Vanessa: When you spend a day exploring a suburb that is less than 30 minutes from your home yet it feels like you have discovered a whole new world..it is no ordinary day! A few weekends past, myself and a group of friends embarked on a walking tour through Auburn where we were to discover the taste, scents and culture that influence Turkish cuisine.
Being an avid fan of SBS’ Food Safari, I had watched host and creator of the Gourmet Safari Tours, Maeve O’Meara, weave her way through a vast array of cultures and their delicacies. This gave us good indication on what we were to expect on our journey around Auburn’s Turkish influenced establishments. Let me say from the outset that a day spent indulging in exotic foods is a day well spent in my opinion and as you read on you will understand why!
We gathered in the morning at Impress Restaurant where we were greeted by our friendly guides, Arzu and Ulku. These lovely ladies made us feel instantly welcome and their genuine love of their culture is evident as they spoke to the group about Turkish cuisine and lifestyle. After a caffeine fix and an introduction from our hosts, we split the group in two (approx. 15 people in each) and hit the streets to explore.
First stop on the tour was Real Turkish Delight. As the name suggests this quaint little store serves up delicious Turkish delights in a number of different varieties.
Generally, I am not a huge fan of this sweet but let me say, I changed my tune after trying the shops offerings. Two real stand outs amongst the group were the rosewater and almond as well as the chocolate covered Turkish delights – absolute winners. I think nearly everyone walked a way with a few cheeky boxes to enjoy later!
A short five-minute walk back to the main strip brought us to Vatan Persian Restaurant, where we watched a master at work. We were led to the back of the small restaurant where we watched the baker briskly make and bake fresh flat bread in a kiln.
It was a great process to watch and the results were delicious. A light and airy bread that works well eaten with saucy dishes or even as a pizza base. It was a real artwork and a treat to try it whilst it was piping hot and so fresh.
We then crossed the road over to the Menzil Tukish Bakehouse. This small shop front boasts an array of Turkish biscuits, cakes and breads.
A display cabinet showcased the large variety of biscuits that the bake house was well-known for, not to mention the soft, pillowy Turkish bread. Definitely worth stopping by if you find yourself in Auburn.
We strolled over to the next stop on our tour which was a pastry and sweets shop called Gaziantep.
Displaying rows of sweet delights including the crisp, syrupy crowd pleaser, baklava.
Crispy filo pastry filled with pistachio nuts and drizzled with a rosewater sugar syrup makes for a winning combination and one that people return here for.
Bearing in mind that it was not even midday at this stage and we had consumed many a carb and sugary treat, a welcomed break came as we made us way over to the local supermarket known as Gima Emporium.
It was here that our tour leader, Arzu, talked us through some of the many Turkish delicacies that can be found at Gima. From a vast array of cheeses, to sweet preserves, olives, roasted nuts, herbs, spices and more.
Needless to say there was an excitable energy amongst the group as we all made our way out of Gima discussing our newly discovered products!
Although we were heading back to the original meeting point to rejoin the group for lunch, we made a pit stop at Sofra.
Sofra is well-known in the suburb for its juicy adana and tender shish kebabs cooked over hot charcoals. Although lunch was ahead of us, there were no objections in sampling the mix plate that was presented to us with adana and beef shish kebab, before heading to the restaurant for lunch.
We filed into Impress Restaurant, where we had originally met the group earlier that day. The room was filled with excitable chatter as people swapped stories on what they had tried, discovered and bought on the tour. It was also exciting to know that after learning so much about the culture and cuisine that we were about to embark on a beautiful Turkish lunch to see out the rest of our gourmet safari.
Three brilliantly, vivid dips were placed down in front of us consisting of carrot, beetroot and mixed vegetables. Having learnt that day that natural yoghurt forms the base of many Turkish dips and sides, it was wonderful to experience the taste. These were accompanied by loaves of fresh, piping hot bread.
A large platter of mixed shish kebabs and patties were served up next alongside fluffy white rice. Unfortunately, I was reaching tipping point an unable to really enjoy this part of the meal but what I had was lovely.
Finally, our meal was completed with a semolina pudding and a Turkish coffee. A perfect way to round off and incredibly delicious and enriching day.
We made our way out with a copious amount of shopping bags in tow, eagerly discussing the highlights of the day. We all agreed it was a wonderful, memorable experience and something we would highly recommend others to do. It was a great day out and we are already looking into our next Gourmet Safari!
To find out more about the range of tours on offer you can visit: www.gourmetsafaris.com.au
*This tour was independently paid for.