I am inordinately lucky to work in the Sandringham precinct, which gives me opportunities to indulge in all the delicious offerings along the predominantly Indian restaurants along Sandringham Road. I recently discovered that the Sandringham Community Centre offers monthly Food & Spice tours to showcase the cluster of ethnic eateries in the neighbourhood.
The Sandringham Food & Spice tours are run by Lisa Loveday (cook, food writer and sustainability advocate) and Anita Totha (Sandringham Community Centre Manager). They take groups of 20 on the 2 hour food discovery tour. Sandringham has a very compact centre, so the walk is a very slow amble up one side of the street and down the other. These tours are hugely oversubscribed and you have to either be on a waiting list, else be very nimble on their Facebook site.
One thing you must, MUST NOT do before coming to the tour is to have lunch beforehand. I had a lunch date just prior, so I was completely unprepared for the sheer amount of food proffered. Yes, it’s a tasting trip, but as you make your way through the 6 restaurants, punctuated by stops at spice (and vegetable) stores, the tastings do quickly add up into one quite substantial meal.
Oh, and you should remember to load an SD card into your camera. Yup, I brought my completely useless camera and had to take all the photos using my many generations old iPhone, so please excuse the photo quality.
We started off at Mumbai Chaat, which specialises in chaat, – or street snacks. The sev puri was exceptional. Puri is the small fried flat bread, sev refers to the chickpea noodle pieces. In between, you get spiced potato, chopped onion, tangy tamarind chutney and fresh coriander. We also tasted dahi puri, – filled puri, and again very tasty. Mumbai Chaat was the first place I’d seen which sells curry by the kg.
At Bawarchi, we checked out their extensive lunch offerings and tasted their chicken tikka masala. A British friend told me that tikka masala is actually a British invention!
Then to Kyber Spice Market to peruse their extensive range of spices, dairy products (yoghurt, paneer and oddly, you can also get great European feta by the slab) and pickles.
Our next stop was at Jai Jalaram Khaman for their specialty of khaman and chutney. Hitesh, the owner, explained how the dish is made. Khaman is made from chickpea flour (also known as gram flour) and the delicious chutney was made with green chillies and coriander.
Next, it was off to Valley Fruit & vege market, where we saw a marvellous range of traditional vegetables used in Indian cooking, including fresh white and red turmeric.
At 7 Siri Taste of Sri Lanka, the owner Nandasiri introduced us to Sri Lanka cuisine, and we tasted their piping hot lamb roll, marvellously crispy on the outside, encasing savoury lamb and potato. The vegetarians in the group got an appam (fermented rice pancake).
But wait there’s more. As I was struggling to finish my last mouthful of tasty lamb roll, we were off to Top in Town Takeaways, where pottles of chicken biryani with raita was waiting for us. I took this home for a very delicious dinner.
Then it was to Top in Town Market where I picked up a couple cans of mango puree to make my own mango lassi, and gawked at the myriad of bright and colourful spices.
Our final stop was at Paradise, where we were treated to Afghani kebab (spiced chicken) and sweet carrot halwa for dessert.
This was exceptional value for $30 and a perfect way to spend an afternoon. I can’t wait to come back and re-visit all the restaurants.
To get on the next tour, contact Anita at Sandringham Community Centre firstname.lastname@example.org, send them a message on their Facebook page or call 09-846 6649