It’s a warm Saturday morning and my guest and I are running late. We’re making our way to Fairfield, in Sydney’s West, where we are to join a local food tour run by a small company called Taste Cultural Food Tours.
We chose the Global Explorer, which showcases foods from Laos, Iraq, the Balkans and South America. This tour is one of the last that highlights these regions but there are other equally exciting options in different parts of the city.
When we arrive at the meeting point – Al Anwar Sweets – we are greeted by the rest of the tour group and our energetic guide, Nada. Nada informs us as to how the day will progress and provides us each with canvas shopping bags to fill with the delicious treats we gather along the tour.
We aren’t in the sweet shop long but are offered a generous helping of baklava to take with us while we walk to our first destination – Tasic Hot Burek. As we step inside the small bakery, our senses are overwhelmed with the smell of piping hot pastry and oozy cheese.
Our group is seated in a corner of the shop, where a large platter of hot, flakey burek is passed around. We enjoy the cheese-filled pastry while learning about the history of the family-run bakery before setting off to our next stop.
A short walk around the corner takes us to Kebab Abu Ali, an Iraqi restaurant decorated with bold red and gold relics and delicately woven wall-hangings.
We sit at the back of the restaurant while Nada tells us about the decorative pieces on display – genuine Iraqi artefacts.
Platters of warm, crispy flatbreads are offered plus a delicious, spiced eggplant stew (easily my dish of the day), and a traditional rice dish parda plaw – a golden-brown pastry stuffed with aromatic pilaf and chicken. Our group quickly dub this dish as the ‘carb cake’.
Our next stop is inside the local shopping arcade. Nada tells about Grandpa’s Nuts, a typical Middle Eastern grocery stocked with jars of various pickled vegetables and spicy sauces and countless different types of coffee.
At the front of the shop are two cabinets – one dedicated to cheese, the other to roasted nuts and dried fruits. We are offered a quick cheese and olive tasting, which is accompanied by Iraqi bread from our next stop – Al-Baghdady Bakery.
We only spend a short time at the bakery as we’re starting to struggle a little. I pop my head in and see the enormous clay oven the bakers use; it’s really quite spectacular. The group is offered a tasting of pillowy Iraqi bread, and a traditional date biscuit. Both are delicious, but I prefer the sweet flavours of the date, which have been swirled through a crispy sesame dough.
Continuing on our culinary journey, we head toward Shandeez Restaurant for a taste of Persia. Here, we enjoy a combination of beef and chicken shish kebab and a curry made with green herbs – ghormeh sabzi. The meals are accompanied by generous helpings of rice, onion-laden salads and flatbreads. Even though we’re all quite full, we enjoy the meal, and each accept a breath mint on the way out!
Onto our penultimate stop of the day – Green Peppercorn restaurant. The fresh Thai flavours are a welcome change from to the bold spices of Middle Eastern cuisine.
The group digs into the Lao sausages and nem khao – a crunchy rice salad mixed with cured pork, shallots, chilli and peanuts. As expected, I wasn’t able to partake in the Thai part of the tour as I have a peanut allergy; however, everyone assured me the food was delicious – the Lao sausage being the crowd favourite.
Our final destination ends the tour as it began, with something sweet. We enter a small Greek bakery – Gateaux De Roi – its shelves lined with various chocolate-dipped biscuits, delicate sweet slices and elaborate cakes. I try a piece of the orange pound cake – yum, a simple, yet delightful way to end a very satisfying day.
Taste Global Food Tours offer a range of tours across Sydney. All tours can be offered as a private tour and are a fun team-building activity for you and your employees.
Read Daniel Herborn’s review of Olio’s Four Hands collaboration dinners.