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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Spice Up Your Life: Saffron's Spice Tour

One of the best things about having a food blog is meeting other food bloggers. People who are similarly passionate about what they consume, who showcase amazing feats of culinary creativity, and who share it all so willingly and with such dedication for the visual hedonistic enjoyment of passing strangers.

I love that I can tap into a network of homecooks, dining critics and chocaholics. I love how everyone has an area of expertise from which I can bite into. For anyone who is passionate about something, is an expert in it. And I'm always hungry... er, to learn more.

So a random comment by Saffron, followed by Pinkcocoa and responded by me, snowballed into a little event of our own. Saffron agreed to host our own Gourmet Safari and share some of her expertise in Sri Lankan cooking, and Pinkcocoa and I agreed to come along and photograph it all =)

Spice Up Your Life
We met early last Sunday morning at Strathfield, me clutching a breakfast of taro bubble tea and Pinkcocoa heading straight for the caffeine. Before I knew it, boxes were thrust towards me and *aww shucks* homemade treats demanded to be opened and inspected.

Pinkcocoa's Nyonya pineapple tart and Saffron's mocha cupcake

A whole box of Pinkcocoa's pineapple tarts were a delight for the eyes. I recognised these babies! It was bizarre. Like seeing a dear friend's children in the flesh for the first time after seeing only photos. And Saffron had carefully baked and iced three mochalicious cupcakes and printed out recipes for us for dhal and chai masala too.

I was a very bad foodblogger. All I had brought with me were eating guides to Bankstown which I'd picked up at the Bankstown Bites Festival the day before (and hence, that was my excuse for not getting around to doing any baking).

But there was nary time to waste. Well, ok we did. We sat and gossiped for a good half hour before we officially started our spice tour.

At Indian House, Saffron gave us an in-depth insight into the treasure trove of spices, chutneys and sweets which awaited within. Pinkcocoa and I would point at something and say "What's that for?" and Saffron would rattle off a plethora of dishes or tastes involved.

That's what I've always found difficult about exploring "ethnic" groceries. I'm curious about things, but never really game to ask the dumb questions. But Saffron gently led us by the hand, verifying our level of knowledge first before explaining. She was like our very own Maeve O'Mara, and despite her protests that "she really was a novice at using spices", Pinkcocoa and I were adamantly impressed and appreciative off the knowledge she had to impart.

The back wall--with a dizzying array and range of spice blends

Chutney Central

Indian banana chilli chips -- professionally modelled by both Pinkcocoa and Saffron

These were highly addictive. Not as thick or sweet as the banana chips I know, but thinner sliced, deepfried and coated in a spicy salty chilli powder which accumulated its kick with each greedy handful.

Maya Indian Sweets and Video Shop

Our next stop was the Maya shop two streets away where our growing need to photograph everything in sight must have made us look completely bizarre (picture three cameras being used furtively down various grocery aisles).


Indian sweets and samosas

Oh yes, I had to try a samosa 'for research purposes'. The pastry was remarkably non-oily and the potato curry filling was pleasantly spicy.

We then jumped on a train towards Homebush. Let's pretend we didn't get so distracted with conversation that we completely missed our station and had to wait 15minutes for the next train back...

Shri Sivasakthie is a tiny Sri Lankan and Indian spice shop navigable only by very thin people, as the aisles are jam-packed with boxes and merchandise everywhere. Luckily everyone seems quite willing to squish themselves against the red rice packets as you sidestep your way around; and the female shopkeeper was most accommodating and friendly, happy to answer all of our questions.

The crowded doorway is a sign of things to come...


I love the towering piles of videos for hire. You just *know* there are some classic scenes held within.

Nestle cereal

Rice flakes

Flyer for a henna artist

The booty
Emboldened by Saffron's expertise, the booty bag became steadily heavier and heavier with each port of call.
In addition to pappadums (both the plain and pepper kind), musket (a type of dessert), brinjal (eggplant) pickle and murku (both the savoury and the sweet versions), I also bought some new things to try including:

Payasam--a type of sweet Indian soup with nuts, fruit and vermicelli which Pinkcocoa got very excited about as she had had it before.

Kulfi--Indian-style icecream (which I love) which is apparently easy to make and doesn't require freezer whipping. Yay.

Soan Papdi--an Indian sweet with nuts, cardamon and chickpea flour which Saffron highly recommended.

I haven't written half of what I learnt, or absorbed by osmosis throughout the day. But there was much head nodding by both Pinkcocoa and I, moments of "Ohhhhhhh......I didn't know that" and a renewed interest and appreciation of the diversity of Indian and Sri Lankan goodies available. So I'm no expert yet, but thanks to Saffron, I'm a little more confident the next time I head into a spice shop.

And that was all? Of course not! There was lunch, and boy, was there lunch!

Continue feasting here.

More forkfuls of our Spicy Sunday:
Spice Up Your Life Part II: Janani, Homebush
Spice Up Your Life Part III: Janani Sweets, Homebush

Saffron from Writing on a Paper Napkin
Spice Adventures Part I
Spice Adventures Part II

Pinkcocoa from Pinkcocoa Tabetai
A Little Spicy Adventure Part I: Sub-continental Shopping Spree
A Little Spicy Adventure Part II: Eat Up!
9 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 7/03/2005 11:59:00 pm


  • At 7/04/2005 6:32 am, Blogger deborah said…

    Great post AG! I am happy you had such a good time! Love the "booty" shot at the end :)

  • At 7/04/2005 6:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ooohh great post AG! I love Soan Papdi, do let us know how you go with your booty as Tian said. I've been known to gobble up a whole packet to myself (just melt in your mouth goodness).

  • At 7/04/2005 9:13 pm, Blogger Reid said…

    Hi AG,

    Sounds like you girls had a blast. I wish there were more bloggers around here that I could meet up with, but then again, I seem to be too busy doing too much of nothing but work these days. *sigh*

  • At 7/05/2005 1:36 am, Blogger Nic said…

    Hi AG. This sounds like you all had a great time. Of course, I'm extremely jealous that you got to taste Saffron's cupcakes and Pinkcocoa's tarts. Yum!

  • At 7/05/2005 12:37 pm, Blogger 2-minute Noodle Cook said…

    Hi from downunder again!

    I am envious of all the goodies in the oriental eastern shops! I just completed Paper Chef #8 using olives, and boy was it hard finding fermented salted black olives in WA shops!

  • At 7/05/2005 3:35 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    Great post and pics! I didn't realise all the while when you went missing, you were snapping up all these pics! :-P I really had fun with you gals on the day. And, yesss Saffron is our very very reliable indian spices resources. Dont try and believe her when she tells you she doesnt know much! :)

  • At 7/05/2005 4:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    wow looks like you guys had a blast! maybe next time you should include a shot of yourselves eating so we can see what you guys look like =)

  • At 7/06/2005 8:22 am, Blogger R said…

    Augustusgloop, this entry is awesome!

    Well done. This is local food blogging at its best.

  • At 7/06/2005 10:36 am, Blogger Kelly said…

    Another very informative and thorough post! It looks like you had a delicious time, and I enjoyed following along on this virtual tour :)


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