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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Haldon Street Festival 2006, Lakemba

It was the annual Haldon Street Festival in Lakemba yesterday. Once again I joined the family-strong crowds to stroll Haldon Street which was closed off to traffic and set up with stalls.

Lakemba is a real multicultural melting pot in the south west of Sydney. Greek and Italian migrants settled here in the 1960s, in the 1970s it received an influx of migrants from Lebanon. The Lebanese have a majority presence these days, but there are also communities from Fiji, Tonga, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

The name Lakemba comes from Lakeba island, pronounced Lakemba, in Fiji.

Lakemba train station

brass teapots
Brass teapots

Lebanese pastries from Patisserie Arja

Indonesian samosas and dumplings
Indonesian samosas and dumplings

Naan waiting to be cooked in the Indian tandoor oven

making takoyaki
Stall servers making takoyaki, Japanese octopus balls

Skewers of fish balls, fish paste and dim sim

hontou pancakes
Hontou Japanese pancakes filled with red bean and green tea

BBQ meat skewers

Gozleme stall

Ka'ak, a Lebanese bread pretzel with cheese

Last year I'd been amazed by the popularity of ka'ak, a Lebanese bread pretzel filled with cheese. The locals, it seems, couldn't get enough of them. I didn't bother trying it, and had regretted it since, so this time I had to find out what all the fuss was about.

adding cheese
Sandwiching ka'ak with slices of haloumi cheese

The sesame-covered bread, in a shape somewhat resembling a pretzel, was cut in half and then sandwiched with haloumi, a white cheese originally from Cyprus, made from goat and sheep milk.

Toasting ka'ak over hot coals

The sandwich was toasted over hot coals, as on the left, then compressed between a wire cage (see right) and placed back over the coals on both sides.

cheesy innards
Hot ka'ak with melted cheesy innards $3.00
[only half a portion pictured]

The cheese had a pleasing stretchy consistency and the sesame seeds were nicely toasted. Veruca Salt and I both thought it was a little underwhelming in flavour though, wishing we had a shaker of salt nearby.

The locals were again flocking though, and many purchased bags of the plain sesame bread itself.

Winnie the Pooh with Poppy's Honey

 street performers
Street performers

homemade lemonade
Homemade lemonade

girl with fairy floss
Girl in pink with matching fairy floss

Who doesn't love fairy floss?

fairy floss machine
Fairy floss machine

There were plenty of rides for the kids, including a giant slide with potato sacks. As far as I could work out, the rides were all free as well. The queues were steady but patient though, and the kids were all having a ball.

jumping castle
Jumping castle

Kids in cars

balloon animals
Balloon animals

We skipped the crowds for lunch, electing instead to feast on grilled chicken, lamb kebabs, crunchy felafel, tabbouleh, foule and lashings of toum at Jasmin, a Lakemba favouite.

Cuchinta, a Filipino dessert $3.60

Browsing the shops on my way home, I picked up a tray of cuchinta from a Filipino Asian grocery store, swayed by the golden caramel colour of these steamed puddings. These were consumed with shavings of fresh coconut on top (supplied with purchase) although somewhat surprisingly these were almost savoury in flavour and tasting of not much at all.

I had somehow envisaged these to be sweetened with palm sugar, even though the ingredients only list lye water, flour, sugar, water and food colouring.

Palms Pacific Supermarket
Palms Pacific Supermarket

I also spent some time browsing the Palms Pacific Supermarket in the shopping village that houses the local IGA grocer. Amidst the tins of mackerel, coconut cream and grated chestnut, I found this giant beast of a cupcake.

Fiji pudding
Fiji pudding $4.00

I was told that this pudding wasn't very sweet. "Eat it with butter or ice cream or custard," I was told. "Ohhh yes, I love eating it with custard," the shopkeeper declared. "It's sooo delicious."

So into my bag it went, and since then it has been sampled intensively. It is indeed like a dense spongey cake with minimal sugar. It has the springy texture that one gets from steamed puddings, and it reminded me a little of an English Soreen malt loaf without the sweetness.

I've sampled it hot with custard, cold with custard, and cold with ice cream too. So far cold custard wins, although I could easily see it standing up to dollops of King Island double cream too. Curiosity on its ingredients let me to find a recipe, reprinted below:

from NiuLife Coconut Oil

2 coconuts
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup of warm water
3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons coconut oil

  • Mix 2 grated coconuts with a cup of warm water and squeeze out two cups of cream.

  • Melt sugar in a heavy pot. Stir constantly until a medium brown caramel colour with no lumps forms.

  • Slowly add coconut cream, stirring until smooth, then add remaining coconut cream and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for ten minutes.
  • Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. Rub in butter with fingertips. Slowly stir the liquid into the dry ingredients.

  • Wet a piece of 60cm square of cloth. Place in a bowl and fill it with pudding mixture.

  • Holding up the edges, tie securely 5 cm [2 inches] above the batter. Remove from the bowl, place in boiling water in a large pot and cover.

  • Cook for 1-2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Make sure to keep the water level up during boiling otherwise the pudding might crack.

  • Peel back cloth and place on a plate to dry.

  • Serve with custard sauce or serve cold, sliced with butter.

  • VARIATION: Add 1 cup sultanas. Wash and then bring to the boil with coconut cream.

    haldon street festival

    Back at the Festival there were performances by African drumming groups, Greek dancers, salsa dancers, Hulanesian dancers, breakdancers and a teenage mob of fans over local talent Blak Genius.

    This year's Haldon Street Festival was held on Saturday 26 August 2006. This annual event is in its seventh year, and celebrates respect, unity and peace.

    30B Haldon Street, Lakemba, Sydney
    Tel: +61 (02) 9740 3589

    Palms Pacific Supermarket and Delicatessen
    Shop 7, 10 Haldon St Lakemba, Sydney
    Tel: +61 (02) 9750 5148

    Patisserie Arja
    129 Haldon Street Lakemba, Sydney
    Tel: +61 (02) 9740 8320

    Related GrabYourFork posts:
    Haldon Street Festival 2005: The parade
    Haldon Street Festival 2005: The food
    Jasmin, Lakemba
    16 comments - Add some comment love

    posted by Helen (AugustusGloop) on 8/27/2006 08:58:00 pm


    • At 8/27/2006 9:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Looks like it was a wonderful day, all that wonderful food!

    • At 8/27/2006 9:46 pm, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

      loved the pics! that cupcake cracks me up!

    • At 8/27/2006 10:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I saw ur post and photos for last year's and went to lakemba this Saturday. The street was packed up. I love my Gozleme~~~Yum.

      Did u go to "Pudding and Pie" market too? The strawberry mascarpone cake made by lorraine is divine~

    • At 8/28/2006 4:58 am, Blogger Robyn said…


      I've never heard of Fiji pudding before, but it sounds awesome.

      Why do you have such awesome street/food festivals over there? I swear we don't have cool stuff like that. Whenever there's a street festival it tends to be the same unexciting food everywhere.

    • At 8/28/2006 10:27 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

      Wow, that muffin is gargantuan!

      It was so crowded. Great family day.

    • At 8/28/2006 12:59 pm, Blogger neil said…

      That's the sort of street festival that should be mandatory to attend. Thanks for the great tour.

    • At 8/28/2006 2:26 pm, Blogger Rachael Narins said…

      Wow, you Aussies really are adventurous eaters! I LOVE it! I cannot imagine half of that food being sold here...pity, because it all looks amazing!

    • At 8/28/2006 6:31 pm, Blogger tytty said…

      you can tell that someone is a dedicated food blogger when she bothers to mention that the ka'ak pictured is "only half a portion"

    • At 8/28/2006 8:07 pm, Blogger Kat said…

      Pre-packaged kutsinta will never taste as good as the freshly made kind. Even the coconut isn't as good. It's one of my favourite desserts. You should try the Filipino fiesta in October - hopefully, there will be some freshly made desserts!

    • At 8/28/2006 10:53 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

      Hi Ellie - It was fun, and free too. I love festivals. I'm such a kid at heart.

      Hi Pickles - Yeah, that's what I thought when I first saw it. It's not really a cupcake, but it sure does remind me on one (blown-up to giant size of course).

      Hi Angelhair - That's great. I'm glad you went and you enjoyed it too. I think it's actually one of the better suburban community festivals. It's always well organised and not too crowded either.

      I did go to Pudding and Pie. I've just posted on it as you've probably noticed.
      I didn't get to try the strawberry mascarpone cake though =( but the apple tart was de-lish.

      Hi Robyn - lol. You remind me of someone on Australian TV!

      The Fiji pudding looks awesome but tastewise it's a little underwhelming. It is a good sponge receptacle for custard though.

      You guys get to watch Kobayashi and Sonya Thomas in eat-fests though. And you have dessert restaurants, and Jewish goodness and chocolate fairs! I think we're even.

      Hi Veruca - Yeah the muffin is super-sized!

      It was a good day. Not too crowded either which was great.

      Hi Neil - Nah if everyone attended then I'd never be able to jostle the crowds for photos! =) Glad you enjoyed the tour though. I love blogsurfing travel.

      Hi Rachael - I love that Sydney is so multicultural with lots of cool food. I'll eat anything once, too!

      Hi tytty - lol. Attention to detail. I wouldn't want that cheese sandwich to seem terribly over-priced!

      Hi kat o+ - I'll have to try to sample a fresh version then. My eyes keep saying sweet caramel, but my tongue keeps saying savoury!

    • At 8/29/2006 1:15 am, Blogger Kat said…

      Helen, the kutsinta is definitely sweet but not caramelly. (The pre-packaged ones are usually rubbery, sad to say.) For caramelly, you'll try the leche flan. For cake, try the pandan cake or a sans rival (the latter has to be eaten fresh as the texture deteriorates pretty fast).

      Filipino cooking varies greatly in quality and style, so it helps if you have someone who can tell you whether or not you're tasting the "real" thing. As you may have noticed, I wax lyrical over Filipino food, mainly because I think we're pretty crappy at marketing it to other cultures.

    • At 8/29/2006 11:41 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

      Hi kat o+ - Thanks for your tips on Filipino sweets. Leche is definitely sweet and caramelly and I love pandan cake. I haven't tried sans rival but it sounds tasty (fresh of course!).

      I read your post on the lack of Filipino restaurants, and I agree. I've often searched for Filipino restaurants but I've never seemed to be able to find one. I walked past several in Hong Kong and meant to try them but alas, the time of the day was always wrong.

      It definitely has an interesting mix of influences in its cuisine. I'd love to try more beyond the tasty Sky Flakes, otap, polvoron and ube cake!

    • At 8/31/2006 12:11 pm, Blogger My float said…

      Jasmin. What a place to eat. The food is divine. I also love Jasmin II which is in Punchbowl. Try the garlic dip as an addition...my family orders two lots and then everyone argues over it!

    • At 9/01/2006 12:56 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

      Hi my float - Jasim is good. We've driven past Jasmin II a couple of times but yet to visit.

      We love the garlic toum. Often we ask for seconds! It is so garlicky, fluffy and good!

    • At 9/02/2006 7:44 pm, Blogger Kat said…

      OMG, Sky Flakes and Otap - that made me laugh. :-) The Grand Filipino fiesta is on the first weekend of October, by the way. I can't vouch for the every type of food available but it should at least have a decent variety. The fresh kutsinta I tasted a few weeks ago was at Grand Sentral in Granville.

    • At 9/04/2006 11:12 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

      Hi Kat o+ - Excellent. Thanks for the tips. I'll have to try to get to both of them!


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