Monthly Archives: July 2014

Immigrant Jigsaw Puzzle, Sydney

Immigrant Jigsaw Puzzle, Sydney

Immigrant Jigsaw Puzzle

Recently, I was at the Paddy’s Haymarket. Did I hear the vendors exchanging conversations in Chinese? It took me by surprise! This was Sydney, Australia! But here was a migrant community. People who had made Australia their new home.

Paddy’s Haymarket, is a short walk from Town Hall station, in Sydney’s commercial district. Situated inside a 1950’s building complex this wholesale market caters to selling fresh fruit and vegetables, it operates daily. You can’t miss the brick-red walls of this Edwardian architecture, as soon as you turn off the main Town Hall street, into the lane leading to the market. Tourists flock here for cheap bargains and often stop right in middle of the lane .. cameras clicking click, click.

This iconic building, is a contrast to the modern high-rise glass structures at Town Hall and standing majestically aloof from the shabby old buildings of Chinatown area.

Haymarket Building, Sydney

Haymarket Building, Sydney










Piecing the jigsaw puzzle:

Australia is original home to the Aboriginals, a distinct indigenous community. They are known for nomadic ways, natural living style, clan behaviour and living in isolation. The European sea farers, outlaws and the gold diggers that descended upon Australia, changed the status and outlook of the country. As farmers, wine growers, setting up law and order, schools the Aboriginals were displaced. Two distinct Australian communities but not one set up shop and earned his living here. I wonder why?

Enter the Chinese. They are the oldest immigrants that arrived into Australia during 1850’s. Poor knowledge of spoken English and tight immigrant laws, pushed these migrants into low-end work as cleaners, gardeners, drivers, and small shop owners. Keen business acumen and hard work paid off. Today, Chinatown outside this market is a buzzing place full of restaurants, shops and housing estates. This market in Sydney with so many Asian vendors speaks volumes isn’t it?

The red and gold Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling brought back memories of Singapore market and Chinese festivities. I loved those New year dolls pasted on the pillars – smiling faces as if  reminding one to smile about life and make efforts wherever you are.

Chinese lanterns at Paddy's market

Chinese lanterns at Paddy’s market

All is not easy, said the busy, young Malaysian lady handing me packets of exotic Dragon fruit and baby corn. She had to take English lessons for six months, and work as a cleaner in the evenings to support herself. ‘To the customers we talk Chinese /Australian accent, but between our community, we quickly shout out in Mandarin’ she laughed.

And where is home? I inquired. Generally ethnic communities prefer to lived huddled together in suburban enclaves -Redfern, Paramatta, Chatswood. ‘Housing is cheaper and easier to get support from our community’ remarked an elderly Chinese vendor, speaking near fluent English. His children attend public school, and they correct his English at home, he laughs. Ethnic suburbs are great way to interact during cultural programmes, he added.

Because this was an Asian market I could buy some tofu, Bok choy, lettuce and baby asparagus. Other curious young Malaysian Chinese, Vietnamese Chinese and Filipino vendors peeped into my camera. They joked ‘ We are instant heroes’ laughing away their daily struggles and adjustments to this foreign culture. Once home, food is comfort – chicken rice, dumplings and noodles.

Enter – Lebanese, Turks, Arabs.
Want a piece of Turkey ? Just like in the bazaars of Istanbul,  jute cloth sacks filled with fresh aromatic powders stood majestically in this shop. Traditional aluminium containers adorned the counters, with mountain peaks of coloured powders. A perfect picture! Now try painting this: Bright yellow turmeric, black nigel seeds, white sesame seeds, green oregano, red chilli flakes, brown cumin and coriander powder, deep green mint and hints of yellow and black in the mustard. I stood there taking deep inhalations, filling my senses with those strong aromas.

Turkish style market counter

The elderly Turkish owner, caressing his white beard and adjusting his cap, soon guided me through the healing nature of these herbs. Arriving in Sydney as a refugee, many years ago, with hardly a penny in the pocket and no knowledge of English, was no mean task. He cleaned dishes in restaurants and ate left overs. Today, his son and family help him manage this very popular shop. He looked as me in discouraging tone ‘Only 50 grams of strong ginger and 50 grams of turmeric powders?’  ‘My European customers buy much more than you’ he shrugged.

The Turks, Lebanese, Syrians have indeed been a major contributing community. I’ve heard of a Lebanese market in suburban Paramatta that sells authentic Lebanese herbs and food items. Turkish and Lebanese food is very popular in Sydney, with many restaurants dotted all over. See here for another Sydney market.

Enter – Fijian Indians.

One small shop tucked away in the front row was selling cosmetics and watches. The couple serving at this stall had arrived from Fiji islands. Dark skinned, wearing traditional long Fijian skirts and a blouse, the lady spoke to me in Fijian Hindi, a dialect. They moved here selling their house and farmland, looking to Australia for better future for their children and more job opportunities for the family men. ‘Home to them is still Fiji – a land bountiful with coconut trees, mangoes and plenty of fresh vegetables’ she smiled.

Enter – European settlers

My eye caught the colourful Easter poster pasted on one wall announcing holiday trading hours. Bright Easter bunny chocolates and treats would soon make way into the market. A gentle reminder of local European cultures and traditions that the migrant community need to embrace, along with their customary celebrations

easter poster











Taking one last view of the colourful fruits and vegetables, souvenirs, watches and swim wear was a market bustling with activity, like any other in the world. The people in it contributed to it’s existence. Unknowingly, I gave one nod of acknowledgement to this robust, enterprising migrant community. The new face of Sydney, Australia. Pride and gratitude swelled within me.

I had to take home one souvenir of the first people here. A bag with distinct Aboriginal design. Dots and lines traced in bold black and red colours to create a piece of simple Aboriginal Art. Goodbye, Sydney.

Souvenir bag

Souvenir bag


Have you met any immigrants in Sydney ? What are their stories? 


All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2015) Please see copyright disclaimer.



World Palate Recipes – Date Treats


Date Treats from Middle Eastern Cuisine.

The entire Middle East region abounds in Date cultivation, the fruit being regarded holy and healthy.

In UAE (and other Middle East countries) the green Date palm trees abound in the harsh, arid landscape. Often people are seen taking rest under the shade of these trees, relaxing away from the mid day sun. During the fruit season in summer, there is plenty of fallen fruit to enjoy. No wonder Middle Eastern cuisine makes use of Dates to prepare a variety of dishes: Date halve, Arabic date and cardamom cake, Moroccan chicken and Date Tagine, Egyptian milky date pudding, Lebanese Date cookies (Mamoul), Date desserts with pistachios and almonds …and the list is endless.

Options for decorating Dates

Options for decorating Dates

It’s the Ramadan – the holy month. The Muslim community celebrates a month-long fasting period from dawn to dusk. Dates form an integral and important part of the fast – it’s the Holy fruit. After the evening prayers, at the Iftar meal the fast is traditionally broken by eating the Date fruit. It gives the body immediate sugar and protein, as well as prepare the empty stomach for richer food intake. Dates reduce cholesterol, abdominal pain, inflammation and have many other medicinal qualities. No wonder it’s a well-loved fruit. Dates are eaten raw or ripe. Raw fresh dates (Rutab) are golden coloured and have a crunchy, fibrous nature. Local Emirati, Omani and Lebanese eagerly await the summer fruit every year. The ripened fruit is dark brown, sweet and succulent.

Here is an easy milkshake recipe. Often children are given this as they return from school – makes a healthy, nutritious and cool drink.

Almond /Date Milk shake: This is a simple, healthy, traditional summer treat given to children as they return from school. Dates provide healthy sugar.

Ingredients: 6-7 almonds 6-7 large dates, seed removed 3 glasses milk crushed ice( optional)

Method: Soak the dates and almonds in warm water for 10 minutes. Remove skin from almonds and loosen skin from dates. In blender, make paste of almonds and dates, adding milk as desired. Note the colour change from dark brown to light brown. Put some crushed ice into 3 glasses. Pour frothy blended milk /date mixture over them. Decorate with sliced almond. Serve immediately. date milkshake

Guest contribution: Nisrin is my childhood friend, currently living in Dubai. She is celebrating Ramadan and has been fasting (and feasting too). Thanks Nisrin, for sharing your recipes and tips here.

1.Best dates to use for smoothies are Medjool, pitted and sliced

2. Soak dates in milk/water for few hours before use

3. Substitute yoghurt and milk interchangeably if desired.

4. Skim milk/ Low fat blends better

5. Add oat bran, almonds, flax seeds(linseed) for a healthier and energizing drink

6. Freezing the fruit before blending will give a creamier texture

1.  Simple Banana Oat Bran Smoothie (Makes 2 glasses)

• 1 ½ cup milk, • 1 tb spoon oat bran, • 1 Banana, • 4 dates soaked in the milk overnight ( Mejdool are best!) • Vanilla to taste – optional. Blend it all together in processor, pour into each glass.

2. Banana – Date Smoothie ( makes 2-3 glasses) • 250 ml plain yoghurt • 120 ml milk, • 120 ml dates, fresh, pitted and chopped and soaked overnight in the milk • 2 bananas, sliced • 8 ice cubes – optional Blend all ingredients ( except ice). Put ice cubes in each glass, pour smoothie on top, and let froth top.

3. Spiced Banana Date Smoothie  (this is her favourite)!

• 1 cup Milk • 4 Medjool or other dates, pitted, chopped and soaked overnight in the milk • 1 teaspoon cinnamon • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg • 1/8 teaspoon ginger • 1/8 teaspoon cloves • 1/8 teaspoon Chilli Powder* ( optional) • 1/16 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper* • 3/4 cup sliced ripe banana • 3/4 cup Ice – Optional

Blend all ingredients, except ice. Serve ice cubes in glasses, pour frothy smoothie into glasses, decorate with nutmeg /cinnamon powder.


Due to the festive Ramadan season Lebanese sweet shops and market shelves in UAE, are filled with assorted sweets and decorated dates – coated with chocolate, stuffed with pistachio or almond powder, layered with fresh cream, date balls rolled in coconut. sweet tooth is craving. Here is my contribution.

Stuffed Dates with fresh cream( I used yoghurt sauce for healthier option)

A healthy, traditional dessert served at Iftar party during Ramadan.

Stuffed Dates - quick recipe

Stuffed Dates – quick recipe

Take 4-8 Mejdool /Deglet Noor / any large fleshy dates, keep at room temperature. De-seed them gently. Stuff them with blanched almonds (or coarse pistachio powder). Arrange on plate. Dress them with whisked fresh cream. (here is the health tip : I used thick yoghurt, lightly whisked + 1 spoon sugar). Pour gently over the prepared Dates. Garnish with lemon and orange zest. Adding chopped pistachio or toasted pine nuts, gives more colour and texture. Serve at room temperature.

Delicious…can’t resist!

Stuffed dates topped with yoghurt sauce

Stuffed dates topped with yoghurt sauce










Isn’t that enough for this time? I’ve been busy reading about many Date cookie recipes. As soon as I’ve made a batch, I will share it with you all.

If you would like to share any Date recipes – do email them to me. It makes the world a richer place.

Till then – Happy Ramadan / Happy Ramzan / Id Mubarak / Ramadan Kareem 


Someone asked me – If you are writing about your travels – Why did you choose something mundane as local fresh market? Why not – popular tourist sites, food of the country or clothes people wear?

Well, isn’t the local market telling you about all this and more? The history, culture and food all put together ? I asked.

Every market is so unique and bubbling with activity, it’s only when you look beneath that layer can you spot the cultural identity. The market too is a great tourist spot on one’s itinerary. The colours of fresh produce are brighter than on canvas, the sounds of vendors so concentrated upon the selling activity, the fresh produce is so diverse across the oceans, the seasons spell tell-tale signs upon the clothes people wear and the fruit they buy at the market.

So why not write about markets? What do my readers think?

And, look what I stumbled upon….some other bloggers /travel writers are writing about culture at markets too:)

I hope to carve a niche for myself in this BIG, BIG blogging world out there.

Happy reading!




Other Bloggers

Foodies Market – Sydney


Foodies Market – The Rocks, Sydney

Have you ever visited a food market? Well, such weekly markets,cater to selling fresh food, in a relaxed setting under the sun. Isnt’ that exciting – no home preparations, no kitchen cleaning. Instead, just wander around, peek at the delectable food and enjoy a market ambience! That’s how I spent one Friday morning in Sydney.

A short stroll from Circular Quay, towards the historic buildings on George Street is The Rocks. It so popular on the weekends – you cant’ miss it. Every Friday, from 10am – 3 pm, the Friday Foodies Market, changes the scene from a quiet office and boutique cafe section to a noisy, carefree weekend market.

Welcome to a row of white tents, bustling crowds and exotic food!

The Foodies Market, Sydney

The Foodies Market, Sydney

The country cycle is such a typical European market icon. Look, how it invites the city people here.

IMG_1773     IMG_1758












In recent years, Sydney has become home to immigrants from diverse countries. Home to Aboriginal and European settlers, the popular city is now home to other cultures too – Chinese, Japanese, French, Canadians, Indians, Filipino and Turkish, to name a few.




Weekend food markets in the city ? A great place to be spoilt for choice! French cheese and caviar, Turkish Gozleme, Moroccan coffee and dates, Japanese steak and stir fry, Australian wine and dairy products like cheese and cookies. Hmm…what would you like to try now?

There is something casual and romantic about street markets. Nestled right in the tourist and down town office area, this market has become so popular and growing in the past 10 years. Where else can you get a hand made chocolate or fresh made French crepe on the street?

Can you hear the laughter and weekend chatter? Just stand in the queue, the longest one – and feel the relaxed spirit. Today, there are smartly dressed office men in suits, children tugging the mother’s skirt, tourists adjusting their backpacks and the aimless wanderers taken in by surprise.

The cameras are going Faster than the sale of cookies and macaroons:)


‘Is that the queue for Turkish Gozleme?’ I ask the young ladies standing in a long winding queue. ‘Yes, but it moves very fast, about 20 minutes waiting. We come here every Friday – and just love the hot pancakes!’ they said.

Well, that will be my lunch too. Look at the mounds of soft white dough, quickly patted and rolled by Turkish women. Then its stuffed with Feta cheese and spinach (beef is optional). A quick drizzle of oil on the hot pan to cook the pancake. ‘Salam Ale Quum’ – greets the young Turkish immigrant as he cuts and puts the crisp, hot flatbread – perfect Turkish Gozleme carefully into styrofoam containers. In a jiffy! Brisk sales here.


Now, isn’t your mouth-watering too?  You can take photos of a food market and invite me, next time.

At the end of the market street, were stalls selling art/ bead work, clothing, hand-made jewellery, candles and even chocolates. A fun time for all.

That’s it..I went straight to the harbour to watch the Sydney boats go past the Opera house and enjoy some fresh food.

Wait…. do I need some coffee too?

A cup of coffee, anyone ?

A cup of coffee, anyone ?

Have you ever visited a fresh food market? What did you eat? Where? 



Dates – The Holy Fruit of Middle East

Dates – The Holy Fruit of Middle East

Dates – The Holy Fruit of Middle East.


It’s the summer season in the Middle East, as well as the holy month of Ramadan.  Supermarket shelves are brimming with gift packs of Dates. The fleshy, sweet fruit in many shades of brown makes for a colourful and intriguing sight. Have you ever wondered why the Date fruit is so important to the Islamic culture?

Muslim friends and neighbours tell me ‘Our Prophet Mohammed recommended to break the day long fast, after Iftar prayers, by touching the Date fruit to the lips,then slowly eating it.’ Dates give the hungry body a surge of carbohydrate sugar and protein. It prepares the body for further intake of food. They protect the fasting person from having constipation as a result of changing meal times.

I’ve recently visited supermarkets like Lulu, Carrefour and the Al Mina Date market in Abu Dhabi. With more than 30 varieties to choose from, this is such a confusing task, especially for a novice like me. How do I choose – raw or ripe? Dark or light colour? Which products are superior and why? Where do they come from?

Dates are grown all over the Middle East and as far as Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The Mejdool and Hilali from Saudi Arabia are prized for its large size and succulent flesh. In the UAE – Al Khanizi, Al Khallass, Al Nukhba and Fardh are popular, grown around the Al Ain and Liwa region. Each variety stands apart in size, colour, flesh, sugar content and moisture.

Look at the elaborate wrappings of Date boxes! Some packed tightly with pistachio and almond fillings, others have sesame seed decorations on it. Some modelled like the tree or heart shape. Loose Dates are sold by the kilo or in smaller quantities. The Al Mina Date market has more than 15 shops fitted with outdoor stalls. Large aluminium trays laden with wide varieties of Dates, rest on counters, as though patiently awaiting a customer. The plastic sheath covers them from insects and flies, that are often attracted to the sweet fruit. One is welcome to taste a few before buying them. Rutab are raw yellow /red Dates. They are fibrous and slightly tannic in taste. Local Emirati enjoy eating them as a healthy snack.

Al Mina market

Al Mina market

The goodness of dates cannot be overlooked – they have immense health nutrients. They can stimulate muscles, relieve menstrual pain and depression, improve vision, good for cholesterol. The alkaline salts  adjust the acidity of blood, thereby reducing diabetes, gout and renal stones.

No wonder date recipes exist in almost every Middle Eastern /Arabic/Lebanese cuisine! Look at my recipe section for easy date recipes.

Abu Dhabi (and the Gulf region, Iran, Iraq and Turkey) is luxuriously dotted with the date palm. The sturdy tree has a coarse, hairy trunk growing vertically. It supports large rough,leathery fronds. Once a year the tree bears fruit, blossoming during summer. The more intense the heat, the sweeter the fruit!

Young, raw dates on Palm  tree

Young, raw dates on Palm tree

As the heat intensifies, the fruit changes colour: green to yellow, then orange/red and finally a dark brown.


A story  in the Quran says that when the mother of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) was giving birth to him, she was experiencing pain. Allah consoled her and told her to shake the trunk of the palm, promising that fresh, ripe dates that drop down would heal and give abundant energy.

Till date, all over the Middle East countries, people can rest under the shade of the tree and eat the abundant fruit  that falls to ground upon ripening. True acts of charity and welfare in the harsh summer conditions.


Fresh raw dates, slightly crunchy

Bunches are protected with netting

Bunches protected with netting

So head off to the nearest Souk or traditional market, if you are around the Middle East region. Pick up few boxes of choose this delicious fruit and share with your friends and family.  

Crunchy, fresh dates - best eaten raw.

Crunchy, fresh dates – best eaten raw.

To all my Muslim friends, bloggers and viewers – Ramadan Kareem. Enjoy eating, stay healthy. Eat Dates.

Ramadan Kareem - Enjoy Dates

‘Ramadan Kareem’ or Id Mubarak! Enjoy premium ripened Dates

What is the fruit of your country? When is the best season to buy it? How do you eat it?

Do share your thoughts on this.


All content copyright Veena S. (2013 -2016) Please see copyright disclaimer.