Friday, June 7, 2013

Footscray is a Food Town

Native Melburnians think that Footscray is the ghetto. I know this because I overheard one of my new co-workers saying that she pees herself every time the doors open there on the V-Line train. (That's the regional train service here.) Sure, Footscray seems a little rough around the edges. I can't speak for the area at night, but I can say that it didn't seem nearly as scary as the Bronx. Besides that, all I can tell you is that there's some great food over there.

Take the town in whatever order you want. There's the Footscray Market itself, the Little Saigon Vietnamese Market hidden off the beaten path, and a multitude of other little tempting treats down the side roads like Hopkins St. and Leeds St. We walked through the Footscray Market first, shown above, and then headed to Nhu Lan bakery, known around Melbourne for supposedly having the best banh mi in the metropolitan area. 
While they did serve up an exceptional rendition, I must say that even in the just over one month that we've been here, we've already had better than Nhu Lan on Victoria Street in Richmond. Nonetheless, look at those layers in that mixed ham roll. There were at least 3 types of ham in there, deliciously cushioned by butter and pate on nice, crusty but light bread. I've been disappointed that banh mi in Melbourne have been missing pickled daikon, but they have other ingredients to make up for that like fried onions and sliced chili peppers. I guess daikon ain't no thang here. 
We went into Little Saigon after our sandwich. This is a smaller market than the Footscray, but it offers a diverse selection of Asian greens, fruits, cooked snacks, seafood and other ingredients. We picked up a few things like dried noodles, tamarind paste and fish sauce just to have in the house for when the mood strikes. A cool thing about this market: they encourage shoppers to try the fruit before purchase! Don't mind if I do.
I was pretty impressed by some of the seafood offerings. I've never seen crabs like these in my life, (and I do consider myself a crab aficionado,) but more than one shop in Little Saigon was slinging them. There was also fresh uni on offer, still in its urchin shell. 
Before heading back towards Melbourne, we had to make a stop at Olympic Doughnuts. It's located just as you walk up to the train station, which MUST have been strategic on their part. Anyway, this little graffitied shack is supposed to have some of the best doughnuts in Melbourne.
Look at that dolphin jelly pump. Isn't that funny? The cart does have character. They fill and dust each doughnut with raspberry jam and sugar just before serving it. No pre-filled doughnuts, thanks.
Our complaint about these doughnuts, and others that we've had at the American Doughnut Kitchen at the Queen Vic Market is that there is just never enough jelly. These had deliciously soft and airy dough but were lacking on filling. Perhaps it's time to discipline that dolphin.

I see nothing to fear in Footscray besides maybe a little indigestion after eating way too much. But that's what Pepto, Gas-x and Prilosec are for, K? My three favorite meds.

Footscray Market: 81 Hopkins St., Footscray, VIC 3011

Nhu Lan: 116 Hopkins St., Footscray, VIC 3011 Nhu Lan on Urbanspoon

Little Saigon Market: 63 Nicholson St., Footscray, VIC 3011

Olympic Doughnuts: 51 Irving St., Footscray, VIC 3011  03 9689 4819 Olympic Doughnuts on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Seems a little harsh here- no japanese radish on a Vietnamese roll so they are not up to scratch?.
Also Olympic Doughnuts are as fresh as you can get and the taste is amazing and all you do is moan about not enough JAM for you?.

Elspeth said...

@anonymous: You may notice that I called Nhu Lan's banh mi "exceptional," and Olympic Doughnuts "deliciously soft." My critiques on both were aimed at renditions I've had in Melbourne in general, as compared to where I've lived for my whole life, New York. When moving to a new place, comparisons are drawn. My review of the food in Footscray is an almost perfectly positive one.

Sally Thompson said...

There is the PERFECT amount of jam in an Olympic donut.

Lauren aka Ms Baklover said...

Sorry about my fellow residents' strident defence of Footscray! I thought you summed up our fantastic 'burb really well. Glad you didn't buy into the stereotypes of "dangerous" Footscray - I've lived here for 8 years and they are not borne out at all.

Agree, there's not much daikon in the pickle mix in Melbourne banh mi - it's usually mixed in with the carrot at a ratio of about 1:10. I think it's a lot more expensive than carrots. I'm not a fan of the American donut truck at all as well because they don't put anywhere near enough jam in!

Elspeth said...

Hi Lauren, thanks for reading -- I learned about all of the must-eats in Footscray from your blog! Yes, I definitely did enjoy Olympic much more than American.

No need to apologize for your neighbors, I'm glad to see that Footscray-ers are fiercely proud of their home. It's a really cool place. I hope to be back soon!

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