Four years ago, as the moving truck swayed over the Bolte Bridge and we began our life in the West, we were already salivating at the thought of mountains of cheap, fresh herbs and bottomless bowls of pho, all within walking distance. However, we were totally unaware of the spicy delights nestled in nearby Barkly Street's Little India, like fairies at the bottom of the garden. Bharat Traders, the largest Indian store in the strip, is a place I am now enchanted with and regularly get lost in. Claudia, a reader and fellow devotee of all things Bharat, has kindly shared some of its secrets with us...
The Footscray Food Blog has fast become one of my favourite cyber haunts. My own private Footscray food odyssey has been reinspired by Ms. Baklover’s own adventures, and it certainly is a lot cheaper than physically visiting the countries themselves. We are so lucky to have it all in our own backyard. Recently, after 12 years in Footscray, I decamped to Spotswood but I return at least once or twice a fortnight for regular epicurean pilgrimages – grey boring day in Melbourne, go to Saigon Market for hustle, bustle and super soup. There’s just so much life in the joint.
One of my and my daughter’s favourite post-school treats on a Friday afternoon is a visit to the West Footscray Library, where two bookworms nestle in a pile of books for about 45 minutes. Then, laden with new ones, we both feel the pull of over the road – Bharat’s supermarket, a gorgeous multi-function repository of all things Indian.
Usually we have a peek in the window at the religious furnishings, silvery Shivas and golden Ganeshes, lustrous devotional mini-temples and bowls. Great stuff. But they are just visual entrées.
We head in the door and there is an instant waft of spice that my daughter particularly enjoys. A quick but lingering glance at the trays of sweets and samosas near the front door (we’ll be back) and then straight to the fridges down at the back for kid-friendly mango lassis and delicious instant naan bread, paneer cheese and huge containers of yoghurt. Who's watching their weight on Friday anyway!
The naan is great over the weekend with curry, soups... Its butteriness is irresistible to one and all and it also freezes well. If I shop alone I also love to grab some eggplant or mango pickles, spicy bhujia and the masala cashews should be sold with a warning – you WILL eat all of these before you even get home!
Finally it’s time to leave this treasure trove and we head to the counter for bright pink barfi (Indian sweet) for Ella and an ambrosial gulab jamon for me. We usually scoff this booty a few doors down in front of one of the amazing Bollywood stores as we decide which is the best outfit, and which bejewelled sandals would suit – a seven year old girl's heaven really! And then it’s over... the colour and scents, the sparkle... Until next time...
Thank you so much, Claudia! Like you, for us, no trip to the library is complete with a trip across the road for whatever obscure spice or lentil Mum needs, followed by a long, passionate "discussion" of who would get which dress in the sari shop window. As you mentioned, the yoghurt is so good at Bharat's and so much cheaper than the supermarket. I also buy huge bags of stoneground wholemeal flour (known as chakki atta) for really low prices. The kids love the barfi (Indian fudge) – flavours include cashew (pink), chick pea (yellow), and almond (white). Just ask the staff, as they are always happy to run through the different varieties. Oh, and those cashews! A spice fiend's fairytale ending.
580 Barkly St, West Footscray (map)
Phone: (03) 9687 6071
Hours: 9.00 a.m. - 9.00 p.m., 7 days
Do you have a foodie secret in the western or northwestern suburbs you'd like to share? I've been guilty in the past of "keeping things for myself," but go on - do the owners you like so much a favour and spread the word about their business! Guest contributions are always welcome and much appreciated. Email footscrayfoodblog at gmail dot com.