Last Friday was the official launch of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Belmore Park. I was more than keen to go and have a look at the martial arts demonstrations, and of course sample food from the stalls in the market.
The markets were not as big as I hoped. There was a bit of New Year paraphernalia, a stall with mixed Buddhas and deities, and several with packaged food products like mochi, aloe vera drinks, sauces, curries, and noodles.
There was a stall selling achacha, that tropical fruit with a super long spot running in cinemas (must have costed a fortune), which we thought was similar to the Peruvian granadilla but smaller. We bought three of those for $1. The orange skin is super hard, you have to sink your finger in it in order to open it.
Inside we found a white cotton-like pulp, similar to the second layer of the granadilla, except that in the achacha this is the fruit (in granadillas you peel off that white skin to find the watery flesh full of seeds, similar to passion fruit but sweeter). It’s sweet and sour and holds a big stone. There’s not much flesh in each fruit and I really didn’t find it worth the trouble.
The show was not very exciting. There were a few “acrobats”, lion dancers, and (ultra) high-pitched singers. Later we watched a bit of a cool martial arts performance by a very flexible man.
The rabbit theme was everywhere (it’s the year of the rabbit), several people got caught in the spirit and wore bunny ears, some of them looked cute or sexy, some of them not so much (I can’t shake off the image of a bald guy with a big belly and furry black & white ears).
We decided to head to the food stalls instead of hanging out in front of the stage. You know how most guys stop when they see beer? Well, with Alvaro ice cream (or gelato) does the trick. He saw this Art Of Gelato Michelangelo stall offering traditional and “Asian” flavours and decided we needed to try some.
He had a scoop of taro and I a scoop of red bean. Both were really good, I liked the fact that you could actually taste the flavour and it was not only a plain gelato with colour added. When we finished Alvaro wanted to try more flavours. Because we don’t have those exotic options in any shop close to home, I agreed. He got a scoop of green tea and I a scoop of black sesame. Both were really good, again they tasted like what they were supposed to taste. These were less sweet than the first two. We both agreed the taro was the nicest of the bunch. I think Alvaro would have liked to have another scoop of it but I dragged him to get some “proper” dinner.
Taro & red bean gelati ($3 each)
Black sesame & green tea gelati ($3 each)
Once again I had this feeling of being ripped off because not all food in offer was Chinese. I’m a purist, you see, so I don’t expect to see pizzas in a sushi restaurant. I’d love to be offered Chinese food from several regions instead of stuff from everywhere. But maybe that’s just me and all the rest of festival goers are happy with the mixed culinary identities in clearly labelled festivals.
Anyway, I made a mistake when choosing dinner. We were already in the edge of a sugar coma thanks to the gelati and I suggested getting BBQ pork and roast duck buns (one of each for each of us). So I basically added more starch and sugar to our carb overload. The buns were not great, they had a lot of dough and not much filling, and the dough was sweeter than usual. You don’t really need a super sweet dough with sweet fillings like those.
BBQ pork & roast duck buns (4 for $10)
On Saturday we had a light lunch (big salad and omelette with feta) and went for a walk in Cremorne. We got off the ferry at Circular Quay and walked back to Belmore Park, to sample some more food. This time we didn’t care too much of getting Chinese meals as the options were limited. Alvaro wanted a mixed seafood plate that included salad leaves, calamari rings and prawns. Good stuff, a bit pricey but well seasoned and cooked.
Mixed seafood plate ($15)
I left the day before craving noodles, so I bought a plate of noodles from a stall that looked Chinese. They were thick noodles in a sweetish sauce with some carrots, cabbage and peas. Nothing else. Not even a few strips of fried egg.
Fried noodles ($6)
Then we decided to try Indonesian noodles, which looked way better. These were fried egg noodles with free range chicken, free range eggs, prawns, seasonal veges garnished with shallots & crispy onions, according to the sign. We got a small serving for $8 (the large was $10). They were ok, they had plenty of prawns and a good amount of chicken but I felt the taste a bit too garlicky.
Mie Goreng, Indonesian fried egg noodles ($8)
This time we followed the proper order and finished with dessert. Alvaro had an ice kacang (Malaysian style slushie) and I an apam balik (thin pancake filled with crushed peanuts, sugar and creamy corn). The ice kacang was nice, it had beans and jelly in the bottom. The apam balik was ok, the flavour was a bit weird and it seemed expensive for what it was. Anyway, it was nice to have a taste of the unknown.
Apam balik ($4) & ice kacang ($5)