Take yourself on a Sydney Food Tour to experience food and culture form all over the world. Sydneysiders hail from all corners of the globe, so it stands to reason that a huge range of international cuisines and grocery ingredients is readily available in Sydney.
Find that Special Ingredient
While many ingredients for cooking international dishes are available in your local supermarket, it is much more fun to visit an area where the residents cook those dishes every day. Then you can experience the culture and while shopping, learn more about the cuisine from the shop keepers. You can chat to locals and enjoy a traditional meal at one of the restaurants.
Through exploring different suburbs of Sydney, I have discovered different cuisines and tasted delicious dishes for the first time. It has been a cultural discovery as well as a food journey through Sydney, an enriching experience that I am happy to share with you.
Cultural Experiences in Suburban Sydney
I well remember experiencing Ethiopian food in Blacktown where I was the only white person in the restaurant, the delicious Afghani lunch in Auburn and my first Korean meal in Strathfield. The sweet flaky baklawa dripping in syrup in my favourite pastry shop in Fairfield and the ‘Lady’s fingers’ in Granville remain fixed in my memory.
Here, are my food and cultural experiences discovered over three years of walking Sydney’s suburban streets. I have discovered restaurants with authentic meals prepared by chefs from around the world and bought the ingredients from local grocer shops to prepare these dishes at home. I have also bought culturally specific clothing (for an Indian wedding and a trip to Iran) and other knick knacks displayed on the shelves.
So instead of signing up for one of many food tours on offer in Sydney, step out of your comfort zone shopping bags in hand, and explore one or more of these Sydney International Food and Cultural destinations.
Listen for locals and shopkeepers chatting in their mother tongue. See them discovering familiar brands and products which remind them of ‘home’. Ask for help on how to use unfamiliar ingredients or suggestions for a certain meal. People are only too willing to chat and share their knowledge. Like me, you will be enriched by the experience.
Below is a list of suburbs where I have found international food and culture in Sydney. By exploring the suburbs listed here you can take yourself on your own Self-Guided Sydney Food Tour and are sure to have an interesting and tasty cultural experience.
When deciding on a restaurant, be daring – choose somewhere where the locals are eating and you can’t go wrong. Wander the grocery store aisles. Ask if you don’t know. And above all have fun.
A Self-Guided Sydney Food Tour
- Little India (Harris Park)
- Little Italy (Leichhardt, Haberfield and Five Dock)
- Little Korea (Strathfield and Eastwood)
- Little Portugal (Petersham)
- Vietnam (Cabramatta and Bankstown)
- Ethiopian (Blacktown)
- Middle East
- (Auburn – Afghani and Turkish)
- (Lakemba – Lebanese and Bangladeshi)
- (Granville – Lebanese)
- (Fairfield – Lebanese but also South American)
- Chinatown (Hurstville)
- Marrickville (Greek, Vietnamese and generally a foodie place)
- Rockdale (Balkan, South African, Bangladeshi and Middle Eastern)
Little India (Harris Park)
Harris Park is the “Little India” of Sydney. The area is easy to explore independently, concentrated as it is near to Harris Park Station along only a couple of streets.
Take time to wander Station Street East, Wigram Street and Marion Street to discover Indian Restaurants, supermarkets and fresh produce stores that specialise in all things Indian.
Need a specific ingredient for that new curry recipe you found on the internet? You’ll find it in Harris Park. Hanging out for barfi or other Indian Sweets? The selection is almost overwhelming. Lucky enough to be invited to an Indian wedding? The right outfit is waiting for you in Harris Park, together with advice on what to wear and how to wear it.
Friendly shop assistants are happy to help and local shoppers will offer suggestions on how to use the ingredients you are buying. Just be brave and ask. I had a lovely exchange with a woman who explained step by step how to make the chai that I enjoyed on trains in India.
Of course, a visit to Little India is not complete without an Indian meal, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. I’ve enjoyed vegetarian Thali at Not Just Curries, but you might like to try Billu’s, or Spice of Life. For dessert there’s Taj Indian Sweets and for street food, don’t go past Chatkazz.
Harris Park is not only “Little India”. It is also home to historic Elizabeth Farm and Hambledon Cottage. Read my Harris Park discovery for more on this interesting suburb.
Little Italy (Leichhardt, Haberfield and Five Dock)
While Leichhardt is called the “Little Italy” of Sydney, the neighbouring suburbs of Haberfield and Five Dock also have a distinctly Italian flavour. Visit all three to get a comprehensive feel for Italian life in Sydney.
Leichhardt has many Italian restaurants to choose from and Italian community associations have their offices here. In Haberfield, Italians staff the specialty Italian grocers and delicatessens and you’ll hear Italian spoken everywhere you go. The village of Five Dock is different again with a fabulous family Italian Deli and village plaza.
Long known as the Little Italy of Sydney, Leichhardt is slowly changing. Nevertheless, a visit to Leichhardt won’t disappoint. Walk up and down Norton Street. The Italian restaurants are there, including the stalwart Bar Italia which has been operating in Norton Street for years and years. Their gelato is superb.
For Italian wines, drop into N.&T. Lucchitti Deli and Liquor store. Explore the handmade masks on display at The Merchant of Venice at the entrance to the Italian Forum where you’ll also find the six-hour clock. This replica of a clock designed for a clock tower in the 1850s in Brisighella in Northern Italy, has only six hours on the face.
Read more about Leichhardt, including the Bus Museum and an Aboriginal Art Shop in my post on that suburb.
Ramsay Street is home to the much written about foodie shopping strip of Haberfield. Many Sydney Food Tours take visitors to Haberfield, but it is easy enough to visit independently, being a 20-minute walk from Summer Hill station. Or you could go by car.
Locals of Italian descent shop at one or all of the Italian Providores found here. Women can expect to be called “Bella” and many of the staff in the various stores hail from Italy. Explore the small but popular Peppes Pasta. Purchase fresh burrata at Paesanella or ask for suggestions for that cheese plate you are preparing.
Wander the aisles of the Zanetti Deli. In the local Lamonica IGA, housed in the old Haberfield Cinema, you will find that the food bloggers aren’t wrong. Food stuffs from Italy line the shelves. People queue up at the deli counter, the older folk waiting their turn on the thoughtfully provided seats. The old Post Office is now a pizzeria and the old Salvation Army Hall a Fruit Market.
Gojak meats, besides the usual fare, smokes their own meat. Men sit solving the problems of the world outside Dolcissimo. The display cabinet at Papas Pasticceria growns with sweet delights. Queue up to order your coffee and treat before sitting down.
Besides being a foodie destination, Haberfield is known as the Garden Suburb and there are no pubs in Haberfield. Read more about my Haberfield discovery here.
Some Sydney Food Tours also stop at Five Dock where the village centre is concentrated around a section of The Great North Road. When visiting Five Dock, stop for a coffee and Italian pastry at Pasticceria Tamborrino before entering PR Raineri’s Continental Deli where customers are greeted with “Buongiorno”. The clientele is mostly Italian and I enjoy listening to them chat with the proprietors in their home language.
This deli doesn’t only stock the usual Italian cheeses, cold meats and of course olive oil. It also supplies locals with products from their homeland that they know and love. Which means that you can even find Italian labelled cleaning products on the shelves.
Sculptures recognising Italian migrants and their journey to Australia abound in Five Dock. Close by in Ramsay Street, the sculpture, “La Famiglia” honours Italian migrants. Don’t miss Fred Kelly place which has a real village atmosphere. Here, one sculpture recognises the community from the Eolie islands north of Sicily while another artwork describes the Italian community in Sydney, their journey and subsequent life in Sydney.
For more about Five Dock, take a look at what I discovered when I explored that suburb.
Little Korea (Strathfield and Eastwood)
You don’t have to look far to find Korean culture in Strathfield and Eastwood.
The Korean character of Strathfield is immediately obvious when you step off the train and walk towards “The Boulevard”. Shop signs across the road are in Korean and English. Small grocery stores sell products labelled in Korean script. Restaurants cooking traditional Korean food, Korean BBQ, and Korean Street Food line the street.
Food World in Strathfield Plaza sells Korean side dishes including spicy fish roe, pickled clams and octopus and seasoned peanut beans. Get a selection just to try. If you don’t know anything about Korean food, try Bulgogi or Bibimbap for lunch. If like me this is your first time trying Korean food (I know, where have I been?) this may mean stepping out of your comfort zone but isn’t that what travel is all about?
Besides being a Korean centre in Sydney, Strathfield has plenty of heritage to offer. Read more in my Strathfield discovery here.
Perhaps the small sister of Strathfield in terms of Korean Culture in Sydney, Eastwood nevertheless has a strong Korean presence. Step off the train and notice shops signs in Korean and English, Korean Restaurants and Asian stores.
The station divides Rowe Street in two. The Eastern side is a typical suburban strip of shops with mainly Korean stores, restaurants and a few coffee shops while the Western side is more Chinese and Taiwanese.
Walk up and down Rowe Street, take a look inside the Herbalist shop and look up at the fine Art Deco detail of the Eastwood Hotel.
A walk down the Western side of Rowe Street reveals a Taiwanese Bao Dao Kitchen and a Dim Sum restaurant. There are street food vendors and if you haven’t ever eaten mochi (a sweet glutenous rice ball), try one here.
Over the road, take a look at the traditional Taiwanese Street Food Market. It is best to go late afternoon.
For more on Eastwood, read my Eastwood discovery here.
Little Portugal (Petersham)
The Inner West suburb of Petersham is affectionately called Little Portugal. Not far from the station, the Portuguese flavour of the suburb begins with a wall of tiles created by a Portuguese Australian Artist.
The Portuguese theme continues with various Portuguese Restaurants and of course the Sweet Belem Cake Shop where you can’t go past the ‘pastel de nata’ or Portuguese Tart.
Charly’s Deli offers Portuguese expats a range of goods from Portugal including bacalhau, the dried salted cod used in many a Portuguese dish. Tins of sardines, peri peri sauce, dried herbs and spices line the shelves. The fridge offers a selection of cheeses and small goods.
The bottle shop sells Portuguese wine, and hams hang from the ceiling in the Portuguese/Spanish butcher, hams hang from the ceiling. The sign outside reads “Tahlo Portugues Habla español” indicating that the staff speak both Spanish and Portuguese.
When exploring the shopping precinct of Petersham, look down. The pavement itself is an artwork of cobblestone tiles. There’s a rooster and a coat of arms. Another reminder of Portugal.
When I walked through Petersham, I ventured further than the shopping area. Read more about what I discovered here.
Vietnam in Sydney (Cabramatta and Bankstown)
The Vietnamese community initially settled in areas around Cabramatta and Bankstown. While there is Vietnamese cuisine in many areas of Sydney today, Cabramatta and Bankstown are worth exploring to enjoy authentic Vietnamese cuisine and culture side by side with the local Vietnamese population.
In both these suburbs you’ll find more than just Vietnamese food. There are interesting shops, fresh food markets and sculptures remembering the journey taken by the Vietnamese people to get to Australia. Take a shopping basket as you’re sure to want to bring fresh goodies home with you.
The train from the city to Cabramatta takes just under an hour. Once off the train cross Railway Parade. Stop for a minute and look around. Already the feel and look of the area is Vietnamese. Turn left towards John Street and start exploring.
Buy home grown herbs or veggies from the women sitting in the shade on milk crates. They may not have much English, but that is half the fun. Wander the aisles of a grocery store, crammed to overflowing with everything Vietnamese. Stock up on blue and white bowls, inspect the groceries imported from Vietnam.
Drink a freshly squeezed sugarcane juice or Vietnamese iced coffee while sitting on a bench in Freedom Plaza and watching the passing parade. Walk through the Pai Lau (gateway) at the entrance to Freedom Plaza.
Take a stroll through the fresh produce stores. Watch the fishmongers at work and look through the colourful rolls of fabric in one of the many fabric stores.
For lunch take yourself to one of the many Vietnamese restaurants which serve some of the best Vietnamese meals in Sydney. For something quick and light, wait to be seated at the small and busy Phó 54 before ordering your phó (Vietnamese Soup). You will sit amongst locals who will help you with your order and how to eat it.
Thanh Binh is a restaurant where you can have a more substantial but equally authentic meal.
Phó 54 and Thanh Binh are the only places I have tried. Be adventurous and try somewhere else – choose somewhere where local Vietnamese are eating. You won’t be disappointed.
For more on Cabramatta, read my post on my Cabramatta discovery.
To reach the main Vietnamese area of Bankstown make your way from Bankstown Station to Bankstown City Plaza and Chapel Road. The sculpture on the corner of Chapel Road is a monument to Vietnamese Boat People. It epitomises the hardships faced by the Vietnamese people who came by boat seeking freedom and democracy.
Stroll down one side of Chapel Street and up the other to find women selling home grown herbs and vegetables from milk crates on the pavement, men drinking iced coffee at outdoor tables. Look for the herbalist selling traditional medicine.
As in Cabramatta, in Bankstown the grocery stores and fruit and vegetable vendors overflow with interesting produce. Take time to wander aisles, ask a local customer about what they are buying and how to cook with the products. People are approachable and friendly.
At the corner of Chapel Street and Greenfield Parade, seek out the monument marking the entrance to “Saigon Place”. When hunger strikes, choose from one of the Vietnamese Restaurants in this area. If you go somewhere that’s full of local Vietnamese people you can’t go wrong.
Bankstown these days, like most of Sydney, is a mix of cultures. If you wander the streets on the other side of the station, you will experience a more Middle Eastern Feel.
For more on Bankstown read my Bankstown discovery.
Ethiopian in Sydney (Blacktown)
Blacktown is a melting pot of different cultures, but for me the main reason to travel an hour by train from Central Station would be to experience an authentic and delicious Ethiopian meal with locals. I have enjoyed an Ethiopian meal at both Abyssina and Blue Nile in Main Street. While Blue Nile has closed, Gursha has sprung up in its place. Order a combination plate for a richer experience while you sit amongst locals who hail from North Africa. Follow local custom by washing your hands in the basin at the back of the restaurant before eating. Use your right hand to tear off the injera (traditional bread) and wrap it around the delicious fillings.
Besides enjoying Ethiopian food, explore the many and varied local shops. Other restaurants and the many small grocery stores reflect different cuisines and cultures. There are Indian, Arabic, African, Asian, Afghani and more. Need a sari for an Indian wedding? You could get one here. You can also get a henna tattoo. Explore the African stores that supply anything from hair extensions to brightly coloured fabric and traditional clothing.
As with all suburbs of Sydney there is more than just the food and the shops. Blacktown Arts Centre is worth a visit (check first that there is a current exhibition). And perhaps have tea at the revolving restaurant, Cucina Locale, which provides unobstructed views to the Harbour Bridge in the east and the Blue Mountains in the distance to the west.
Find out more in my post on Blacktown.
Middle Eastern Culture and Cuisine in Sydney
Auburn is another foodie hotspot for Sydney Food Tours, but a place you can easily visit yourself. The shops and restaurants reflect the culture of those who have made their home here, including Turks, Africans, Afghanis and others from the Middle East as well as people from Asia.
Walk along the streets on either side of the station to discover a different world from other Sydney suburbs. Remember your shopping bags as you’re sure to need them. Wander through the small grocery stores, chat with people to discover how they use the ingredients.
There are a few shops I never miss when I visit Auburn, which I do regularly with friends. At the Ghazni Bakery in Rawson Street, flat Afghani bread is baked in traditional ovens. Real Turkish Delight is the factory and outlet for the Turkish Delight that you see in shops all over Sydney and Mado Café in Auburn Road is an authentic Turkish restaurant. Kaybar Afghani Restaurant is the place to go for a traditional (and delicious) Afghan meal.
If, like me, you enjoy sweet and fresh Arabic baklawa you are spoilt for choice with more than one bakery to choose from. Take time to walk up Auburn Road, exploring the shops and getting a feel for the place. You are likely to bring home nuts, spices and a few sweet treats for after dinner.
The interior of The Auburn Gallipoli Mosque is well worth a visit. Contact the Mosque directly to arrange a tour for you and a few friends. Or, if there are only a couple of you, just turn up and ask at the office if you can have a look (but not on a Friday). Women will need to cover their head with a scarf and everyone is required to wear socks once you have removed your shoes. Socks are available for purchase.
Easily accessible by train, a visit to Auburn is one way to travel internationally without leaving Sydney. Want to explore Auburn further? Read this post about my Auburn discovery.
Step off the train in Lakemba and step into another country. Many women are conservatively dressed in black with only their faces visible. While initially confronting, it only takes a few minutes and a smile or two to feel relaxed and welcome.
One side of the station has a definite Bangladeshi feel with a bit of Lebanon thrown in. Stroll up and down the aisles of Bangla Bazaar and Kawran Bazaar. Watch the baker at Abou Cham Bakery as he bakes Lebanese Pizzas to order in the fiery oven. Perhaps order one for yourself with cheese, oregano and olives.
The sweets in Kushboo Sweets and Restaurant (Bangladeshi) are similar to Indian barfi but different. Try the shondesh which is made from ricotta as opposed to the milk powder found in Indian barfi. If you are lucky enough to visit Lakemba at night, try some of the street food on offer on this side of the station. And don’t go past the sweet milky tea (Malai Cha) served in a glass.
On the other side of the station, Al Aseel is a good place to stop for a Lebanese meal. It’s easy to over order with the generous servings on offer.
Bookstores and clothing shops cater to the large Muslim community who live in and around Lakemba. While the Darussalam Islamic Bookstore sells many Islamic books, it is interesting to page through one of the well-known fairy tale books to see how they differ from the stories you know.
King of Sweets has a large display of Arabic pastries. My favourite is the ‘Ladies finger’, light pastry filled with a creamy cheesy filling. Of course, it is always tempting to take a selection of baklawa home for after dinner.
For more information and detail on my walk in Lakemba, read more here.
A stroll down South Street in Granville offers a mixture of cuisines and cultures. Easily accessible from the station, you’ll find Thai and Indian interspersed between a number of Lebanese establishments. There’s an Asian Grocery and an Islander Supermarket sells prepared meals including taro leaf curry as well as fresh cassava and taro.
There are a number of restaurants specialising in Charcoal Chicken with Lebanese salad, bread hommos and baba ganoush. Most seem to have shisha (hookah) smoking rooms. Even if you’re not a smoker, just for fun, have a go at smoking the vapourised flavoured tobacco.
El Sweetie also has a shisha room. Their “Ladies fingers” (Znoud El-Sit), only one of a very large range of sweet Lebanese pastries, are delicious with their creamy filling encased in a crisp golden pastry.
While in Granville, remember the 1977 Granville Rail Disaster at the garden memorial (opposite another pastry shop, Ablas). Eighty-three people died in the disaster, when the Bold Street Bridge collapsed onto a derailed train.
There’s much more than food to discover in Granville. Read more about my Granville here.
Fairfield is another suburb with a mixture of cultures, but tending towards the Middle East.
If you’re lucky, you’ll come across Assyrian men playing cards. The game, Concan looks a lot like Rummy. In Harris Street, discover Arabic music in Nineveh Music and ornate cakes in Gateaux de Roi.
There’s also a small South American presence in Fairfield. Paula’s Café and Restaurant offers Chilean cuisine. I can’t resist their alfajores – two short bread type biscuits sandwiched together with dulce de leche (caramel) – typical of South America.
Wander around Fairfield to experience the rich multicultural nature of the suburb. You will find hints of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos, and Samoa. Watch flat bread being baked against the walls of round stone ovens in the Arabic bread shop. Buy baklawa from Aladin Sweets and coffee from around the world from Ambassador Coffee next door.
Take a look at the route I took and what I found when I went to Fairfield here.
Chinatown in Suburban Sydney
Stepping off the train in Hurstville you are transported into China. Men glance through their Chinese language newspapers. Red lanterns hang from the ceiling.
The strip of shops in Forest Road consists of Asian stores with bright bilingual signage
There’s a “First Chinese Medicine Fertility Clinic” and Chinese Medicine practitioners whose rooms are filled with drawers and bottles of Chinese herbal medicine.
“The Advanced Store” stocks a large range of Asian goods. Mr Chao claims to be best BBQ Duck shop in Sydney.
Men play Chinese chess in the plaza. A wander through Hurstville is a true Chinese cultural experience. Read more about what I found when in Hurstville here.
Marrickville is Foodie Heaven in Sydney
With many specialty food stores and much variety and on offer, Marrickville is high on the list for Sydney Food Tours. Rather than pay for a Food Tour, be adventurous and explore the suburb for yourself to discover Greek cakes and pastries, Vietnamese Pork Rolls, specialty cheese and more than one craft beer.
Turning left out of Marrickville station you’ll pass Vietnamese Restaurants and the Hellenic Bakery. Athena cakes is further down the road. Discover the well-known Cornerstone which makes pickles and offers pickling workshops and their café on a corner back the other way. In Marrickville Road, the Food Emporium above the Paesanella Pizza Bar sells gourmet products including chocolates, olive oils, and vinegars. There’s a deli and cheese room with a wide selection perfect for that cheese platter.
The Batch Brewery is a comfortable place for an after-work craft beer while nearby, the Hop and Grain Brew Store runs classes on making beer, wine, kombucha, cheese and more, and sells the necessities for these hobbies.
Walk (or drive) along Enmore Road to TIM products which sells Greek sweets and desserts direct to the public and then on to Serendipity Ice Cream factory shop, another favourite of mine.
When I explored Marrickville, I mentioned more than once that I should return with an esky. I suggest you do too. There’s so much on offer.
Read my blog on Marrickville for more detailed information and addresses on where to find the places mentioned.
Rockdale for Balkan, South African and More
On the Western side of the railway line, Mini Markets cater to the local Bangladeshi, Nepali and Indian community. Ask the shop assistants about the varied vegetables that you may not find at your local green grocer. When there, I learnt that the long green melons are used for curry and the striped green and white melon (snake gourd melon) is good with prawns or rice.
The Taj Mahal sells products familiar to South Africans. There’s the boerewors and Zoo biscuits that I recognise from my childhood as well as what I consider ‘real’ samoosas. They frequent local markets with their products. Follow them on Facebook to find out where and when.
Over on the Eastern side of the railway line, discover Balkan food – I enjoyed a lunch of spinach and cheese burek with a glass of buttermilk at the Balkan Oven Burek Café. The tiny Queen Coffee in a little arcade off King Street is owned by a Macedonian and usually filled with his countrymen. Yet another cultural experience. Walk around this shopping area to find Ibrahim’s Pastry with it’s Middle Eastern treats.
To find out more of what I found in Rockdale besides burek and samoosas, read my blog post here.
Do Your Own Sydney Food (and culture) Tour
It is so easy to discover different cultures and cuisines in Sydney without taking a Food Tour in Sydney. Instead, save your money for your lunch and take-home treats. And set your own agenda for the day.
All you have to do is decide where in the world you want to go, buy a train ticket or get in the car to visit another culture right here in Sydney.
Let me know how you go.