - Little Miss Moi June 17, 2013, 5:40 pm

    This is a great review. I used to live in Darwin and we went there every Sunday. After a while I guess I really did take it for granted. The mango season starts in September and lasts for about 2 months – you wouldn't believe how cheap they are at the markets. Sadly after the mango season there isn't much produce until Feb/March. We went back to Darwin for a long weekend a couple of weeks

    • Fiona Bris-Vegas! June 18, 2013, 8:16 pm

      Hi Brooke – You do get around! I love mangos too so luckily we have a good supply in Brisbane though I suspect not as cheap as they would be in Darwin. Thanks for visiting and for also following on Twitter.

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