One of the things that I have loved about Sydney is its multi-culturalism. At a recent team function with my work colleagues, I discovered that our relatively small team's collective background includes Lebanon, Syria, Italy, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Hungary, Latvia, Ireland, Scotland, England not to mention New Zealand. With so many different cultures, it means that the food on offer is wonderfully diverse. Sometimes though, you need to know where to look to find the most authentic and delicious food.
I had heard about a company that offered specialised walking tours in various neighbourhoods around Sydney, called Gourmet Safaris
. I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about different cultures, and explore new parts of Sydney, so signed up for the walking tour of Auburn, exploring the local neighbourhood and focussed on Turkish food.
Admittedly I had never heard of Auburn and didn't have any concept of what I was going to. I mentioned it to a couple of people and got some very interesting responses - "Auburn! Why on earth are you going there?"; "I've never been to Auburn myself and I've lived in Sydney all my life"; "Have you got a bullet proof vest?". Admittedly if you
were to google Auburn you might find a number of articles on recent shootings .... so it was quite a build up! Turned out these pre-conceptons were misconceptions, and having now spent a day in Auburn I can say it was fantastic - vibrant, interesting, multi-cultural - a fascinating part of the city. I would highly recommend it, it was a great day out.
We started at Mado, a Turkish cafe on Auburn's main street. We were introduced to our guides and fellow foodies, and the day began. Our guides, sisters Serap and Serpil, came to Australia in 1972 with their family. They talked to us about how the Turkish community came to be settled in Auburn, as well as some common ingredients in Turkish recipes. On our tables we had some samples to taste and try: white figs, apricots, halva, sour cherry jam, rose petal jam, pomegranate molasses....delicious! We learned about the Turkish tradition of making coffee and were entertained by the role of coffee in the marriage ceremony. Girls are taught to make good coffee, because if she can't make great coffee she'll never get a husband. We soon discover that both Serap and Serpil could moonlight
as stand-up comediennes if they chose to.
Soon we were off, first stop to the Persian baker who as well as making a yummy Persian pide had an enormous pot of lamb-based "hoof and head" soup on the go. I chose not to peer into the pot. Sometimes it's best not to know too much. From there it was more bakers, a specialty Turkish grocery store and my favourite shop - the Turkish Delight factory and store. They've extended their factory and now make chocolates as well. Heaven! I made the most of the free samples...well it would be rude not to. Everywhere we went we got to try what was on offer, explanations from the producers about the food and the customs, sometimes some recipes with demonstrations so that we could try at home, and always our delightful guides keeping us amused with their hilarious anecdotes.
Not that we needed more food, but after a couple of hours we were back at Mado for lunch. We were treated to more pide, with hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, beetroot dip, carrot dip, tabbouleh then a beautifully tender chicken and mouthwatering kofte, with a side salad with some pomegranate molasses
Sucuk (spicy sausage), cheese, eggs, cucumber, tomato, olives, and sour cherry jam. Yum!
dressing. Finally, although I didn't think I had any room left at all, I squeezed in some black mulberry ice-cream with a small slice of baklava on the side. Note to self - next time wear an elastic waistband.
Last stop of the day was an optional and non-food related trip to the local Mosque. Having never been to one before, I jumped at the opportunity. Called the Gallipoli Mosque, it was built by the local Turkish community as a much smaller replica of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It was fascinating to learn about the customs associated with Islam, which I know next to nothing about. The Mosque itself was stunning, decorated with rich colours, and beautiful, ornate coloured patterns, and lit with numerous chandeliers. It was a real treat.
I headed home on the train, laden down with my purchases from throughout the day, a smile on my face and a full belly, as I started planning my next foodie adventure. Postscript: In April 2013, I had my next foodie adventure, this time to Cabramatta, to sample the delights of Vietnamese cuisine. Read
about it here: Beef pho and spring rolls
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