A day spent in Cabramatta is just like a trip to South East Asia with the advantage of leaving your passport behind. It’s a vibrant and colourful suburb located in South-Western Sydney about 30 kilometres from the city. A melting pot of different cultures all rolled into one place. A gourmand’s destination with restaurants offering the authentic taste of Asia. An ultimate shopping destination of dry goods, fresh seafood, jewellery, electronics, fabrics, street food and an amazing array of exotic fruits and vegetables.
I must admit that every time I’m craving for an authentic Pho or looking for ingredients for my Asian cooking, a drive to this exciting suburb will always suffice.
When you arrive in Cabramatta, you can picture yourself in either Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, The Philippines just to name a few! The Pai Lau or gateway is the prominent icon of Freedom Plaza and symbolises harmony and multiculturalism, it was opened in 1991 as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Last weekend Steve and I have decided to go there for an Asian escapade! We drove out and we were lucky enough to find a parking space close to the main strip, which is no easy feat, but patience will always pay off. Because of the limited spaces, finding a car space can be a difficult game especially on the weekend, the best option really is to take the train.
The BKK Shopping Centre was our first stop, we like to come here, it’s a one stop shop. The food court offers some of the much loved South East Asian street food, photos of the food on offer are displayed above every counter so ordering is easy, it’s loaded with ready to eat food. This shopping complex also has a sweet delicacy counter, butcher, grocery and fresh seafood shop.
We continued our walk through the Freedom Plaza and enjoyed all the sounds and sights. Younger crowds queued at the bubble tea shop whilst opposite the fried chicken shop had a long queue and Vietnamese songs were being played by one of the shops. Adding to the scene was the presence of older Asian ladies selling tiny bunches of home grown veggies and other bits on the street, it really felt like we were transported back to Nha Trang, a Vietnamese city that we visited recently.
We continued our walk, and turned left onto John St and the main drag, it’s a lively street full of energy and swarms of shoppers. A food avenue, here you’ll find specialised restaurants, cafes and the famous Bánh mì – toasted baguette filled with various ingredients. If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to try Nước mía, a juice extracted from sugarcane or Chè Ba Mau commonly referred as the three coloured dessert, very similar to Filipino halo halo. Aside from food, check those narrow alleys, you’ll find shops selling fabrics, jewellery, variety stores, electronics, good luck charms and fresh produce. It’s a feast for the eyes.
Another interesting landmark in Cabramatta is the Gough Whitlam Place Memorial in Dutton Lane. It’s a public square in honour to the former Prime Minister and Cabramatta resident Gough Whitlam. Walk through Cabramatta’s rich history with the public artwork, ‘Unfold’, here you can read notes and key events in the growth of this fascinating suburb.
So next time you want a taste of Asia, Cabramatta is a place for you. It’s less than an hour by car or train from the CBD !