One fun thing I always do when I travel anywhere, including Melbourne, is check out the local grocery stores to see what interesting things I can find that I do not normally see back home. Today, we did some Christmas cooking shopping in Clayton, a very Asian neighborhood of Melbourne, and discovered some interesting finds: Singapore laksa, Hainanese chicken rice, and egg paratha with fish curry flavored chips (or crisps); Malaysian Chinese New Year treats ranging in flavors from pandan to vanilla — things I never see in New York. They are imported from Malaysia! We also found Taiwanese papaya and mango milks, like the ones we actually had in Taiwan on the streets, but in a canned form. Of course, they cannot compare to the freshly blended milks we had on streets of the night markets across Taiwan, but these were still tasty nonetheless and did contain real fruit juice and not just artificial flavoring as you might presume.
In Melbourne’s central business district (CBD), we also came across an Asian grocery stores that specialized in goods imported from Southeast Asia, and I found jarred minced galangal. I wasn’t quite sure how good it would be, so decided to hold off on buying it. My experience with buying dried galangal in Thailand was awful; it ended up making my soups taste more like sawdust. In most cases, the fresh stuff is always preferable, but fresh galangal is rare in New York to find unless you are at a Thai grocery store, and even then, it’s so so expensive. The jarred version may be a consideration, but I’d need to do more research on this before buying it; I hate food waste.