Man, I just have to wax lyrical for a mo about the suburb where I work.
Springvale, in Melbourne's south.
It is a veritable melting pot of cultures. It's nothing to see women in full hijabs buying rambutams from a Viet grocer and Somali women if full, bright colourful regalia taking kids wearing Reeboks to school
We have the best of everything here, we really do. Last week I had fresh Pad Thai from a little shop called "Hungry Kebab".. the name is a legacy from the previous owners, who really DID make the best kebabs in town... At Hungry Kebab, you can get Massamun beef, papaya salad, Pad Thai and a selection of other stuff for $8 a serve.. and it's all freshly made there in front of you.
Further up in the shopping centre, you can get pho from the myriad of Viet Noodle shops and every bakery (and there are plenty) sells a different variation on banh mi.
If you're not keen on that, you can pick up a serve of chickens feet or braised duck, add in a darn tart or two and still walk away with change from $10.
And then there's Breadtop for lotus buns and green tea scones.
The latest offering is from Bella Africa (across the road from Breadtop). I have been meaning to try it since it opened a month or so ago, but today I made the effort to avoid the idiot drives, fight for a park and sally forth.
I was initially worried when I got to the counter and saw the special of the day was "egg and bocon (sic) on toast with mushrooms" and they had a fine range of fish and chips or hamburgers. (no-one in Springvale easts hamburgers ANYWHERE other that Hippo's, a bit further up the road, BTW)
The lovely African guy behind the jump must have sensed my confusion, as he asked if he could help and I told him I wanted "African food".
His eye lit up and he led me out the back to a bain marie full of new and delectable treats.
He explained that they've just started out and there isn't a lot of call for Ethiopian foods just yet, so they mainly sell fish and chips and **gulp** deep fried Mars Bars, until they get established.
What he was showing me was wat... the typical Ethiopian stew. I have to confess I was getting all a bit unnecessary as I have only read about Ethiopian food in Wilbur Smith novels and on Food Lovers Guide to Australia...
I asked him if the wat came with injera and he nearly doubled over with glee, that a white Aussie woman would even KNOW what injera is!!!
Apparently his wife makes it from traditional keff (sp) just like back home.
So back to work I came with some beef wat, some chicken wat, some injera and some Ethiopian vegies, prepared to take my wat virginity!!!
I can't tell you how good this stuff is...it's like nothing I've ever had before.. It looks like Indian, but tastes like.... ummm... NOT indian.... There is a slightly sour note to the veggies... a good sour that is, and there seems to be some sort of lentils in there, maybe some cinnamon with a vinegar sour... It's really REALLY good.
The wat is rich and tomatoe-y without being anything like anything I've ever tried before.
The injera's are huge... and bubbly... like enormous flat crumpets, and they have a noticabley sour flavour that compliments everything. The look like big, flat tripes!!!
So, there you have it... lunch today.
Next week, I think I'll go Laotian!!!