At the beginning of 2016, I decided to start the Australian adventure thanks to a working visa. So I landed in Sydney. The plan was not to stay too long in Sydney. But I found a job in Spice Alley and I stayed there for more than 6 months. Spice Alley is actually a food court but I worked there as a cashier. Indeed, I worked at the drink station so I sold drinks but I also had to handle all the cash of the restaurants. And the place was cashless so you could not pay cash at the restaurants.
Spice Alley is hidden in a middle of a random street, in the centre of Sydney near Chinatown. It was created after the Singaporean street food. Which is a row of restaurants in boxes with, in front of them, space with tables and chairs where you can sit to enjoy the food. So I will focus on the 5 street food restaurants that compose the Alley. And, also known as “Kopi-Tiam”, which means “coffee shop” in South-Eastern Asia. The Alley also hosts, a Vietnamese restaurant “Lower Mekong”, a bar “Bar Chinois” and a dessert bar owned by one of the former winners of Top Chef Australia.
As I mentioned before there are 5 restaurants that I want to focus on: Alex Lee Kitchen, Old Jim Kee, Bang Luck, Hong-Kong Diner and Kyo-To.
Alex Lee Kitchen
So the first and the most popular street restaurant was called “Alex Lee Kitchen”, it offered Malaysian cuisine. This restaurant was famous for its roti, a kind of bread which is often eaten with different dip sauces and called Roti Canai. Or a Roti that can also be spread of banana and Nutella, served with an ice cream. It is eaten as a dessert just like the Breton crepes! It was a good discovery and I used to eat the roti with their chicken curry which was grassy but really good as the rest of their meals. I think for the first two months I must have gained 2 to 3 kilos.
Old Jim Kee
The second restaurant was called “Old Jim Kee” and was in a strong competition with “Alex Lee Kitchen”. Both of them were cooking Malaysian food but in a different way. In this restaurant, they had crunchy chicken wings that we ate with a sweet chilli sauce. I remember eating a lot of them so as my colleagues! But the meal that had given me full satisfaction every time was, the Char Kway Teow. It is stir-fried flat rice noodle with chilli, prawn, Chinese sausage and crunchy pork lard, a delight! The only fact to mention it makes my mouth water! Moreover what I liked about this restaurant is that they offered typical Malaysian drinks and desserts. For example, Cold coffee, Longan Ice made of the dragon eye fruit or Ice Kacang, a typical ice cream made of beans, jelly and crushed peanut.
Bang Luck was the third restaurant, the kitchen was way smaller than the previous but I think it was my favourite! They offered Thai food; I could recommend the full menu as it is the only restaurant where I tried all the food. But I really had a crush on the crispy pork belly, a portion of rice with on top the crispy pork belly, some Asian vegetable and a lot of chillies. Of course, you can ask for light spice but be aware that Thai people don’t know how to cook without chilli! The second dish I would recommend is the Pad See Ew. Which is stir-fried noodles with crispy greens, garlic and sweet soy choice and you have the choice of chicken, beef or pork. But as I said earlier I could also recommend the curries. Or for people who really like spicy food, Som Tum also called papaya salad. It took me two full days to recover from the hotness of the dish. And believe it or not, I don’t usually have any problem with hot food…
Hong Kong Diner
The further you walked in the alley the more authentic it got. Indeed at The fourth restaurant of the alley which served Chinese food and was called Hong Kong Diner. You could see on the walls some drawings of typical Chinese ladies with their outfits and their umbrellas. Their main sales were the Dim Sum which is bite-sized portions filled with chicken, prawns or vegetables and which can be steamed or fried. They also had buns and I have to admit that I particularly liked the Barbeque pork bun which I ate with this Chiu Chow sauce, made of chilli and soy sauce. It was nothing special but the sauce made the difference!
As for the previous restaurant, “Hong Kong Diner”, “Kyoto”, the last and fifth restaurant, was a bit isolated from the rest of the restaurants but It had its own identity. Indeed it has is own space and a typical Japanese music that you could hear from the covered dining area. When people think of Japanese food in our society, they probably think about sushi, rolls. But Kyoto had the particularity to offer all kind of Japanese food except for sushi. You could find Udon soup, Miso, and some other strange dishes as the Takoyaki which is Octopus balls often served with mayonnaise. And that’s something I have noticed, Japanese people love mayonnaise, they add it to every meal! The first meal I had was at this restaurant. I had a Don, the Shogayaki one, and a stir-fried pork slice with ginger, sliced leek and dry chilli on rice. It was quite good but I mostly enjoyed the Salmon Teriyaki Don and the Teriyaki Tofu Don. I also liked their Bento, a takeaway box, in which you will find different Japanese dishes. For example, a teriyaki chicken with a miso soup, a Japanese omelette and rice.
Apart from food, what I will mainly keep in mind are the people. Loving your job is one thing but working with amazing people is something else and it usually makes the difference.
So if you are lucky enough to be in Sydney or planning to go to Sydney do not hesitate to stop by this Alley. It is really worth the walk!