When Jenny and Janie suggested meeting up at the Trafalgar Street fair on the fourth Sunday of October, I was curious as to what to expect. The inner city location of Annandale in Sydney lies at the hub of a lifestyle locale, neighbouring the Italian villages of Leichhardt and Haberfield, the bohemian centre of Newtown and across the Anzac Bridge from Rozelle and Balmain. I only had a hour walking round the various stalls lined up in front of the Thai Temple, but was fascinated by the variety, colour and friendliness exuding from this event. Above, a smile from a hard working young man attending to the Hainan chicken rice outlet. Most of the food outlets were run by otherwise commercial operators from various corners of greater Sydney, but that day the fare was offered free to all visitors. I started off my degustation with a piping small bowl of chicken rice noodles.
Sour and spicy tinged soups ala Thai - those with a kick and making use of traditional fresh herbs, a dose of tamarind, pepper aromas, bamboo shoots, cut beans and fresh hot chilies to the bite. (picture above). Such dishes stand out in the absence of or minimal use of coconut milk or cream, contributing perhaps to healthier choices and appetising combinations with steamed Thai jasmine rice.
My attention was caught with the colourful pink, yellow and white colours of the vermicelli and their garnishing - this was a light stir fry that best serves as a quick snack and yet nourishing for the rigours of any working day. (image above). It may have lacked other ingredients but was tasty.
Entrees of fish cakes (above) and Chinese-influenced siew mai and prawn balls (below) sitting prettily with hoi sin sauce and cuts of fresh Thai basil. We are reminded of yum cha servings at Hong Kong styled restaurants located around the world. The siew mai are steamed dumplings of pork and prawn. It was a warm day at this Annandale fair, one of a few in mid spring this year, and the easy-on-the-mouth attraction of such dishes was refreshing and encouraging.
Thai glutinous desserts, above, are made with striking monk yellow colours and remind one of some tropical fruit. Grilled jerky pork slices are served in squares (below) and offer a contrast in texture and taste - perhaps best served as an accompaniment for sandwiches or bread rolls. Such jerky stuff are popular from Taiwan to Singapore, and are often found easily at street stalls or community markets.
Vietnamese inspired rolls (image above), made fresh with roasted peanuts, together with finely cut aromatic herbs, carrots and bean sprouts, were also available that morning in Annandale. The bite into one of these rolls lightens the palate and mind. The key factor is the sauce, often made with nam chook, soy laced with cut chillies, or accompanied by a black bean based sauce that brings up the inherent flavours of an essentially salad concoction.
Another light dish is Thai omelette, perhaps inspired by southern Chinese traditions and also reminding one of Vietnamese cuisine. The proof of the pudding, so to speak, is in the hidden and folded up ingredients. South-east Asian omelettes skew towards raw, fresh and crunchy stuff, whilst China omelettes have stir-fried ingredients. I just so loved the onions, cucumber bits, carrot bites and shallots found in this version below.
Rose-pink and beautifully moulded dessert served on banana leaves (above image) surrounding layer cakes that do use coconut milk. The green colour of such traditional cakes come from utilising the pandanus leaves common in the ASEAN countries, lying as such between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. My own fav Thai-styled dessert is mangosteen clafouti, French-inspired but basically a custard with fresh mangosteen fruit.
Below, a selection of more desserts to tempt the eye and appetite, or maybe as a good way of finishing up a Thai-accentuated meal. Upper left are snack crackers, and with them, at the bottom of the photo, are sweet and cool servings of sago, jack fruit shreds and corn bits bathed in light and cooked coconut milk.
I am still wondering what the above pictured dish is - may be pumpkin, coconut and shrimp shavings? I did not get the opportunity to try this. but it does look attractive and may be savoury.
It dawned on me that community spirit and having lots of eager individuals prepare food and drink can take a fete or fair to greater heights. Thai food ingredients need to be served in finely cut or chopped requirements. That adds to the preparatory work, but also are critical in bringing up the necessary taste and feel, once inside our mouths. This cuisine feature is shared with other cooking styles in the region, especially Straits Chinese, Burmese and Indian. Even if an offering starts simple (as per image below, pancakes), the dish is not complete until some lovingly chopped and finely cut ingredient adds to its quality.