I recently had the pleasure of being a guest of Noodlies and The Fairfield City Council for #fairfieldfeast, a food tour for food bloggers showcasing the Western Sydney suburb of Fairfield. All meals were free, and all meals were also, unequivocally, bloody amazing. As tomorrow is Fairfield’s ‘Culinary Carnivale’, I thought it was time to share my list of must-eats for the 2165 postcode.
Although less well known than its Viet-food-packed neighbour, Cabramatta, Fairfield is actually the most culturally diverse suburb in Australia, as a stroll around the restaurants and shops in the Fairfield ‘city’ show. Fairfield boasts Iraqi, Afghani, Chilean, Lebanese, and Lao cuisines, just to name a few.
From the city, it’s a 45 minute train trip, and everything delicious is right by the station, making for a totally walkable multicultural feast. For me, #fairfieldfeast was like eating Christmas lunch three times at six culturally diverse tables. I enjoyed every single bite.
1. Arabic bread from the Afghan and Arab Bakery
Crisp on the outside, pillowy-soft within, and only 80 cents a piece to boot. What’s not to like about this freshly baked bread? It’s perfect for soaking up any soupy, dippy or saucy goodness from the bottom of your bowl.
2. Chicken in adobo at Sans Rival (Mykababayan) Filipino Grocer
Mykababayan change their dishes regularly but the Adobe chicken is usually on offer. Moist and tender with a subtle soy/vinegar marinade, I was pretty impressed with my first taste of this well-known filipino dish.
3. Chacarero y Palta at La Paula
It’s a rare day when I come to La Paula and don’t order this combo of la Paula’s own soft buns, rich mayo, fresh tomato, pickled green beans, generous slather of avocado and tender grilled beef strips. This sambo makes most burgers out there look like a joke.
4. Bread stew and crunchy salad, Al-Dhiaffah Al-Iraqi Restaurant
This slow-cooked stew is rich and tamatoey, the lamb almost falling off the bone. The strips of arabic bread soaking in the stew give the whole thing a soft, chewy texture, and the fresh tangy salad, which seems to accompany whatever you order, is a nice contrast.
5. Banana and Jackfruit Fritters at Sans Rival (Mykababayan) Filipino Grocer
There was nothing we didn’t like at Mykababayan, but the standout for me were these crispy parcels filled with soft sweet fruit and drizzled with solid strands of toffee.
6. Felafel and Toum at Frank’s Restaurant
This is felafel at its absolute best; crunchy and delicious with vibrant green innards, slathered in Frank’s special tahini sauce. Dunk it in Frank’s homemade toum (lashings of which are sold daily), the only ingredients of which are garlic, oil and salt. A better garlicky snack would be pretty hard to come by.
6. Lao Sausage and Nem khao at Green Peppercorn
My mouth *literally* does not understand either of these dishes. The lao sausage is made by hand and is packed with lemongrass, sure, but it is granular and complex in flavour in a way I just can describe. The Nem Khao had chunks of crunchy fried rice balls as well as fresh herbs and fermented pork. I think there’s coconut in there as well. Highly addictive.
9. Torta de Tres Leches at La Paula
Tres leches means ‘three milks’ in spanish and La Paula’s version is a sandwiched sponge with whipped cream and dulce de leche in the middle, iced with meringue and soaked in evaporated and condensed milk. It’s extra delicious if you either dunk it in coffee or pour a little coffee over it. trust me.
10. Pandan Creme Brulee and Deep Fried Ice cream at Green Peppercorn
Even though these were the last two dishes we ate on this massive food tour, I could not stop eating them. The pandan creme brulee was liquid smooth and coconutty with a crisp top, while the ice cream, wrapped in filo pastry, deep fried and paired with a rich caramel sauce never seemed to melt.
Which is your favourite suburb for a multicultural feast?
For me, the holy grail of westie food, elusive and delicious, has always been La Paula. I had heard nothing but good things and it had been on my wishlist for aaaaaaaaaages. I’d even visited their nearby branch in Kingsford with their more pared-back menu and had some delicious alfajores and empanadas, but I knew it wasn’t the full experience. So I’ve been licking my lips in anticipation of Chilean sweets and fast food for some time now. A month ago, a group of us finally stopped in for a veritable feast of sweets, softly ensconced sandwiches and dulce de leche delights. No one left disappointed. Or hungry.
Someone ordered Mote con Huesillo while we ummed and aahhed over the menu. Mote con Huesillo is a chilean summertime drink consisting of dried peach, which is stewed with sugar and cinnamon, and then wheat (cooked and husked) is added. It had a pleasant cordial-like peachy taste which was not overly sweet. I can see why many Chilenos find it so addictive.
The Chacarero y Palta was calling my name. A softer-than-clouds bun housing tender beef strips, mayo, palta (avocado), tomato and pickled beans (go with it, it works). I never heard avocado referred to as ‘palta’ before, only ‘aguacate’, which is where the word ‘avocado’ originates (‘aguacate’, if you’re interested, is from the Nahuatl word for testicle). Never mind that, was it delicious? Fuck yes. Sorry chums, but there is not more appropriate word for the delicousness of soft bread, rich mayo, fresh tomato, generous dollop of avocado and tender grilled beef strips that I practically inhaled. That’s my excuse for the awful photo above; I just couldn’t wait to chow down.
Lucky I was sharing with my man, because he ordered the Lomito Completo y Palta, a similar sambo, but with pork instead of beef as well as the addition of saurkraut. The saurkraut gave the lomito a nice vinegarry hit and the pork was even more tender than the beef. Interesting that a ‘lomito’ in Argentina was a massive steak sandwich, whereas at La Paula it was pork all the way. I’d love someone to shed some light on that. Let’s go with the same excuse for my crappy photography for this shot.
The Completo Especial Palta Mayo was delicious. The completo (hot dog) is an iconic Chilean junk/street food, although it is popular all over South America, and by all accounts, this one was no slouch. Avocado and mayo go great with the soft bun, as our first two dishes proved. But, you know, third time’s a charm. Or something.
Another tasty treat was the Milanesa al Plato. Milanesa refers to breaded meat, in other words, schnitzel, and is usually beef. This one came with two fried eggs and the expected boring salad complete with white onion. We also tried a (baked) empanada de pino (boiled egg, spiced mince and olives) and an empanada de carne y queso (fried, top image) which was amazing, and the Barros Luco, a steak and cheese sandwich (below).
Oh, the sweets. My favourite, but I didn’t get a shot of it because I took it home and scoffed it with my beau, was the pastel de tres leches (triple milk cake). It’s a soft sponge with a skerrick of dulce de leche in the middle, soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. This one was iced with meringue and was a *to die for* light-as-air sponge with just the right amount of sweetness, not soggy at all. Helen over at Grab Your Fork took a great picture of it for her Timeout Sydney writeup.
I keep saying dulce de leche, but I think I should be saying cajeta (ka-het-uh), it is a Chilean bakery after all, not Argentinian or Uruguayan. Whatever the name, it’s highly addictive, and we ate it every which way. The pastry horn (below) filled to the brim is the stuff of legend, and the churro relleno (filled churro, above), still hot from the fryer, was scored with a knife and the groove filled with delicious cajeta. It’s well worth the 45 minute train ride.
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