Multicultural Cuisine of…
I love living in Melbourne. LOVE it. I love being surrounded and influenced by so many different cultures. If you can think of it, chances are Melbourne has it. It’s a city of art, sport, fashion, drama, architecture, and of course food. It’s a city where everyone fits in – you can’t stereotype a Melbourne-er because we’re all so different. But despite the incredible diversity in inhabitants, Melbourne does have a strong culture and “vibe” to it. And I honestly believe that there is absolutely no better place to immerse yourself in the culture of a city than in one of its true epicenters – the market.
|Arriving at the market|
With that in mind, for those of you who haven’t yet been to Melbourne, or just haven’t made it to this wonderful place, let me introduce you to the Queen Victorian Market. The Queen Vic, QV or the Vic Market, is one of Melbourne’s most famous landmarks. It’s been around since 1850s as a small little market, and slowly expanded to the 17 acre colossus it is today. The Queen Vic now houses stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to ugg boots, seafood to scented candles, deli foods to clothing.
Queen Victoria Market
Cnr Victoria and Elizabeth Sts,
(03) 9320 5822
We arrive in the section of the market that houses the delicatessen goods, cheeses and pastries. This is probably my favourite section, being the pastry fiend that I am. Here’s some of what’s on offer…
Within about three minutes, Sous-Jeff notices that every fourth person is clutching a white paper bag with something doughy and delicious smelling poking out the top. We make it our mission to find these things, what ever they are, and soon come across an enormous line of people out the front of one of the shop fronts. Bingo. What we’re after, are “boreks,” a Middle Eastern/Eastern European baked, filled pastry. I believe this particular stall sells the Turkish style boreks, which are more of a bready outer (as opposed to a pastry), and the majority of the ones we’re seen seem to be filled with spinach.
|Spinach and ricotta Borek, $2.5|
We continue weaving our way through the stalls…
|Dozens of different types of flours|
… and eventually weave our way out and towards the fruit and veggie section and the meat section, passing the famous American Donut Van on the way – they make a fabulous jam donut, but we aren’t stopping for them today, as we have another donut stop coming up…
|The famous American Donut Van (even spelt the American way!)|
We wonder out from the cover of the fruit and veggie section, and start working our way up and down the sheds and find another of my favourite stalls, one of the many selling dried fruit and nuts…
Sous-Jeff opts for a mix of spicy nuts and soy crisps, which last the length of the shed. And for 100g of Sous-Jeff’s mix and 160g of my dried fruit, we paid only $3.80. Wow.
|Every spice and seasoning you can imagine|
|Beans, lentils and raw nuts|
|Random assorted goods|
|Tin signs – some great kitchen ones too!|
|Hand made leather and beaded bracelets|
|A view of the market|
We turn a corner and approach my childhood favourite stall – selling super fresh eggs… and little, tiny, fluffy, baby chickens!!! I begged and begged my grandparents to buy me one every single time they took me as a child… and never got one. Now each time I go with Sous-Jeff, I beg him for a pet chick. Still no luck. Ah well, onwards we go!
This wonderful little place sells cupcake cases, cookie cutters, cake decorations, and other confectionery delights. I bought about $18 worth of cupcake cases, including giant ones (a little bigger than a Texas muffin pan size), and they are well worth the visit to the market for – ranging between $2.50 – $3.50 per pack.
Our next stop is my favourite part of any trip to the market – the Spanish Donut van. Makers of the best churros I’ve ever had.
This van is a Melbourne institution. They are real, authentic, spectacular churros, made fresh. The line we join, 14 people long and not a single word of complaint for having to wait, is a testament to the deliciousness of these donuts.
The churros come out of the deep fryer in a giant coil, and are deftly cut up by the man with the scissors, then dumped in the bain-marie, and quickly scooped into paper bags and distributed to the masses.
Doused in icing sugar, they’re super crunchy on the outside, super soft inside. Perfect.
|Churros, $1.00 each, or 7 for $6.00|
More laps around the market builds our hunger, and soon enough it’s lunch time, and there’s only one place for us to eat: La Cantina.
Shop 24, Shed F
Queen Victoria Market
La Cantina is a miniature Mexican restaurant – it’s like sitting at the kitchen bench of a Mexican friend, who happens to have a great bar and amazing food. It’s run by the same crew as the churros van, so you know it’s gonna be good.
After a quick glance at the menu, we make a quick decision…
|Nachos for 1 (with homemade salsa, guacamole, tasty cheese and sour cream), $7.50|
… and a beef burrito.
|Beef burrito with guacamole, rice, cheese, homemade salsa, black beans and lettuce, $9.50|
The nachos are perfectly crisp with perfectly melted cheese, and the homemade salsa is just incredible. The burrito is magnificent – you can tell everything is incredibly fresh, it’s perfectly put together and we could’ve eaten another 7 of them. Kudos to you, La Cantina. We’ll be back!
A few more laps around the market, and it’s time to head home. But not before one last stop in the pastry area for some dessert. This particular pastry shop has everything from big, fresh loaves of bread in all varieties you can think of, to meat pies, to danishes, mud cakes and cheesecakes. But it’s the macarons in the corner that catch my eye.
I decide on a Strawberries and Cream macaron, a French Vanilla Creme, and a Double Belgium Chocolate.
|Vanilla, Strawberries and Cream, Chocolate, $2.70 each|
Strawberries and Cream: beautiful flavour, tasted exactly like strawberries and cream, and really enjoyed the little bit of strawberry jam in there!
Double Belgium Chocolate: incredibly rich and chocolate, no complaints here though! Was suuuuper chocolate and I loved it! Great crunch on the shell and soft, smooth ganache inside.
Last up is the French Vanilla Creme – the vanilla macaron is my flavour of choice, and the barometer against which I compare all macarons. So far, the best vanilla I’ve tried was from Shocolate. This one is pretty darn good too though; I was especially excited when I got three quarters of the way through and discovered some raspberry jam hidden in there – yum!! The vanilla flavour itself if perfectly balanced, both soft and rich.
With tired legs and full tummies, we waddle back to the train station, vowing to eat something healthier for dinner, but secretly excited to try out something decadent and delicious in my new giant cupcake cases. I hope you’ve enjoyed my food tour of the Queen Vic Market, and I’d love to hear about the local markets where ever you guys live too! What’s your favourite market and why?!