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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Foodie shopping: Ashfield, Sydney

Ube otap pastry biscuits

They say that the best way to appreciate the familiar is to go and see it with a tourist.

A couple of Sundays back, four food bloggers found themselves assembled on the high street of Ashfield, in Sydney's inner west. An comment by Saffron about a Chinese grocer in an Ashfield underground carpark had been met with a response of "intriguing!", a suggestion of "an excursion?" and a chorus of "oh yes!" to reach to a natural foodie safari conclusion.

Ashfield is fairly familiar territory for me, but it's amazing how much more exciting it becomes when you're with "tourists" who are fellow foodies who won't roll their eyes when you pull out your camera.

In fact it was deliciously satisfying to loiter indgulently in supermarket aisles, examining this tin or that packet and flipping over the stranger items with interest.

Mr Wong Filipino grocery shop

Our first distraction was by Mr Wong with his cheesy Chinese-takeaway font beckoning us from across the road. Inside was a treasure trove of Filipino groceries, and an ube (purple yam) flavour variant for every sweet snack, biscuit or confectionary item.

Ube stik-o wafer biscuits

Two doors down we had a mandatory browse through Star Ace Patisserie, where a giant date and almond pastry saw our noses pressed up tight against the window.

A snack for the road was obtained from Maria's Bakery, the little Asian cake shop huddled on the corner. Buns of polo sweet pork; hot dog; and ham and shallot joined a custard tart on the cafeteria tray, before being bagged up at the register with a blur of opening and closing tongs.

Ham and shallot bun
Ham and shallot bun

There was a visit to a couple of Asian grocers where Sue couldn't resist a purchase of delicious-sounding crab spawn cakes (!) and a colourful box of Strawberry Collon (!!.

There were even more interesting grocery items, like the soups we spotted below: white gourd with pork bone soup; papaya fish soup; watercress soup with gizzard; and peanut octopus with hairy gourd and pork shin soup. Mmm... tasty.

Mystery Asian soups

From there it was a short walk two blocks to the Polish Delicatessen, a shop which I had never even noticed, though it's been there since April 2005.

Inside we touched and pointed at cherry jams, packets of pudding, jars of sauerkraut and a counter topped with poppyseed cakes and sugared donuts. The refrigerated display of hams, salamis, sausages and smoked meats were intriguing, and the smiling assistant was more than obliging to give us patient product explanations, name pronunciations and a tastetest or two.

The doublesmoked deluxe ham was soft, salty and sweet. The pork roll--rolled up Swiss-style with a layer of bacon--had more than a few eager purchasers.

Polish delicatessen

Back down Liverpool Road and into two Indian grocery stores. It's only now you start to appreciate how ethnically diverse Ashfield really is.

Then it's across the road, a detour via the giant fruit market with its fresh gherkins, pandanus leaves, peach and amaretti puree and pigs tongues, and into the reason for this foodie excursion, the carpark Asian grocery itself, TQC.

We cruise through the aisles, examine the giant tubs of giant mushrooms, and Bowb and I peer with interest at the frozen New Year cake moulded and painted to resemble an elegant carp fish.

Our stomachs are now rumbling so we head for lunch. There are a multitude of budget eating options along the main road strip, but after shopping all day it's inevitable we Shanghai Night. We knew there were a dozen dumplings waiting with our names on them.

Pics and review of Shanghai Night to come shortly...

The day's booty

Mr Wong Oriental Store
34 Hercules Street, Ashfield, Sydney

Star Ace Patisserie
30 Hercules Street Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9798 4507

Maria’s Bakery Shop
2 / 261 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9716 7683

Baltik Polish Delicatessen
197 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9797 8861

Mouri Spices
306 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9716 7527

Ashfield Fruitworld
268 -270 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9798 8191

TQC Burlington
Shop 301, Level 2 Car Park, Ashfield Mall
260A Liverpool Road, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9797 1228

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Foodie shopping: Spice Up Your Life in Strathfield and Homebush
Foodie shopping: Dim sim outlets in Chinatown
Foodie shopping: Darling Street, Rozelle to Balmain
Bankstown Bites: European Eats
Bankstown Bites: Little Lebanon
Bankstown Bites: Tantalising Tea
10 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 3/07/2006 11:58:00 pm


  • At 3/08/2006 7:12 am, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    i am much appreciative of the high ube content of your post. :) how were the polvorons?

    looking forward to reliving those pan fried buns through your review!

  • At 3/08/2006 8:55 am, Blogger Reb said…

    What a great selection of world cuisines! So typical of Sydney. That hairy gourd peanut octopus cracks me up! I'm sure it's ... ah ... yuumy.

  • At 3/08/2006 9:21 am, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    ooo you got to let me know next time you do another excursion!

  • At 3/08/2006 12:00 pm, Blogger Julia said…

    I lived in Ashfield for a year in 04-05 and never spent time discovering these foodie delights (but ate at the cheap and cheerful Vietnamese restaurant on the strip (the Parramatta Rd end) all the time.

    I keep meaning to do food safaris but the weekends just get away! I'll have to pen them in my diary so there's no excuses. Still want to discover Cabramatta, Bankstown, (more of) Marrickville...

  • At 3/08/2006 5:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    AG, did the Polish deli have any pieorgie?

  • At 3/08/2006 6:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    great post...you are so right about being a tourist in your own town....

    would love to come along next time you guys are exploring..

    also have been meaning to thank you for the food writing course...I found out about it from your site

  • At 3/09/2006 10:34 am, Blogger Ange said…

    Would love to find a Polish deli like that close to where I live in Melbourne, miss all of my Grandmas food & havent yet found the time to recreate her recipes myself!

  • At 3/10/2006 3:24 pm, Blogger deborah said…

    hi helen, i totally forgot that you bought another box of soan papadi! have you tried it sprinkled on ice cream? or even toast? - it melts! it is sweet, but yummy if you need a sugar hit. i am heading to the polish deli tomorrow to stock up on some cured meats and jams. mmmm ... double deluxe piggy!

  • At 3/11/2006 4:03 pm, Blogger neil said…

    Sounds like a great tour, always fantastic to discover new shops.

  • At 3/12/2006 3:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, what a clever idea! I love poking through ethnic food stores looking for interesting foodstuffs. One time, in a little Japanese grocery, I found a plain white carton with only one word printed on it: HOMER. I didn't buy it, but to this day I wonder what was inside.

    I appreciate your very classy response to "notimpressed," by the way.


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