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Friday, July 01, 2016

Ramadan Food Festival, Lakemba

Camel burgers, deer burgers and fresh camel milk at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney

If there's ever a time to visit Lakemba, it's now. Every evening Ramadan night markets transform the main strip of Haldon Street into a convivial food festival. Families, young kids and teenagers roam the footpaths crowded with charcoal barbecues, juice stands and food stalls.

Everywhere you look, there's something happening. The hiss of fat hitting charcoal. Plumes of steam rising from a large pot of sahlab hot milk. The rhythmic motion of paratha dough being teased and stretched into billowing silk. Bright orange batter piped into swirls in a vat of shimmering oil to make jalebi.

It's Ramadan. For Muslims this is a holy month that includes intense prayer and fasting from dawn until dusk. When the sun sets, prayers are followed by iftar, a feast shared with family and friends to break the fast.

Grilled corn and bbq skewers cooking over charcoal at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Barbecued corn

The night markets at Lakemba have been happening throughout Ramadan. They start setting up at 4pm and trade through until 3am. The best time to visit is 8pm-9.30pm when the stalls are in full swing.

I've visited a couple of times over the past week and can't believe it's taken me this many years to visit. The markets have been running for over 10 years although they have never been advertised through any formal media channels. It just happens. Over the past couple of years, Canterbury City Council has regulated the markets with mandatory food and safety permits for all stall holders.

Chicken doner kebab at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Chicken doner kebab

While the food festival has been designed for Muslims observing Ramadan, it's open to everyone. All the stall holders I encountered were friendly and welcoming. It's a delicious mix of cuisines too, with Palestinian stallholders next to Lebanese next to Indian next to Pakistanis.

The most difficult thing I found was having enough stomach space to eat everything. Go with a couple of mates, rug up against the cold (or jostle with locals holding their hands over the charcoal barbecues), carry cash, and arrive hungry.

Here's a photo essay of what you can expect.

Lamb doner kebab at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Lamb doner kebab

Camel burgers cooking over charcoal at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Camel burgers

Sesame kaak with the haloumi cheese on the charcoal barbecue at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Sesame kaak with haloumi cheese on the charcoal barbecue

Sesame kaak is awesome. The haloumi cheese goes super stretchy and the charcoal barbecue adds a terrific smokiness. I came home with a bag of five buns pre-assembled and ready to grill at home. 
Seekh kebabs cooking over charcoal at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Seekh kebabs 

Lamb kebabs and tandoori chicken kebabs cooking over charcoal at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Lamb kebabs and tandoori chicken kebabs

Naan bread cooking in a tandoor oven at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Naan bread cooking in a tandoor oven

Parata menu at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Parata menu

Stretching out parata dough at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Stretching out freshly flipped parata dough

Cooking parata on the grill at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Parata on the grill

Fluffy parata at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Scrunched and flaky parata 

This parata was seriously good.

Adding egg mixture into martabak dough at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Patting egg mixture into martabak dough

Folding martabak dough into a square pocket at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Folding the martabak dough into a pocket

Kebabs cooking over charcoal at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Kebabs cooking over charcoal

Cooking chicken and cheese saaj at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Chicken and cheese saaj

Crisp chicken and cheese saaj at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Folding the saaj over into a pie

Sahlap hot milk drink stand at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Sahlab stand

Sahlab is a thickened sweet milk that comes dusted with cinnamon. The sahlab flour comes from wild orchid root, the same ingredient used in dondurma Turkish ice cream. You can buy boxes of the sahlab powder at most Lebanese grocery stores. It's such a comforting drink in winter, with a viscosity reminiscent of Spanish hot chocolate.

Gaja halva grated carrot dessert at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Gajar halwa, grated carrot dessert

Deep frying fresh jalebi at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Deep frying fresh jalebi

Jalebi at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Jalebi fried dough coils soaked in saffron sugar syrup

Knafeh at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Knafeh

Knafeh with syringes filled with sugar syrup at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Knafeh with syringe shots of sugar syrup

Palestinian-style knafeh with saffron at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Palestinian-style knafeh with saffron

Knafeh dessert at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney
Knafeh 

Gloriously good. And large enough to share between 2-3 people!

Locals at the Ramadan food festival in Lakemba Sydney


Ramadan runs from 6 June to 5 July, 2016.

The Ramadan food festival runs every night from 4pm to 3am. Restaurants and shops also tend to be open during this time (they may close from sunrise to sunset).

Food stalls are set up along Haldon Street near Lakemba rail station, between The Boulevarde and Gillies Street. Some nights you will also find stalls along Railway Parade.


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Lakemba - El Manara
Lakemba - Island Dreams Cafe
Lakemba - Jasmin

10 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/01/2016 01:15:00 am


10 Comments:

  • At 7/01/2016 2:23 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    I am game to wash down a camel burger with camel milk but those jalebis just look too sickly sweet for me.

     
  • At 7/01/2016 9:05 am, Blogger Karen To said…

    Whoa! And open til 3am?? Double whoa!
    (Loving the bokeh in your photos too)

     
  • At 7/01/2016 10:08 am, OpenID thedevilcorp said…

    Good post.

     
  • At 7/01/2016 11:46 pm, Anonymous Tania| My Kitchen Stories said…

    Hi Helen. how very exciting. First it looks cold in Sydney, I am not looking forward to that next week. Next thanks for all the interesting info. I am not sure if I will be able to get there this year but sure hope you remind me next year. What an experience right in our own back yard.

     
  • At 7/02/2016 10:31 am, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    Wow - amazing photos and a wonderful array of delicious looking food.
    I'd struggle to choose with some of those dishes, they all look so good.
    I guess it's worth fasting all day if you get to eat like that at sundown.

     
  • At 7/02/2016 10:34 pm, Anonymous Berny @ I Only Eat Desserts said…

    I love this - this is everything I love about Australia! Getting to understand and see cultures through peoples' food (this got deep fast ;)). I'm not too familar with Palestinian, Lebanese and Indian food but I can imagine everything tasting great from your photos (how could it now right? haha)

     
  • At 7/03/2016 8:45 pm, Anonymous John - heneedsfood said…

    Hmm, here I was thinking that camel milk wasn't allowed to be commercially sold in Oz. I guess I'm wrong. Looking at most of these pics, I seriously thought I was back in the Middle Eastern market & restaurant district in Yiwu, China. So much grilled goodness! And as for those jalebi, gimme gimme!

     
  • At 7/04/2016 3:35 pm, Anonymous Amanda | Chew Town said…

    It all looks so flavourful and delicious! Love the varieties of Knafeh, ever since coming across the Knafeh shipping container early last year, Scott and I can't get enough.

     
  • At 7/05/2016 10:01 am, Blogger Petra Becker said…

    I won't go on this rainy - last - night but I now look forward to Ramadan next year.

     
  • At 5/29/2017 8:52 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My mum, sister and uncle's wife are in the last photo!!

     

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