The Addison Road Street Food Markets have been serving up an array of exotic cuisines to diners for over a year. And behind the tantalising curries, pastries and sweet desserts are stallholders from countries such as Syria, Iran and Sierra Leone, getting the opportunity to set up their businesses in Australia and connect with the locals. Mina Bui Jones from the Addison Road Community Centre gives us the background on this popular Sydney market and explains how food can help overcome barriers.
When and why did the Street Food Markets start up?
The Addison Road Street Food Markets were launched in April 2016 in order to create a platform for new businesses run by refugees, asylum seekers and recent migrants. It started as a partnership project between Addison Road Community Centre and STARTTS (NSW Service for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors). The risks and costs of setting up a business can be prohibitive, especially for people who are still getting settled in a new country. The Street Food Markets provide an opportunity for these emerging enterprises to test the Sydney food market, as well as for sharing skills, knowledge and some of the risks by becoming part of a community of stallholders.
Which countries are represented by the market stallholders?
You’re likely to meet stallholders from Iran, Ethiopia, Syria, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, north-eastern Thailand and Sierra Leone.
Because the Street Food Markets are an enterprise-development project, the stallholders are always changing. Some have come to nearly every single market since the first, which was a surprise sell-out with over 6,000 people turning up! Others have honed their business model at the markets and moved on to open restaurants or pop-up food stalls elsewhere.
How do the markets involve people from refugee and migrant backgrounds?
The idea behind the markets is that the stallholders are sharing their own food cultures. It’s not food which you would normally find in restaurants, or food that has been adapted to suit an imagined Australian palette. The stallholders are involved in a very personal way. It’s not just a chance to earn an income, but also to share recipes that might have been learned from a grandfather or aunty, or a special dish that’s only found in certain regions of their homeland.
How does food help overcome cultural barriers?
Through pure pleasure! When you enjoy the taste of something, you’re happy and your heart opens just a little more. It can also make you curious and want to learn more about differences, whilst recognising the many similarities we share across the world related to preparing and sharing food.
There is an Egyptian lady who sells the most delicious comfort-food style dish called kushari, made with rice, lentils, macaroni and onion. Some people say it’s Egypt’s national dish, but it’s also found in Lebanese cuisine and is related to the Indian dish kedgeree. We are connected by our enjoyment of food and also the wonderful, complex histories of the foods we eat.
Why is street food so popular?
There’s a saying that eating food with cutlery rather than your hands is like courting a lover through a go-between. Maybe there’s a similar difference between eating indoors and eating outside under the sky. There’s something fundamental and direct about being outdoors when you eat, and of course it’s much more social. We’re not in our little boxes at home, or marooned on a specific table in a restaurant setting—it’s fun, it’s relaxed and it’s shared. That’s why we also always have live music at the Street Food Markets, adding to the atmosphere of celebration and inclusion, of cultures meeting and mingling.
What are some of the mouthwatering dishes on offer?
Where do I start? It’s always hard to choose, so sometimes I order extra to take home to eat on Sunday. A new favourite of mine is Persian coconut ice-cream. It’s just beautiful— silky, smooth, flavoursome and, surprisingly, it’s vegan too. Then there are rich, saucy curries from Sri Lanka eaten with a soft steamed coconut bread, and the extraordinary vegetable-filled, spiced pastry triangles from Iran called sambooseh. Ethiopian flat bread with a little cluster of meat and vegetable dishes on the side is very popular, as are the dosas and satays… it just goes on!
What else is on offer for the diners?
For the diners who come along, the Street Food Markets are a way for them to say ‘Welcome to Australia’: we are interested in and appreciate the cultures, the flavours and the richness you bring with you from your homelands to add to the mix here.
Addison Road Street Food Markets
Open on 1st & 3rd Saturday
4pm to 9pm
142 Addison Road