Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Food shopping on Melbourne's Chapel street with Neha

There is a sense of unreality to having your baby sister grow up and get married. But that sense of unreality of it is more so when she makes a life for herself with her new husband on the other side of the world. My plan for my trip to Australia was that I would spend the first 2-3 days with my sister Neha and then move to my other sister Himanshi’s to prepare for the SBS food journey culinary demonstrations. Neha had been waiting for me to come to Australia for AGES because she wanted to show me around her life. So on my second day there she took the day off to stroll around Chapel street, where she lives. And I understood why I get SOOOO many messages from her about how she saw this and thought of me or ate that and missed me.

We met my other sister Himanshi that morning, to stock up on whatever I would need for my cooking demonstrations and then after a quick sushi lunch over which we caught up on gossip, Himanshi went off to a meeting and Neha and I set off on an exploration of Chapel street.

Chapel St Precinct, Melbourne's premier dining and entertainment district is open until late and rivals Melbourne's central business district as both a shopping and a foodie destination, named after the first chapel in Prahran, located on the east side, 100m south of Malvern Road, this is a place known for the good things in life- fashion, food, entertainment and style. With a reputation for its “diversity and nightlife” the area is peppered with a range of fabulous businesses including some of the best dining in Melbourne, late night bars, nightclubs the bustling Prahran Market and other specialised businesses such as music, fashion, homewares and specialty food shops. And there really could not have been a better address for my bling loving foodie fashionista sister!

We began with The Prahran Market on Commercial Road, one of Melbourne's premier fresh food markets and is a must for food lovers. Reminiscent of the traditional produce markets of Europe, it has existed for over 100 years and has a great variety of stalls and shops offering fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, deli foods, cafes, variety shops, and clothing.

Known as "the food lovers market" because of the quality and range of the food available here Prahran Market is a community in itself as my sister told me, having worked here for a long time. Its traders and other tenants, together with the staff of the Market Office, are a vibrant group of people passionately dedicated to the Market, its past, present and future. Vociferous, excitable, often in agreement, occassionally at odds, with an enormous and diverse range of talents and skills, the community of Prahran Market is as much a part of its cultural heritage as the wonderful produce it sells.

We began with the Damian Pike’s specialist stall that showcases the astonishing diversity of mushrooms now available in Australia. Damian Pike was one of the first to import that highly-prized prince of edible fungi, the truffle into Australia and he is referred to as the mushroom specialist of Melbourne. His stall is where you will find every possible mushroom that is in season, plus some others in dried and frozen forms. He also carries fabulous specialist vegetables as well. I picked up Potabella mushrooms, Australian Finger limes (a variety of citrus/limes native to the rainforest regions of Australia also called citrus caviar) and Fermented Black Garlic. We stopped by the potato stall, where an innumerable selection of potatoes were on display, including a purple potato. And we went on to the
Pasta stall overflowing with fresh handmade pasta.

Leaving Prahran Market we headed to Rocky’s fruit and veg, after a quick detour to Neha’s favourite Asian grocery to order the makings of Thai curry paste (she wanted me to make some she could freeze) and pick up some Asian spices. Rockys is one of my favourite shops, I discovered it on my first trip to Melbourne 5 years ago. Attracted by the ristras of chillies and garlic, I had walked in to have a look and left with a kilo of the best sund dried tomatoes I had ever eaten! They lasted a good long time too. This time, Neha had very sweetly picked up ristras of chilli and garlic and put them up in her kitchen to welcome me. But we just had to do a little walk through!

Chapel street is full of things to see and do and means lots of walking, so after a rather productive afternoon we needed a pick me up so we made our way to Ganache a chocolate lounge. Situated in a heritage building full of character the ambiance at Gânache Chocolate Lounge is all about exposed brickwork, metal ceilings, and old world charm and offers a unique European style chocolate experience with and extensive selection of beautiful chocolates, handmade on the premises, boutique patisserie offerings, impeccable service, all in a European ambience.

The beautifully presented counter overflowing with exquisite hand-made chocolates, and all sorts of decadent sweet treats was just what we needed on our girls day out. We sank into the soft leather cushions of a couple of wrought iron chairs and began to pore over the menu. Did we want to try one of a variety of speciality hot chocolates or sample one of the multitude of decadent sweet treats on offer; pralines, gelato, gateaux, macarons and of course chocolate were all on offer.... we settled on coffee for Neha, Chilli hot chocolate for me and a Macaron each Pistachio for me and Lavender for Neha. I was worried that the chilli in my hot chocolate would not be spicy enough for me but it was actually perfect and my, thick, hot chocolate with that perfect glow of chilli at the back of the throat was gone all too soon. The pistachio Macaron was good but the Lavender one was sublime!

The scent of the lavender and its lovely flavour really came through. Unforgettable!
I could not help thinking that it was the perfect not on which to end that part of the day as we made our way to the corner where Neha’s husband Mohit was coming to pick us up from. He thought he was taking us out to a fancy dinner. What neither he nor Neha knew then was that plans had changed - I was going to be cooking up a storm for the Bajaj’s that night! But that is for another post! Watch this space!

Fresh Shitake Mushrooms
Australian Finger Limes
Also called Citrus Caviar - Not without reason!
Fermented Black Garlic
Everything Neha in one shot, fancy bag, fashionista 'sunnys', bling phone and the most fashionable food things this year Macarons!
Most beautiful chocolate I ever saw - strawberries and white chocolate!


GYAn and links
Chapel Street Precinct, The Prahran Market, Gânache Chocolate.

If you are in the mood for some summer recipes, try these ones I created for the SBS Food Journey at the Melbourne Food and Wine festival.  

I used Maharashtrian Mirchi Thencha to make simple Chilli #Potatoes You can also watch the video at

I used garlic tempered buttermilk to make garlicky Butermilk braised chicken for Watch that video at

More to come! 


Sassy Fork said...

What a fun street Rushina!!
BTW,what is the purple fruit called and how did the fermented black garlic taste?

The knife said...

Neha & Mohit are the best

ashish said...

I just love your blog-it takes one through a gastronomical journey and your mouth waters without a break.Your passion for food reflects in your blog.keep cooking and feeding.