There's no denying Australians love Asian cuisine. Every city has pockets of specialist restaurants, cafes and grocery stores selling the delights of one Asian country or another. The sights, smells and sounds make you feel as though you've arrived in an exotic destination, without the cost of a flight.
Sydneysiders are spoiled for choice, and Catriona Rowntree joined a "Day Trip to Asia" tour and headed west from the city to visit Cabramatta. There are people from around 120 countries working and living there, and food from more than 20 countries, not just from Asia, but places such as Lebanon, Italy, Spain and Turkey are represented in food outlets. Dozens of eateries serve up cheap and delightful fare.
If a particular dish takes your fancy, you can buy ingredients to give it a go at home. Greengrocers sell exotic fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices you may never have even thought of before, so why not be adventurous? Shopkeepers are always delighted to give preparation details.
A walk through an Asian market takes you past an array of wonderful leafy greens long snake beans okra, pandan leaves, yellow oyster mushrooms, maroon banana blossoms, aubergines and flaring dragon fruit. It's a colourful array of marvellous fresh ingredients.
Day Trip to Asia is run by Malaysian chef, teacher and author Carol Selva Rajah, and she knows what she's talking about. She also knows where to find the best of everything. She can show you just the place for the best roast duck, but of course you can choose from other poultry, meat, seafood or vegetarian dishes. Some places serve tasting portions and that's a smart way to try something for the first time.
Many people draw the line at things such as chicken feet and animal intestines, but who knows, if you are game enough to give them a try you might enjoy them. Of course, we all know the old rule that if you see Asian people eating in an Asian restaurant, it must be good. It applies in Cabramatta, so poke your nose in the door and see who's there.
You don't have to follow the Vietnamese tradition of eating it for breakfast, but do try a bowl of beef noodle soup. It is called "pho", also the generic name of restaurants serving it. Influenced by Chinese and French cuisines, it began around 100 years ago and is delicious, filling and something you could easily become hooked on.
The Chinese have been practising herbal medicine for thousands of years, so you may want to pay one of the herbal doctors a visit. After taking your pulse they seem to be able to tell you what may not be working for you circulation, poor sleep or diet, stomach ailments and will make up a combination of Chinese herbs to be brewed and drunk twice a day. Who knows, that nagging complaint could be a thing of the past.
Almost 70 percent of Cabramatta's population was born overseas, and 80 percent speaks more than one language.
Cabramatta, a south-western suburb of Sydney.
Carol Selva Rajah's four/five-hour personalised Gourmet Asian Cuisine Day Trips to Asia costs $99 for adults, $60 for children over 12 and $20 for children under 12. Tastings, drinks, a stall crawl and Vietnamese lunch are included. Self-drive tours allow shoppers to linger and shop.
Getaway Lounge Sydney Offer
Pay $270 for two nights in a deluxe room at the Pensione Hotel Sydney, including late check-out and free Wi-Fi. That's a saving of 54 percent. Available for purchase until 4pm AEDT March 2, 2012. Conditions apply.
For more information and to book log onto www.getawaylounge.com.au.
Prices correct at February 25, 2012.
For further information
Carol Selva Rajah
Day Trip to Asia
PO Box 1353
Strawberry Hills 2012
Ph: (02) 9427 5260
Getaway Lounge Sydney Offer