On Saturday Heidi and I went on a food tour around Footscray. It was a guided walking tour run by Mei Ling from Vietnam on a Plate. Mei Ling provided us with a very comprehensive tour of the Footscray and Little Saigon markets, a number of shops and few restaurants and bakeries. Vietnamese community in and around Footscray is thriving, and it really was like experiencing another culture for five and a half hours.
The indication of the quality market sellers' produce is based on the number of people who shop there. Mei Ling told us that much of the produce in Footscray market is sold to local restaurants and the Victoria University's hospitality school. Here is the produce at Footscray market - the greens, all things chicken - the best chicken stockist in the market, including eggs from the inside and outside of the chicken, quails, pigeons and duck - and the view of Melbourne from the top of the carpark.
We broke for morning tea where we were given Vietnamese pork rolls (my favourite - full of coriander, chilli and pork) and tea or coffee. I had a really good hot chocolate.
We spent a long time exploring the supermarkets - we looked at spices and shrimp paste, and tofu and cookware. These pictures reminded me of the Asian Snack Challenge that a friend and I did after uni two years ago. I want to reignite the challenge!
We learnt about cultural traditions - symbols to attract wealth and to ward away bad luck, and we saw these paper suits, that are given to the deceased for their afterlife.
Lunch was at Quan An (102 Hopkins Street Footscray). We shared a range of meals which were fantastic. Pictured (from top left, clockwise) is prawn, pork and green papaya coleslaw, authentic Vietnamese spring rolls (eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf with Vietnamese mint, lemin leaves and dipping sauce), grilled fish with rice vermicilli and steamed rice paper with minced pork and pork cake slices.
After lunch we walked some more, and were given egg tarts - my other favourite! =(I had three due to other tour walkers giving them to me!) - and saw these panda fish tofu and tiny eggplants. I found it funny to see the freshness of the fruit and vegetables, contrasted with the cutesy, highly processed food in various shops and supermarkets.
A few things didn't sit well with me either - and this isn't a reflection of the tour itself, but rather a culture shock, or my naivity. We were told Footscray is largely a cash economy, and it made me wonder about the tax implications and regulations around hygiene and quality of the food. We saw a group of people selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton out of a van. I was also hesitant to buy the meat from the market because of the smell, and I wondered about the farming ethics of the meat and fish. There were lots of crabs in crates, their legs tied, and they were out of water.
Overall it was a good experience. I left feeling more equipped with the knowledge of different Asian fruit and vegetables, and how to cook with them, and also found that Footscray is a lot safer than when I used to visit there, every day in transit between train and tram when I first moved to Melbourne. I definitely want to spend more time shopping at the markets there. I do recommend a food tour - it's a great way to experience the culture of your city!