Food from Every Stall on Norwich Market – Week 1 and China Wok
This is the first week of our plan to eat at every food stall at Norwich market this year.
WEEK 1 : China Wok
Our first randomly drawn location was China Wok who have a double unit at the market with their buffet counter on the left and then a handy ledge on the right from where to eat from. I must admit to being slightly confused at first as there are two sets of options here, but in essence there’s either the choice of going for the rice or noodle base and adding three toppings, or just selecting one dish from the menu and then picking a side with that.
The market is always bustling at lunchtimes, people winding their way through the rows and trying to dodge the pigeons which are getting ever braver. Fortunately, the seagulls are still too frightened to enter the inner sanctum of the market and long may that continue. First impressions were though positive here, it had a steady trade and they seemed to be loyal customers who knew what they were doing.
Nathan went first as he was particularly hungry and ordered sweet & sour chicken with noodles and they offered him an extra meat dish, so he went for the salt & pepper chicken as well. I then started to wonder whether I was getting the concept right, so slightly tentatively ordered my rice and salt & pepper chicken from the upbeat staff member. I wasn’t offered anything else, which threw me slightly as I had started to feel my options were quite dry and I had been eyeing up some of the chicken in black bean sauce. However, the staff member was enthusiastically loading up my tray with salt & pepper chicken and that didn’t seem a bad thing, especially as she was trying to cram in as much as she reasonably could and what customer would baulk at that? That meant no great loss, I just ended up with a lot more of the same thing, but as that’s what I ordered it would be hard to complain about that. And indeed, I don’t think think that the staff member would have been at all concerned at whatever a customer wanted within their tray, it had that nicely informal feel.
It came to £6.50 which seemed reasonable given the cost of other hot meals in fast food venues in and around the market, although as with many other locations there’s been a bit of a price rise here over recent months. One limitation that I feel the need to comment on is that they don’t accept cards, just cash. I fully accept that there’s right to do as they choose, but I don’t generally carry cash (I was prepared for the purposes of these visits, I’m not a heathen) and so just as my own personal preference it’s unlikely that I’d ever return here just because I’d have to take some time to find a cash machine. That might only take five or ten minutes depending on the queue, but in that time I would have made a decision to go to Lucy’s as I’m a creature of habit. Given how many people I know take the same approach (with wanting to pay by card, not being obsessed with chips, battered sausage and scraps from Lucy’s), I assume that this venue is already busy enough and they don’t need the hassle which is understandable. Ultimately, if a venue is taking all the money it needs and maintaining a strong customer base, I fully respect their decision not to go after new trade if things are going absolutely find as they are.
There’s Nathan’s selection of noodles, sweet & sour chicken and salt & pepper chicken. I recall he felt that it was entirely agreeable, although he came to the conclusion before ordering that it was easier to eat noodles than rice. I’d also like to note that paper napkins are provided, always handy. We also had this standing space to ourselves, so I could concentrate on listening to Nathan’s witty and charming conversation rather than feeling barged out of the way by people nearby.
And my rice and salt & pepper chicken. It wasn’t as dry as I had briefly feared after ordering, the rice seemed freshly made and so had a fluffy and moist feel to it. The chicken was served as a large portion and I liked the taste, although there was minimal evidence of the pepper, just the salt although that wasn’t overpowering. The chicken was perhaps just a little firm rather than tender, but not to the point of being problematic and the exterior was crunchy, but I did think more pepper would have worked well here. All very acceptable though, filling and tasty comfort food is something that a market stall should be getting right, as they did here.
I did like the separate eating area, there are a limited number of locations on the market which are able to offer this, but it does make matters much more convenient. Nathan has reminded me that the Garnet, the pub by the market, allows food to be brought in at lunchtimes and so that’s a possibility in future as well. It was clean and tidy at the stall, with everything ordered and seemingly well managed. All in all, I thought that this was a suitably positive first week of visiting all the stalls and the staff were all most welcoming.