Melbourne's best snacks - South-east suburbs
Read about the best snacks around Melbourne's south-east suburbs. When you're ready to eat, use the map to journey through the area, stopping for one snack at a time.
It's time to find some of the best snacks around Melbourne's south-east.
Melbourne Food & Wine Festival has brought together some of Melbourne's most established and promising illustrators, along with the city's leading food writers, to capture the best street eats around our city and beyond.
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Snacks of the south-east suburbs
Some of these might be on your tried and tested list for when the hunger pangs strike, others might be a new hidden delight to discover.
Read all about the people that make these delectable snacks, what makes them the best, and where you can find them.
When you're ready to eat, use the map to journey through the area, one snack stop at a time.
Khao jee pâté, Anchovy, Richmond
One of the silver linings from 2020 was Anchovy chef and co-owner Thi Le deciding to add a little Laos to the lives of Melburnians during lockdown. This took on its most snacky form with her take on khao jee pâté, the Lao equivalent of banh mi.
The traditional Lao form of the crusty baguette sandwich, often eaten for breakfast, usually involves char-grilled pork sausage packed with galangal and, lemongrass, plus chilli and herbs, pâté and pickles but, Le being Le, tradition is just the starting line. Her fillings have included grilled beef tongue, suckling pig, pine mushrooms and wood-grilled duck. There might also be fiery red curry paste smeared across the foundation layer of pâté (pork rather than chicken liver, as happens in Laos).
Le is also known for her uncompromising adherence to great ingredients and so her sandwiches include Milking Yard chickens and pork from Bundarra Berkshires. The reward is in the eating: the Anchovy sandwiches offer a wild ride of textures (crisp bread, crunchy pickles, silky pâté) and flavours (smoky turmeric flavoured chicken, flashes of galangal and chilli).
The best news? Anchovy’s khao jee pâté not only “saved the business” during lockdown, but have earned a permanent place on the Anchovy repertoire.
Anchovy , 338 Bridge Rd, Richmond.
Text by Michael Harden.
Prahok k’tiss, My Cambodia, Springvale
In a cuisine renowned for staunch flavour, prahok k’tiss – Cambodia’s incredibly rich pork dip served with seasonal crudités – might just be the very staunchest. That’s largely thanks to its pungent backbone, the national wonder known as prahok – a salty paste of fermented river fish that runs through much of the
Khmer cooking, giving the cuisine its multidimensional heft.
Combined with minced pork cooked in coconut cream, plus plenty of kroeung, Cambodia’s unique curry mix, lime leaves and a good whack of chilli, it produces something utterly hedonistic. It’s an embarrassment of richness in a moat of deep crimson oil, the prahok powering it with the in-your-face pungency of blue cheese.
To offset all this flavour we have the snake beans, the dense white cabbage and the cucumber offering crisp respite with which to get to scooping, though a bowl of rice is just as applicable. “We wouldn’t usually just eat it with the veggies,” says a waiter, “It’s too much.”
Springvale is a suburb wholly deserving of an entire snack index all its own. And when that happens, My Cambodia’s prahok k’tiss, which is listed on the menu as “traditional Thai minced pork”, would be a worthy cover star.
My Cambodia, 28 Buckingham Ave, Springvale.
Text by Frank Sweet.
Banh cam, Phuoc Thanh Bakery, Richmond
The story of Phuoc Thanh Bakery’s banh cam (aka - jian dui, aka - sesame balls) is a love story between the husband-and-wife team, baker Danny Nguyen and manager Anne Nguyen. It’s a story about a Vietnamese boy and a Chinese-Vietnamese girl, the girl’s Chinese grandmother, an introduction to Chinese bakeries, the eventual perfection by the boy of the fried, chewy, sesame-coated spheres filled with starchy bean paste, and the boy finally putting it on the menu of a 16-year-old Vietnamese bakery in 2015 on Victoria Street.
It’s also a love story between the sesame balls and the people who line up and purchase the sell-out dessert every day. Only 200 balls are made per week, filled with either a mung bean or red bean paste, encased in rice flour and glutinous rice pastry, shaped by hand, rolled in sesame, and submerged in hot oil until they puff up and turn golden.
The result is a crisp, nutty, mochi-like crust yielding to a sweet bean filling, which produces the highly favourable sticky-starchy mouthfeel synonymous with popular Chinese sweets. It doesn’t matter who you know, the only way to secure your sesame ball is to make sure you’re at the front of the line at lunchtime, any day of the week.
Phuoc Thanh Bakery , 206 Victoria St, Richmond.
Text by Jess Ho.
Israeli babka, Aviv, Elsternwick
Babka became a pan-Melbourne craze during the 2020 lockdowns but southside snackers already knew where their bread was buttered.
Aviv’s mini ‘Israeli babka’ is formed from six bite-sized furls of yeasted butter pastry scrolled with a rich dark chocolate filling. Baked in a paper casing, it’s easy to bite straight from the bag but can also be decanted to share alongside coffee or tea, each segment breaking neatly away from the whole.
The particular pleasure of this babka is that the pastry is firm and substantial yet still light and airy; the chocolate schmear is dense but not too sweet. Babka law decrees that the pastry should be able to be torn and pinched before putting it in the mouth: this fine example consistently achieves pinchability.
Aviv’s origins are Ashkenazi and the store marks Jewish holidays with signature pastries: flourless macaroons for Passover, hamantaschen (triangular jam biscuits) for Purim, jam doughnuts for Chanukah, and honey cake for Rosh Hashanah. But it’s an ecumenical institution, with treats for Easter and Christmas too: the gingerbread houses are particularly joyous. Boiled and baked bagels are a favourite year-round, the mini-bagels a must.
Aviv Cakes & Bagels , 412 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick.
Text by Dani Valent.
Vada pav burger, Burger Shurger, Elsternwick
“In Mumbai, vada pav is the OG street food,” says Payal Bisht, owner of Burger Shurger. Vada is a spiced potato patty, while pav, which is pronounced “pow”, is a soft, white bun.
Bisht’s friendly, beer-loving diner specialises in taking traditional Indian dishes and refashioning them while staying true to the soul of the original. In this case, Bisht dismantles a ubiquitous and inexpensive bite-sized snack – “people will grab three or four at a time” – and fashions it into a lavish burger.
The mashed potato patty is the hero here: it’s flavoured with curry leaves, mustard seeds and turmeric and rolled in a chickpea-flour batter before it’s fried to a golden crunch. This tall vada is then stuffed in a toasted, buttered, fluffy milk bun and piled with chutneys. “We make a green chutney with mint, coriander and chilli, and a garlic chutney with coconut,” says Bisht. “Those two are traditional, but we also add a tamarind chutney to bring some sweet-and-sour
flavours, plus puffed potato flakes to make it more fun to eat.”
The burger is alluringly squishable, a spicy, crunchy carb-on-carb conqueror that gives its meatier rivals serious competition. Gluten-free and vegan versions are available too.
Burger Shurger , 297 Glen Huntly Rd, Elsternwick.
Text by Dani Valent.
The Seasonal toastie, Maker & Monger, Prahran
When cheesemonger Anthony Femia came up with his ‘Seasonal’ toastie, he was planning to switch up the fillings through the year. The problem was that his first iteration was too good to change, so the toastie turned into a trans-seasonal fixture at his Prahran Market cheese shop.
It showcases a cow’s milk cheese called Mountaineer from The Peaks Artisan Cheesemakers in Victoria’s High Country. “I feel it’s Australia’s best semi-hard cheese,” says Femia. “The milk is from incredible Normande cows, known for high butterfat and protein. It’s a raclette-style cheese that melts perfectly, with no separation of fats or oil. We wanted to celebrate that in a toastie.”
Tin-loaf sourdough from Brasserie Bread is slathered with St David Dairy cultured butter then layered with paprika-roasted potatoes and dehydrated mushrooms flavoured with lemon zest and thyme. “It’s a flavour explosion that hits every part of your tongue,” says Femia. Like every sandwich at this chapel of cheese, the Seasonal ticks the three most important toasted-sandwich boxes: the bread is crunchy, the cheese tastes great once it’s melted, and the ratio of bread to molten filling is just right.
“We wanted a toastie with chef elements and techniques – the dehydrating, the flavour combinations – to reflect and entice the hospitality clientele we have,” says Femia. “We’re proud of this one. It’s more than just grating cheese and spreading butter.”
Maker & Monger , Prahran Market, Commercial Rd, South Yarra.
Text by Dani Valent.
Malu paan, Mathara Bath Kade, Narre Warren
Malu paan translates as “fish bread”, and is a doughy, triangular parcel filled with cooked tuna, potato, and spices. Deepal Abeysekara and his team at Mathara Bath Kade in Narre Warren make some of the best malu paan in Australia. The golden, pillowy buns owe their colour to a double coating of egg wash that
contrasts well against the fish filling.
Brown onion, a stick of cinnamon, pandan, and curry leaves are tempered in a pan on low heat before being fried with garlic, ginger, ground cardamom, turmeric, and clove powder. Tuna and boiled potato are mashed together, then cooled down and combined with the tempered spices.
The mixture is laid onto a well-rested dough then folded in a process that’s not unlike making bao. The malu paan are then baked and sold and are often eaten by Sri Lankans rushing off to work in the morning – malu paan in one hand, laptop bag in the other. It’s been a popular short eat at Mathara Bath Kade since its inception in 2012 and the venue sells 200 malu paan a day.
Mathara Bath Kade , 27 Webb St, Narre Warren.
Text by Rushani Epa.
Beef godhamba roti, MKS Spices’n Things, Dandenong
Godhamba roti is a light Sri Lankan flatbread that’s commonly used to mop up curries or to wrap around a dry curry mixture to form one of the nation’s favourite snacks (or, as it would be put in Sri Lanka, short eats). These parcels fit as snugly in the hand as a smartphone and are available all day long in Sri Lanka
from roadside stalls, commonly eaten for breakfast on the go. Fish roti comes in triangular shapes, while meat and vegetarian rolls are rectangular.
MKS Spices'n Things is a family-owned grocery and restaurant, and director Yogathas Navaneetharaja oversees its many stores. It started in 1992 as a humble attempt to offer a taste of home to many Sri Lankans, and soon expanded into the empire it is today.
The flagship Dandenong store alone sells 200 to 300 godhamba roti daily. The roti itself is vegan, like many Sri Lankan foods, and is light and stretchy. Eggless and milkless, it owes its elasticity to soaking in oil. Once soaked, the roti is stretched out on a hotplate, and bite-sized pieces of beef, potato, and 10 spices including pandan leaves and coriander powder are dropped on top before it’s folded into a neat prism and fried on each side. It has a delicious peppery warmth and flavour that lingers on the palate.
MKS Spices'n Things , 23 Pultney St, Dandenong.
Text by Rushani Epa.
Yangrou chuan’r, Showtime BBQ & Dumpling Bar, Clayton
So celebrated is the skewering and barbecuing of meat in China that the written character invented to represent skewered meat looks precisely like skewered meat: 串.
Originating from the country’s deep west, where the skewers look more like swords, chuan’r has become one of the Middle Kingdom’s most fancied street snacks, available just about wherever good times are had, and endemically so in the northeast. While the term ‘chuan’r’ covers just about anything you can poke a stick through, the most popular iteration by far is yangrou chuan’r – lamb skewers loaded alternately with meat and fat.
“Our chef marinates the lamb in a secret mixture, that’s what makes it tender”, says Showtime manager, Call Me. The skewers are then dusted with deceptively potent chilli powder and cumin seeds and barbecued on hot coals.
It’s simple fare, but like most of the Chinese street-food canon, it’s never better than when it’s served with a side of frenzied atmosphere. And with live karaoke performances blaring through the PA every night, Showtime has it in spades. At $2.50 per lamb skewer, the budget is there to push deeper into the chuan’r program, where sweet bean-pasted Chinese leek and enoki mushrooms headline the vegetal options, and a distinctively nose-to-tail approach will arouse the meat lovers.
Showtime BBQ & Dumpling Bar, 348 Clayton Road, Clayton.
Text by Frank Sweet.
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