The Food Episode
Back home, the streets were never really made for walking, with grotty public transportation and consistently hot climate. While it didn’t really limit the paths I could take (taxis were much cheaper), it made “random” encounters to a restaurant, bistro or specific café require planning to an extent, and random discoveries to eateries are unseen aside from the ones that are located inside shopping centres. Melbourne, with its push towards public transport and temperatures that aren’t consistently above 30 degrees Celsius allowed me to walk every day, either within campus, around the CBD, or even the odd trips to North and West Melbourne for some bargain tech hardware. This also allowed me to just explore the city for various things that sounded good, and end up being a unique experience.
If you’ve followed me since the beginning of the year while living in Melbourne, you’d probably have already agreed that Melbourne has a veritable smörgåsbord of styles when it comes to cuisine. You’d see Aussie meat pies just across the road from a Mexican taqueria, which is a stonethrow away from an Indonesian bistro, next door to Chinatown, which has an Italian restaurant on the adjacent Russell Street. This is not including the alternate diets you’d find within easy commute (more on this shortly). With a mix of cultures there’s bound to be an exchange of culinary tastes, and Melbourne seems to have brought out the best in them, with something for everyone.
Coming from a particular country and miss the taste of home? Want to try something very different to what you’re used to? From Indian dals, Falafels, to Italian linguine and Southern deep-frieds, there’s so many to try if you’re willing to walk around. If you’re not an Aussie native, there’s plenty of simple stuff very much worth trying, such as the beef pies (or pies filled with anything savoury, really), desserts like Golden Gaytimes or Lamingtons, and outright weird stuff like Kangaroo meat and Vegemite.
While it’s not exactly a taboo to try alternative diets back home, there really isn’t many places that cater to vegan/paleo diets, and would generally suck at it when they do. Here, however, there’s almost always a vegan/vegetarian option around the corner, and restaurants dedicated to promoting alternate diets with cheap vegetarian buffets, acai berry juices and more! Every few weeks (used to be more often), I’d eat at a cheap vegan place over on Swanston Street. The all-you-can-eat model and Indian fare are the ultimate pull factors for me.
Aside from those two specifics, there’s way more foodstuffs you can find that are weird but wonderful. Edible ice cream scrolls? scrolls with savoury fillings? Savoury crepes? crepes with praline nuts? Praline nuts on a street cart? I’d be lucky if I find a Cinnabon back home (matter of fact, I think the franchise back home went out of business). A lot of food chains here aren’t afraid to try something new and unique, and I see many are willing to try and come back if they are truly delicious (of which most of them are). Once again, many fares in the CBD alone are so diverse, I can walk down from Melbourne Central to Federation Square along Swanston Street, pick up several small meals to-go style from various different eateries, and call it dinner.
It’s probably because I don’t get out much before moving here, but all in all, Melbourne is indeed a great place to try new flavours and styles. Not only do you get out of your normal ‘comfort zone’, but you can also end up with something you really like to broaden your palate. While the best way to start is to just walk in to a weird food place you never hear about (barring any allergies, and the busier generally the better), as a UniMelb student you already have the perfect place to sample varying cuisines every Wednesday, down at the Farmers’ Market. You can also talk to them and find out if they have more permanent restaurants/bistros that they serve at, in case you want to sample their fare often.
Yay, another Tuesday post!