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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bankstown Bites: Tantalising Tea

Two months ago, I headed west for the first ever Bankstown Bites festival. Five different themed food tours were run throughout the day and I wasted no time in signing up for three of them.

I had been through Little Lebanon, enjoyed some European Eats, and now I was ready to wash it all down with some Tantalising Tea.

First stop: Izvor Deli


Yup, we were back here although this time Gordica was ready to tea-off with a couple of brewed beverages. A trained biologist, Gordica was dismissive of flavoured herbal teas: "Nothing inside them," she complained. "Just water and artificial flavour. Nothing good for you."

Instead she led us the unique properties of various medicinal teas. Marshmallow tea (the dried herb, not the gelatin sweet) was excellent for asthma.

We gratefully held out our Chinese tea cups (supplied free to all tour participants) for samples of blueberry tea (Excellent for red blood cells! Gordica advised) and Mother of Thyme tea (good anti-baterical properties).

Both were surprisingly tasty. The blueberry tea (the darker one) was quite sweet and very fragrant. The Mother of Thyme tea was soothing and calming.

Next stops: Vien Dong Herbal Centre and Hang Seng Herbal Centre


Chinese herbal shops have always been intriguing to me. There are the floor-to-ceiling drawers, each containing something dried, herbal, smelly or a combination of all three. The little old-fashioned scales which the ever-serious herbalist uses to create a multi-textured mound of mystery. Jars of dried and shrivelled-up who-knows-what. And of course that all pervasive smell which hits you within a five-metre radius.

Vien Dong Herbal Centre has been in Bankstown for 20years and offers traditional Chinese medicine, acupunture and herbs. Kim Ly beams as she pours us samples of chrysantheum tea with licorice root (Good for counteracting "heat", but avoid if you have low blood pressure, she warns).

Next we head down the road and into the tiny Vietnam-like TK arcade. It's cramped, there are fluoresecent lights everywhere and you could barely swing a cat in here. ie. it's great!

At the Hang Seng Herbal Centre, we savour another sample of chrysantheum tea with licorice root (the aniseed adds a pleasant aftertaste) as we examine the variety of pre-packaged herbal concoctions as well as herbal soup mixes. I've used these herbal soup packages before to make soup, but our tour guide gives us a tip that they make a great casserole base for cooking chicken or vegetables too.

Then the tour's over and I am released back amongst the crowds, community performances and general festivities. And of course the food as well. The most intriguing stall I spotted was this one, where a woman was rolling out dough and cooking them on a heated dome as she gave a generous sprinkling of oregano.



The dough slowly bubbled as it cooked although the painfully slow production process meant I gave up waiting.

But--even better--I found the shop from which the stall had come from. And they were selling these Lebanese oregano pizzas for only $1, which was half that of the stall's price.

The shop was Abba's Eatery and of course I couldn't resist buying one. As luck would have it, they were just taking a fresh batch of oregano pizzas out of the oven.



The pizza is folded into three, wrapped in a sheet of greaseproof paper and popped in a paper bag. Tasting much like a thin crispy pizza, the base was slightly crunchy, the middle was soft and chewy, and the top was drenched in a generous crust of oregano, toasted seame seeds and sumac (similar to zaatar but with sesame seeds).

Divine. And all for $1. How do they do it?

There were other options: spinach, cheese, meat, meat and cheese at prices ranging from $1.50-$3.50. But this one dollar treasure tasted pretty good to me.

I'd had but a few bites of Bankstown, but I'd be back. With renewed appetite. And a bigger stomach.


Performers from the Chinese Cultural group

Izvor Deli
Shop 20 Compass Centre, North Terrace, Bankstown, Sydney
Tel: 02 9793 7056

Vien Dong Herbal Centre
50 Bankstown City Plaza, Bankstown, Sydney
Tel: 02 9790 6989

Hang Seng Herbal Centre
Shop 2, TK Arcade, 324 Chapel Road, Bankstown, Sydney
Tel: 02 9796 4675

Abba's Eatery
Shop 2 / 83 North Terrace, Bankstown, Sydney
Tel: 02 9709 2350

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Bankstown Bites: Little Lebanon
Bankstown Bites: European Eats

4 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (AugustusGloop) on 8/30/2005 11:59:00 pm


4 Comments:

  • At 8/31/2005 8:37 am, Blogger Kelly said…

    A tea tour! How fun! And that pizza looks great. I would love to have one for "second breakfast" right now :)

     
  • At 8/31/2005 3:54 pm, Blogger pseudo chef said…

    The teas sound interesting - especially Mother of thyme.

    Even though I grew up with regular visits to the Chinese medicinal shops, I could never stomach the concoctions you brew from the prescribed herbs they give you.

     
  • At 8/31/2005 6:55 pm, Blogger deborah said…

    mmm I love zaatar on my bread like that too. there is a loal bakery which does the oregano/zaatar with fresh tomaro, onion, olives and mint on the softest bread... mmmm great sunday breakfast!

     
  • At 8/31/2005 9:10 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Kelly - The whole day was fun-filled with all the tours. I certainly discovered a few more shops!

    The pizza was delicious. In fact, I've become addicted to them. They're so tasty!

    Hi Pseudo Chef - I've never had to pleasure (?!?) of Chinese medicines, although I've heard much about them from complaining friends! =)

    Hi Saffron - Oh yum. That sounds delicious! I actually bought some zaatar that day but I keep on forgetting to use it!

     

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