Harris Park, Sydney - Little India
Parramatta in New South Wales was settled by the British within a few months of landing at Sydney Cove. Today, in an adjoining suburb, Harris Park is host to a multicultural group that has a third originating from the Indian sub-continent. Punjabi, Gujarati and Hindi are the predominant languages spoken, together with mainstream English. Interesting enough, the average age of residents is only 30. I have heard much from mates and in the media about Harris Park, so one boring weekend I did not resist when I had an opportunity to have lunch there. On approach, Harris Park may seem to be another ordinary western Sydney suburb, but on closer examination, I was impressed by the number of restaurants, the preserved architecture and design of dwellings and how life seemingly is centred around one junction - where Wigram and Marion Streets meet. I can recall Dandenong in Victoria, north-west of Melbourne, with this similar hub of Indian-born migrants, with so many choices in curries, spicy condiments and more.
I also recall the hill station of Simla, with its British Raj inspired designs in buildings, and on my day of visit to Harris Park, it was a nippy Sunday afternoon chill. The frangipanis had lost their leaves and were expectedly bare-branched, but this added more character to the place. Lunch was held at the Chutney, with a buffet of two meat curries, basmati rice, naan bread and three vegetarian curries (including lentils and tofu). The Chutney had many Indian families enjoying themselves that afternoon.
I must confess I had harboured thoughts of finding South Indian cuisine in Harris Park, but the commercial outlets still offered food, especially desserts, of the northern variety. Yes, there is the occasional appearance of Kerala fish curry and Tamil vegetarian curry on some menus, but what is more impressive is the availability of a diverse range of Indian sweet concoctions, anything from Kaju Burfi to Gulab Jamun and Pedas. Correct me if I am wrong, but the image captured above suggests to me of the Besan Ladoo (besan being roasted gram flour). The unique ice cream of Kulfi was also spotted.
In a neighbourhood where reformed ex-convict James Ruse was granted land to settle, Harris Park now is a microcosm of the cultures found usually in south-western Asia. Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church exemplifies the presence of historical manifestations from relatively recent migrants to this part of the world. I also found a unique and petite Indian craft shop (photo above, to the right)with a patient looking man inside working attentively on his passion. A major Hindu temple is accessible at nearby Wentworthville.The inevitable Indian mega pop star poster (above) can be a source of comfort, familiarity and joy to recent migrants. Below, at the Taj Indian Sweets along Wigram Street, is what seems to be doughnut-like bites with garnishings of pistachio bits - yummy!
The sari shop (above ) can be the atypical illustration of an ethnic and unique cultural practice, but what captivated me was the front of the Ginger Indian Restaurant (image below), which seems to blend harmoniously elements of Australian cottage and country life with the lure of spices.