Thursday, October 31, 2013

Afghan Master Kebab

You know that song, "All my friends are getting married"?  Well, all my friends are moving to Sunshine.  I thought it was because they were smart cookies, but maybe they had a sixth sense about this awesome new opening - what I think is the western suburb's very first Afghan restaurant.


Feast your eyes on its awesomeness!  My youngest is enamoured - she thinks it's like eating in, I quote, "a princess castle".


Afghan Master Kebab specliase in skewered meats which they cook over a narrow charcoal pit at the back of the restaurant.  As the meat straddles the pit, the chef fans the charcoal, encouraging it to glow redder and emit more of that tantalising smoke.  (Don't worry, the restaurant is not at all smoky.)

Mix kebab, $13.99

This is the "mix kebab" - the two chicken kebabs were out of this world, uncommonly juicy and rubbed with a spicy mix.  We also scored a lamb kebab (smoky, tender, yum) and a mince kebab - the only one the kiddo could handle in terms of spice.  Thin, Afghan-style naan bread, some fine fresh salad, a yoghurty sauce and another minty, chilli one made for a most excellent lunch.


In my experience, Afghan food in Melbourne tends to be on the dear side.  Not here - Afghan Master Kebab has really fair pricing, with everything between $12 and $15 (and the "mix kebab" above was really enough for two).  I'm keen to try their "qorma" curries and rice pilafs, studded with carrot and red barberries.

The westie dining scene just got even more diverse - and even more delicious!

Afghan Master Kebab
3/20 Devonshire Road, Sunshine
Phone:  9311 9277

Monday, October 28, 2013

Talking Big West over lunch at Sapa Hills

When I left school, I loved food as much as I do now, but I hadn't considered trying to get into food writing.  In fact, my first career aspiration was to be an art critic.  I was very into semiotics, postmodernism, and wearing lots of black.  I ended up dropping out after a year (I realised I looked much better in red) but I've still always enjoyed art.  There are lots of different experiences you can have observing it, but my favourite is the comparatively rare moment when, browsing a gallery or watching a performance - BAM!  Something hits you, like a key in a lock, and you can't look away.  It's fantastic.

This is why it is very exciting to tell you that I am the 2013 Big West Festival's official blogger.  The Big West Festival is a biennial arts festival held in the west, showcasing western suburbs artists, and celebrating what makes the west the eclectic, gritty and gutsy place it is.  I'll be blogging over at the site throughout the Festival, but as an intro, come and meet Marcia Ferguson, the Festival's director, over some delicious treats from one of my favourite Footscray restaurants.


Plan A had been some lovely soup at Sen, but with it surprisingly shut that day, we strolled to Sapa Hills.  Quite a few people seem to think its slightly swish decor means that it's some kind of gweilo tourist trap, but its Hanoi-style specialties and confident renditions of Vietnamese staples make it one of my favourite spots in Footscray.

Bun nem ran, $12

For instance, spring rolls at Sapa Hills don't just mean the typical tiny tubes with a hunk of iceberg lettuce you get elsewhere.  These are Hanoi-style spring rolls, wrapped in rice paper (instead of wheat) and fried so that they are delicately crisp and crackly all over.  The filling is a delicious mix of pork, vermicelli noodles and black mushroom.  Make a little salad with spring rolls, rice noodles, greens and refreshing dressing for a big whack of yum.


Just about all the artists in this year's Big West Festival are from the western suburbs.  Marcia and I spoke about what makes this part of Melbourne have such a strong and defined identity.  She said she thinks of the west as a "mini Philadelphia".  "Philadelphia loves Philadelphia, and you can feel it on the street," she says.

To her, Big West is about bringing out and presenting to the public the west that is already here.  It's about celebrating what Marcia describes as our "gorgeous mix of immense cultural tradition".  One really exciting event that does just this is Dance Republic, a kind of cross-cultural dance-off between groups like the South Sudanese Dombai Dancers, dancers from the Chin community and students from local high schools.  It's on Sunday 1 December at Little Saigon Market - read more here.

Wonton soup, $5

Just a little wonton soup to whet your appetite.  This is a bargain at five bucks and boasts lovely restorative soup and fat wontons with whole prawns inside.  (I find these soups are great for kids - just enough and not too many tricky noodles to try to scoop up.)

Big West is about inclusiveness and community engagement, but it also offers opportunities for artists to present their work, even if that work is "high end" or highly conceptual.  "Labour" is a "part video installation, part participatory event" by local artist Hoang Nguyen.  His inspiration is his childhood experience of the Vietnamese show tunes that played while his mother made clothes at home.  Through this work he aims to "[explore] notions of work through open karaoke participation".  If that's not a world first, I don't know what is.

Vietnamese coleslaw with prawns and pork, $18

The coleslaws at Sapa Hills are another must-have.  We loved this prawn and pork number - sometimes the pork in soups and salads can be a bit grey and chewy, but here it was really tasty and tender.  I could live off this stuff - so much crunchy cucumber, fresh herbs and sweet pickled carrots.  Scoop it onto the prawn crackers for a Vietnamese tostada.  Yum!

"Massive" perform at the Big West launch

You can read the whole Big West program here.  As mentioned, the rest of my Big West posts will be on the Big West site itself, so stay tuned there for artist interviews and reflections on works during the Festival itself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Announcing ... The Westies!

Every so often we get out of town.  Sometimes, among ferns or sand dunes, I start daydreaming about moving somewhere where there are a lot more trees and a lot less trucks.  It all sounds great until it comes to food, and that's when I realise I couldn't be happy in a place without dosas and pho and with only one type of mint.  That whole thing about a way to a man's heart is through his stomach?  I may not be a man, but that is definitely true for me.


I've loved meeting fellow food bloggers along the way, doing crazy things like eating chicken embryos and doing blind banh mi taste testing, but my best blog bud is Kenny of Consider the Sauce.  It's brilliant to have a mate and blogging compadre to trade cheap eats war stories with.  We've both been running our blogs for three plus years, and with almost 1000 posts between us, we think we've really lit a fire under the media to get more attention on the western suburbs horn of plenty  ...  but there's always room for improvement.

To this end, Footscray Food Blog and Consider the Sauce are proud to announce "The Westies:  Dishes of Distinction" - the first food awards dedicated to celebrating the amazing food culture of Melbourne's west.  These annual awards will honour three dishes per year from three different eateries (as opposed to awards to the eateries themselves).  So we're talking maybe an amazing dal makhani, the flakiest cheese burek, and an epic soft shell crab banh mi.  Actually, I don't know who makes that - but can someone please start?!

The selection process will take into account taste, consistency, pricing, and a sense of uniqueness or tradition.  This year's winners will be decided after countless emails, Facebook messages, dining-out sojourns and an epic knock-down bar-room brawl  ...  followed by a steak and a dozen oysters, of course.

Each eatery will be presented with a commemorative award - initial designs included a Olympic donut cast in bronze.  That was scratched, but we promise it will still be awesome.  Eateries responsible for producing the winning dishes will be ineligible for further awards for the next three years.

The winners of the 2013 "Westies - Dishes of Distinction" will be announced and the awards themselves presented at the annual Footscray Food Blog/Consider The Sauce Spring Picnic, to be held at:

Yarraville Gardens, Somerville Road.
Saturday, November 30, from 11 am.
The Westies - Dishes of Distinction winners announced at noon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Amasya Kebab House

A little word association test for you.  Think bread.  Now think Footscray.  I bet you a bag of Olympic's finest you are either thinking of Nhu Lan's crusty French-style bread, or a supple round of injera.  But the bread that gets most overlooked in the 'scray is Turkish bread.  I'm talking big fluffy rectangles with lovely undulating tops, sprinkled with sesame seeds, just begging to be torn apart and swiped through some lovely tzatziki.  One of the best spots to pick some up is Amasya in Nicholson Street.


Amasya is run by Esen who makes all the dips, salad and bread in house.  You can buy a whole freshly-baked, slab-sized loaf for $3.50.  Don't ever let me catch you buying that horrible packaged Turkish bread from Coles - this is well worth the detour.


The fare is Turkish, from a Turkish bread-wrapped kebab to plates loaded with shish kebabs or felafels, dips and salads.

Meal of the day (small), $13

This is the staggeringly excellent meal of the day.  Two hillocks of shaved chicken and lamb from the spit - the meat is really tasty, not too salty or fatty, with loads of delicious crisp bits.  It comes piled up against your choice of two dips (there's yoghurt-based cacik, spinach, eggplant and more) and some lovely fresh salad, plus a basket of fluffy bread - all for a fabulous 13 bucks.  (PS:  You can take leftovers home, and vegos can get a similar spread but with felafels and stuffed vine leaves for $10.)


The other winning tip here is the pides.  Theses are long submarine-like loaves enclosing a filling - maybe cheese and spinach or lovely creamy egg and sucuk, a salami-style sausage.  They are a bargain for $4 or $5 and you can eat them in, too, making them a great pitstop snack.

Cheese pide, $4

I ordered some of these for a function and when ordering said I was happy to have them cold as I'd heat them up later.  "What time are you coming again?" said the fellow there.  "About 10," I replied.  "Oh, they'll be hot then - they will only just have come out of the oven," he replied.  That's fresh!

Amasya Kebab on Urbanspoon

Amasya Kebab House
134 Nicholson St, Footscray
Phone:  9687 7032
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