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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bankstown Bites Food Festival 2009: Discovery Food Tours

The Bankstown Bites Festival is always a calendar highlight.

This year the Festival was set-up further down South Terrace, enabling better traffic flow and crowd management. "Fast Ed" Ed Halmagyi was the feature chef this year and stalls sold a range of foods from Korean to Peruvian, and German to Lebanese.

Traditional Korean drumming

Chicken skewers


My favourite aspect of the festival is, of course, the Discovery Food Tours. Manned by council volunteers, these are organised into different themes, a tasty showcase of the diversity of Bankstown, an area that is home to over 130 different nationalities speaking more than 60 different languages.

Whilst in the past the tours have been free, a nominal fee of $2 was levied this year. This didn't stop huge queues of people lining up to register on the day (half the spots were allocated online, the other half were opened up to registrations an hour before tour departure).

I ended up on three tours:
Purple Tour - Grocery Explorer - India, Philippines and Africa
Orange Tour A - Treats from the Middle East
Pink Tour B - Sweet Treats (Vietnamese).

Purple Tour - Grocery Explorer (India, Philippines and Africa)

Purple Tour Stop #1: Lotus Spices and Video

I've been in this shop several times before, but it's amazing what you spot when you're eagerly documenting your travels with a camera. Catering to customers who are from India, Fiji and the Pacific Islands, there's a huge range of foodstuffs on offer and I was particularly taken with much of the packaging, so different to the bland sameness you see on our grocery shelves.

Breakfast crackers

Parle-G Gluco Biscuits

Talofa tuna flakes that taste like Wahoo - tricky marketing!

Jungle Oats - loved this pack design

Amul Kool in Kesar flavour - a milk drink flavoured with saffron

Lifebuoy soap

Thali divided dinner tray

Talofa soy sauce - I didn't even know that New Zealand made soy sauce!

Fiji's 100% pure ghee

Indian snacks to sample

Gulab jamun, Indian snacks and milk pudding samples

Steamed cassava to sample

For many tour participants, this was their first time trying steamed cassava. There's not much flavour, tasting much like a fibrous sweet potato.

Purple Tour Stop #2: R&R Mini Mart

The cosy little R&R Mini Mart held a huge amount of stock. We sampled squares of the store owner's homemade cassava cake, cooked with sugar and condensed milk and baked to an almost butterscotch sweetness at the edges. "It's my specialty!" she said with obvious pride in her voice. It was so good I bought a tray to take home.

Homemade cassava cake $4.75

Kalamay ube
Contains glutinous rice, coconut milk, sugar and food colouring


Made with lye water, flour, sugar, water and food colouring, this isn't as sweet as it looks.

Sliced pimientos

I'm always intrigued by Filipino cuisine which has such an intricate mix of Spanish, Latin American, Chinese and American influences.

Young tamarind leaves bottled in jars

Curly Tops milk chocolate cups

Dried agar agar sheets

Brittle Pilinuts $4.70

I was first introduced to pili nuts by Mrs Ed. Pili nuts are native to the Philippines and have a mild taste much like almonds although more crumbly in texture, almost biscuit-like. These are covered in a toffee brittle, and are terribly addictive!

Dilis crispy fried anchovies

Frozen baby milkfish

Champ-O-Rado chocolate rice porridge mix
Just like a chocolate milkshake only mushy?

Coco Jam with jackfruit

I bought a jar of this and whilst it tastes like liquid coconut candy, it doesn't have as strong a jackfruit flavour as I expected.

Barquiron with cashew nuts

A traditional Filippino sweet, these are like little wafer rolls filled with a crumbly mixture of cashew nuts, buttermilk and sugar. They taste a bit like sweetened milk powder.

Saba squid tins

UFC banana sauce - apparently this tastes similar tomato sauce

Antonio Pueu Rollos $4.65

This packet contains 8 tablets of cacao, sugar and skim milk. The entire roll is dissolved in hot water and mixed with evaporated milk or cream to create Spanish hot chocolate, or so the packet promises. I nabbed a roll immediately, and am looking forward to a decadent night featuring Spanish hot chocolate soon.

Purple Tour stop #3: Sierra Food Market

There's no way you would bump into this African grocery store, almost hidden down an arcade on Restwell Street. The shop is small and unassuming with not a great deal of stock, but owner Francis is ultra friendly and there are some unusual items here.

Banku mix - to make fermented cassava and maize dumplings

Hausa koko - millet porridge

Fresh chillies - super hot

Tinned aubergines - I love that these are called garden eggs!

Dried African hot chilli powder from Nigeria

Bitter leaf powder from Sierra Leone $6.00

DVD movie selection

Huge 3kg tins of granulated beef booster

Homemade dishes for sampling

A little bit of everything

We enjoyed a taste of homemade African cuisine, a mixture of curries on rice with steamed cassava and taro. The green stew was made from bitter leaves and tasted like a more complex version of spinach. We also relished the quiet heat of chilli underlying the dishes.

Orange Tour A - Treats from the Middle East

Orange Tour stop #1: Bankstown Lebanese Grocery and Mixed Business

The tour here was the most organised, our lovely host welcoming us with a little speech and taking us on a quick walk-through every aisle with brief explanations on the stock on offer.

Fresh vegetables on display

Borlotti beans

Fresh figs

Rose water

Corn oil - has a very high smoking point which makes it ideal for deep-frying

Goat yoghurt

Kingdom country cheese - on the shelf in jars

Loose olives

Cotton candy in flavours of green apple, strawberry and orange
- loved the cheerful packaging

Lebanese bread chute from the ceiling

The shop makes Lebanese bread upstairs and everyone was impressed with the time-saving chute installed. Whever more Lebanese bread is required, they simply press a buzzer downstairs and voila, replenishment stock is pushed down the chute and directly onto the shelf.

Homemade Lebanese fare for sampling

We feasted on freshly made Lebanese bread with dips of toum, baba ghanoush and hoummos as well as lamb sambouseks, kibbeh and homemade tabouli.

Kibbeh - burghul croquette stuffed with lamb mince and pine nuts

Homemade tabouli

Lamb sambouseks

Orange Tour stop #2: Bankstown Lebanese Halal Butchery

We only had to head next dor for the second stop, a family-run butchery that stocks halal meat.

Our host at the butchery

Kafte (kofte) mince

Butcher at work

Samples of Lebanese sausages and kofte

Orange Tour stop #3: Chehade El Basha & Sons Sweets

Desserts - my favourite!


Pre-packed gift baskets of pastries

Ladies arms


Ashta - a clotted cream made from skimming boiled milk

Pink Tour - Sweet Treats

Pink Tour stop #1: Jenkins Cake Shop

Tired yet? Hey, at least you're sitting down!

We commenced our final tour, deliberately scheduled as a sweet one. Last year I did the Lebanese sweets tour. This year I ended up on the new variation which focussed on Vietnamese style sweets and drinks.

Jenkins cake display

Cake samples at Jenkins cake shop

Pink Tour stop #2: Nhu Y Juice Bar

Making our fresh juice blend for sampling

Watermelon and mixed fruits juice

I don't often order fresh juices so I'm surprised by the refreshment of watermelon blended with pineapple, honeydew, rockmelon, carrot and oranges.

Pink Tour stop #3: Cafe Nho

We finish for the day at Cafe Nho which actually translates as "coffee to remember". Still quite new to the area (the cafe opened on February 14 of this year) it is already hugely popular with locals.

Tropical fruit smoothies

We sampled a range of their cold drinks and desserts - I found the jackfruit shake tasted a bit metallic, and the mung bean drink was mild albeit a tad starchy.

Avocado and durian shakes and ice kacang

Already a fan of avocado shakes, the addition of durian added an extra dimension, one that many found a bit too pungent I expect, given the leftovers!

Ruby water chestnuts

Ruby water chestnuts were a surprise addition in the ice kacang. Cubes of water chestnut are coated in coloured tapioca flour and then simmered, giving a slighty chewy exterior that gives way to the crunch of water chestnut.

In amongst the tours we found time to explore the stalls in the festival, the shops in the area, and make a quick visit to my favourite spice shop too.

Kids activity stall - decorating biscuits with ready-made frosting and sweets

Cakes decorated by local youths in the
Bankstown Multicultural Youth Service Cake Off Challenge

Purple sugar cane



Valley View Continental Groceries & Spices

Packed pulses, grains and flours

Instant Bechamel sauce

Loose lemon verbena tea

Dried hibiscus flowers


It's the spice section I love best. The freshly ground spices are piled into eye-catching pyramids, a sunset of colours that tantalise the eyes, their heady aroma wafting throughout the room.

You'll find fenugreek seeds, falafel spice, sumac, cassia bark, smoked paprika and mastic. Most spices are priced at $16 per kilogram, a huge discount on supermarket prices and probably much fresher too.

Plain curry powder

Ground oregano

Chilli powder

Congratulations - you've made it through 96 photos. And no, this isn't the longest post on Grab Your Fork so far, that would be the 108 photos and 3 videos on the 2009 Good Food & Wine Show!

This year's Bankstown Bites Festival was held on Saturday July 25, 2009.

Business addresses:

Purple Tour - Grocery Explorer
Lotus Spices
8-9 The Appian Way, Bankstown
Tel: +61 (02) 9791 6400

R&R Mini Mart
11/137 Bankstown City Plaza, Bankstown
Tel: +61 (02) 9790 1467

Sierra Food Market
5/12 Restwell Street, Bankstown
Tel: +61 (02) 9708 6898

Orange Tour A - Treats for the Middle East
Bankstown Lebanese Grocery and Mixed Business
287 Chapel Road South, Bankstown
Tel: +61 (02) 9708 3976

Bankstown Lebanese Halal Butchery
289 Chapel Road South, Bankstown
Tel: +61 (02) 9790 1054

Chehade El Basha & Sons Sweets
288 Chapel Road South, Bankstown
Tel: +61 (02) 9796 4818

Pink Tour B - Sweet Treats
Jenkins Cake Shop
1/335 Chapel Road South, Bankstown
Tel: +61 (02) 9796 8659

Nhu Y Juice Bar
44a Bankstown City Plaza, Bankstown

Cafe Nho
64 Bankstown City Plaza
Tel: +61 (02) 9709 6820

Also check out
Valley View Continental Groceries
Shop 40, The Appian Way, Bankstown
Tel: 61 (02) 9790 0465

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Bankstown Bites Food Festival 2008
Bankstown Bites Food Festival 2005

Bankstown - El Bahsa Sweets
Greenacre - Sabbagh Patissery
Yagoona - Nhu Quynh (fresh tofu and soy milk)
Yagoona - Rodriguez Brothers (chorizo, jamon and smallgoods)
26 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/28/2009 12:26:00 am


  • At 7/28/2009 12:38 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Wow, never realised Bankstown was such a melting pot of cultures! I must stop by here one day for the treasure trove of groceries!

  • At 7/28/2009 12:40 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    geez epic post! but LOL at your "just like a chocolate milkshake only mushy" hahaha i now have that jingle in my head! oooh and i looove ruby water chestnuts! esp with shaved ice and condensed milk mmm sweetness

  • At 7/28/2009 12:52 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    These tours look great! It's such a good idea.

    Shame I didn't know about this festival. Not that I could have made it anyhow, considering how busy I was with Saturday.

    That's twice work has gotten in the way of a great food event!

  • At 7/28/2009 1:59 am, Blogger Vanessa Pike-Russell said…

    There is a reason why your foodblog is my favourite and you just reminded me why that is. It is the most comprehensive and creates the 'darn, wish I had been there' effect along with the 'thank heavens I can live vicariously through Helen' gratitude which helps make up for the fact that I've been unable to eat out even once in the past month. Thank you for the energy you put into your food blog. I know how draining it can be to take that many photos and provide a detailed description in a timely manner. You rock :)

  • At 7/28/2009 6:49 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    I agree with Vaneesa...you cover everything in such a comprehensive manner, I almost feel like I'm there. Thank you for highlighting elements of this festival Helen!

  • At 7/28/2009 7:19 am, Anonymous MrsPigflyin said…

    wow, I have to check if any of the shops sell Tahitian fish sauce. Mr and I saw that and what we think was prawn sauce at the Papeete market, they were clear in colour compared to the brownish Thai/ Vietnam version. So want to buy some but since that's our first stop in two weeks trip and the bottles didn't look leak proof at all we had to give up on the idea. Hope we will find it in Sydney! Thanks for another great post :)

  • At 7/28/2009 8:24 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Ohh, what a great post to read through, I felt like I just took the food tour with you! HAHA at the jar of cheese, it's so scarily yellow! I've never tried ruby chestnuts in an ice kacang, they look lovely! And I love the sound of the avocado and durian shakes, never seen that combo before. I'm not surprised people were turned off by it though, I'm only a recent convert to the durian club!

  • At 7/28/2009 9:20 am, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    I started my day with the Red tour. We visited an Asian bakery, grocery store and chop shop. We were stuffed stupid as the samples were huge.

    This was a great event. Thanks for getting me on to it.

    I can't believe how much Bankstown has changed. Might have to spend another Saturday leisurely strolling the aisles. The Lebanese grocery shop had so many great items.

  • At 7/28/2009 10:33 am, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    Me again. Would also like to mention how ageist I thought they were by only allowing children to decorate the biscuits. It looked like so much fun.

  • At 7/28/2009 10:59 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    hopefully i'll get a chance to visit next year. looks so interesting. thanks for alerting everyone to the date.

  • At 7/28/2009 11:24 am, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    I don't know how you do it - going on the tours, taking the photos, paying attention to the products, remembering them all later. You are so dedicated - and probably exhausted after all of that! Thanks for the wonderful experience.

  • At 7/28/2009 12:27 pm, Blogger Charemaine Seet said…

    Fantastic and exhaustive tour of some amazing grocery stores. You've done a great public service.
    johnny forks,
    the purple sugar cane looks amazing.

  • At 7/28/2009 1:05 pm, Anonymous Min Ai said…

    Oh no! I'm so sad I missed this... :( But what a great wrap up from your post! I especially loved the African feature of it as my partner's from Ghana and West Africans have similar cuisines. I'll have to make it next year!

  • At 7/28/2009 1:48 pm, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Omg! What an epic post! I was planning on going, but then I caught the flu :( I would've loved to have gone on those food tours!! Damn. Next year! Btw, why was the banana sauce red?

  • At 7/28/2009 2:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Eye opening post! Didn't realise Bankstown has so much to offer.

  • At 7/28/2009 3:52 pm, Anonymous Trisha said…

    Ahhh Helen you have captured the day so well! I didn't do any of the food tours as I came in around 2pm already, but I really enjoyed your coverage of Filipino stuff! Those spanish cacao tableas (tablets) are great for hot chocolate or if you want to make your own champorado. I actually heard of Bankstown Food Festival through Karen (citrusandcandy) and your post from last year's so much much thanks! :)

  • At 7/28/2009 4:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This year I had to live the festival vicariously through you Helen. You made me feel like I was there...thanks for a great wrap up!


  • At 7/28/2009 5:52 pm, Anonymous evecho said…

    Is this your longest post?

  • At 7/28/2009 6:04 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    I first heard of pili nuts just the other day, so it's great to hear you can try them in Sydney. I love the look of the spice shop too!

  • At 7/28/2009 7:48 pm, Anonymous Kay said…

    champorado - its like oats/barley chocolate flavour though! hehe..
    i missed the samples waaaaaah!

  • At 7/28/2009 10:11 pm, Blogger Fat Belly Club said…

    Wow... loved this post! I'm soooooo upset that I didn't get to go to this festival. It sounds awesome. I'm committed to spending a whole day exploring all the food shops in Bankstown in the very near future. I'm hungry just thinking about it!
    p.s you have inspired me to start my own foodblog. But..so far it's been tricky remembering to take photos and then finding the time to write the blogs?!

  • At 7/28/2009 10:14 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    So grateful for your blog Helen, it allows me to enjoy the festival sitting down in comfort! I would have been way too busy eating to take any photos! The banana sauce is a great tomato sauce substitute for those who are allergic to tomatoes. Gotta try me some of that saffron flavoured milk, saffron tastes good in EVERYTHING!

  • At 7/29/2009 1:25 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Karen - Bankstown has always been a multicultural community, making it the ideal destination for eating and food shopping! Definitely recommend you explore it one day.

    Hi chocolatesuze - Ha, epic indeed. Must. Plow. On. And yes I love ruby water chestnuts too - I don't often find them, but maybe I'm looking in the wrong place! lol

    Hi Simon - I did put up an event listing with details of the Bankstown Bites Food Festival so haha, no excuses! lol. You can download maps from the Council site or simply go and explore on your own (camera optional!).

    Hi Vanessa - Oh thank you. I think that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about the blog :) It does feel like a labour of love at times, but yes, there's a lotta love, even better when it comes from thoughtful readers, so thank you for being so supportive! I think you've fuelled me for a few more posts yet!

    Hi Peter G - I think I have obsessive photographic disorder. Even I was wondering why I took 500 photos at the Festival (yes, I did). Glad you enjoyed the post. Made all that photo editing seem worth it!

    Hi Mrs Pig Flyin - I don't remember seeing Tahitian fish sauce but its worth a shot! Sounds intriguing - would love to try it too. And glad you enjoyed the tour :)

    Hi Stephcookie - I think a lot of people were fascinated by the idea of avocado and durian and leapt upon the samples but yes, I think the reality didn't measure up to their imagination! The jar of cheese did look odd - not sure how it would taste! And welcome to the durian club - it's the king of fruits!

    Hi Veruca Salt - Sounded like you had b'fast and lunch set on your first tour of the day! And strolling grocery aisles is my favourite past-time :)

    Haha, I agree, I'm thinking of planning an edible craft day with the rugrats, just so I get an excuse to play myself!

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - You'll have to book it into your diary for next year, but in the interim it's always easy enough to explore a few shops either with friends or on your own.

  • At 7/29/2009 1:25 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Belle - lol. I think it's a compulsion! I guess it's true that genuine interest is the best motivator of all. And photographing and talking about food doesn't really seem like a chore!

    Hi Charemaine Seet/Johnny Forks - Exhausting all right. I think I was pretty tired by the end of the day. And lol at public service - if only I could enlist my stomach "for the greater good". I have fond memories of sugar canes - reminds me of my grandma and her backyard crop.

    Hi Min Ai - Oh the African shop was fascinating. All the products are so different and I'm intrigued by the different use of textures in dishes. The homemade food was a particular highlight.

    Hi Betty - Hope you're feeling better from the flu. I missed this year's Campsie Festival for the same reason :(

    I googled banana sauce and apparently they use red food colouring to make it look more like tomato sauce.

    Hi Ellie - Lots to see and eat. Recommend you head down there for a weekend gourmet safari of your own!

    Hi Trisha - I'm really looking forward to trying the Spanish cacao tablets, and glad you made it to the Festival. Lots to see and do, but the food tours are always my favourite!

    Hi Noodlehead - Glad to be of service :) Hope you make it to the Festival next year to experience it all for yourself.

    Hi Evecho - Almost, but not quite. This post had 96 photos, whereas my post on the Good Food & Wine Show 2009 had 108 photos and 3 videos :)

    Hi Arwen - Don't you love that strange phenomenon of you discovering something new, and then seeing it pop up everywhere around you for the next week or so? Hope you get a chance to try the pili nuts - they are quite unique in texture, and are reputed to be the next big nut crop similar to macadamias.

    Hi Kay - Next time you'll have to check your diary dates. lol.

    Hi Fat Belly Club - I'm sure you will have lots of fun exploring Bankstown. Bring a big shopping bag and your appetite!

    And welcome to the world of food blogging! So great to have another enthusiast on board!

    Hi YaYa - I will have to pick up a bottle of the banana sauce on my next visit. My curiosity is piqued. I thought the idea of saffron-flavoured milk sounded unusual but great to see it has its fans! :)

  • At 7/29/2009 8:03 pm, Anonymous Yas said…

    Awesome post! This is another great thing about Australia - its so diverse that we all get to surround ourselves in what it seems to be totally different culture!

  • At 7/30/2009 12:13 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - I agree. I think we're particularly lucky in Sydney. So much good food :)


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