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.
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
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
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.
Lamb kebabs and tandoori chicken kebabs
Naan bread cooking in a tandoor oven
Stretching out freshly flipped parata dough
Parata on the grill
Scrunched and flaky parata
This parata was seriously good.
Patting egg mixture into martabak dough
Folding the martabak dough into a pocket
Kebabs cooking over charcoal
Chicken and cheese saaj
Folding the saaj over into a pie
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.
Gajar halwa, grated carrot dessert
Deep frying fresh jalebi
Jalebi fried dough coils soaked in saffron sugar syrup
Knafeh with syringe shots of sugar syrup
Palestinian-style knafeh with saffron
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
9 comments - Add some comment love
7/01/2016 01:15:00 am