Thursday, 5 November 2009

africa in sydney

(as heard on FBI radio)

In Sydney, we pride ourselves on the multicultural melting pot quality of food - from Thai to Italian, Lebanese and even Tibetan. But what about that gigantic continent on the other side of the Indian ocean..just a bit to the..left..ah yes, Africa.

Such a large continent contains so much variation in itself, from Biltong and Braais in South Africa to Persian and Mediterranean influences in the east and north of the continent. So to say 'what is African cuisine?' is a little broad, but here are three places you can taste parts of Africa right here in Sydney.

Out Of Africa

45 East Esplanade
Manly NSW 2095
Phone (02) 9977 0055
Fax (02) 9977 2606

If you're in the mood to eat on the wild side, Out of Africa fits the bill perfectly. Scary faux zebra upholstered booth seats aside, this venue is home to chef and restaurateur Hassan M'Souli's version of soul food - namely spicily eclectic Moroccan and North African influenced food. Like many chefs, his food references his mother’s cooking influence as well as that of his hometown of Casablanca.

You'll find everything you expect to see on a Moroccan menu: Cous Cous, Tagines galore and lots of meat and seafood. A mixed entrée of spicy marinated lamb brochette, saffron-sweet cigar-shaped chicken filo briouat, fried 'soul' sardines, tender grilled calamari and a barbequed king prawn is a tasty beginning to your food safari.

A great feature of Moroccan food is a blend of sweet flavours, mixed in with the spicier ones giving a contrast to the heat of some of the other offerings. The Sud Afric Lamb Sosaties is a great example, combining perfectly tender chargrilled lamb backstrap, with rice and a sweet apricot Madras sauce. The sauce is served with sour cream and is simultaneously creamy, fruity, sweet and savoury.

Respite from the festival of meat comes in the form of the Fish Turban Tagine – blue-eyed cod served in Chef M'Souli's famous spicy tomato charmoula sauce. Not sure where the Turban comes into it, but the fish is fresh, tender and the dish has a great seafood flavour. It’s all served bubbling hot in a Tagine and our friendly waiter seems to enjoy whipping off the Tagine lid with the flourish of a Spanish Matador.

No elephant sitings here, but at around $35 per person, its the most affordable trip to North Africa you're likely to find.

African Feeling

501 King St,
02 9516 3130

Chef Hudu Alhassan may originally hail from Ghana, but his little slice of Africa in Newtown is just about one of the best places to go on safari in Sydney. Taking cues from all over his home continent, you can expect to experience distinct flavours from plantain chips from Nigeria, Bua; tender goat curry from Ghana and Yai Machuzi - boiled eggs rolled in chicken mince, coated in bread crumbs and spices - kind of like an African scotch egg.

Regardless of where in Africa you decide to journey to on this menu, you'll get a hit of aromatic spices and herbs, which go perfectly with African Feeling's spicy house made ginger beer - a concoction brewed from ginger, lemon juice and cloves.

All African food is served with a carb of sorts (Atkins was probably never a fan), from rice to chapati (East African flatbread), cous cous and fufu (ground grain, rolled into balls and eaten by hand), whatever you choose, it's the perfect way to soak up those flavours to the very last.

Bianca's Grub Store

532 Old South Head Road,
Rose Bay
T: 93716022

This last location may not exactly be a restaurant, a cafe or even a diner, but if you want to know what South Africans miss most about home, chances are you'll find it here at this deli slash gourmet market.

Meat fiends beware, if you haven't tried biltong before then prepare for a mouthwatering revelation. This marinated, air-dried steak is pure 'watch the game with a beer and your best mates' snack food and completely addictive (fooderati tip: ask for it 'wet, with a little bit of fat').

If condiments are more you thing, Mrs Ball's Chutney, available in original and spicy will fast become household staples. Aromatic, sweet and a little tart, it's slightly disturbing how many uses you'll find for it in your culinary routine.

If you're planning on having a braai (that's BBQ to you), make sure you pick up a boerewors. A spiced, spiral shaped sausage not unlike a Tolouse, it makes ordinary sausages look, well a bit ordinary.

boerewors image from Wikipedia

A deli in Rose Bay is also nothing without Jewish staples like gefilte fish, chopped liver and kneidlach (matzo balls). If you don't have a Jewish grandmother or you're curious as to what it all means to be part of the tribe, Bianca's is a great place to start.