Adventures at Harris Park
Harris Park is only 19 km from the heart of Sydney, part of Greater Wester Sydney and lying right alongside downtown Parramatta.
Known for the variety of Indian food on offer here, Lorrie and I set off to explore. As this was a food adventure, Diana and Chrissie volunteered to join us because surely the more mouths, the more we'd be able to sample, as well as the fact that Diana had lived and worked in the area and knew it well......
It seemed like a sleepy morning, for arriving at 11 m on a Friday morning, there was ample parking along the main streets (all free 1, 2 and 4 hours spots!) around where we were to spend most of our time. The little shops lining the main streets of Wigram, Marion and Station Streets seemed to be just pushing up their shutters for the day.
As 11 am was too early for lunch we started at Chatkazz for morning tea. Steaming cups of spiced chai accompanied some plates of pakoras, vada, samosa chaat and pav bhaji, all street snacks. The sabudana vada were particularly interesting, these made not with the usual lentils, but with boiled peanuts and sago pearls. Perhaps a little over enthusiastic ordering food at our first stop, we fell out of there wondering where in our tummies lunch would go....
We had promised ourselves a look in at Durga's Street Food and Dessert Bar
.......of course once we were there, we had to sample something......
Durga's is clean and neat as a pin. The display cabinets hold ice cream and kulfi, and all kinds of Indian sweets. We settled on faloodah, ordering the saffron, pistachio and rose flavours. Our tall ice cream sundae glasses arrived with our gently flavoured, not too sweet drinks, with bits of vermicelli noodles, sago pearls and crushed jellies floating beneath the scoop of ice cream. Perfection! From what we ordered, perhaps the saffron and rose were the best and most authentic flavours.
Now surely it was time for the mom and pop food truck that cousin Anjali Roberts had suggested we should try to find. Tucked behind a gem store, in a sandy, casual back area quite reminiscent of a Kerala courtyard sits a food truck run by Gujarati couple, Narayan and Ansa. Their sign proudly declares it is a 'Veg Paradise'. The welcoming couple set to work on our enthusiastic orders, and we soon tuck into a heaped plate of fried onion pakoras, sev puri, pani puri and ginger chai. (At this point we've lost a sense of which of our stops constituted 'lunch'...).
The onion pakoras are good at Narayan's, the pani puri is delicious and the sev puri we can't stop eating. Yes, we'd definitely recommend you finding this food truck. The ginger chai is thick and strong and full of flavour. Helper Preethi flashes her pretty pearly whites as she calls out the orders. All is well in the world in this humble backyard setting.
Still, we rouse ourselves and move along- there are other places to discover and sample...
We walk past a cute stall offering fresh paan, an areca nut and betel leaf combo which is chewed by mostly elderly communities in the subcontinent and SE Asia for the numbing sensation. A snack, if you will.
My reliable recommendation source, Talitha and the rest of the Roberts family, have put Adyar Ananda Bhavan or affectionately known as A2B at the top of the list. We are thoroughly stuffed from all our other stops, so finally put the brakes on our lavish orderings: one paper masala dosa, a sambar vada and a salty lassi. The dosa is, admittedly the best I've had in a very long time.
The soured rice batter pancake is elegant to behold, enormous and paper light. Crispy on the edges, chewy towards the centre, the giant rolled pancake is plenty for four already stuffed adventure queens. We tear bits off and dip into tasty sambar, coconut chutney and potato curry. All are bright flavours, and delicious accompaniments. The salty yoghurt lassi drink is creamy, perfectly seasoned and frothy on top like a perfect cappuccino; a perfect antidote to the spicy pancake. The side order of sambar vada is slurpy and yummy, the doughy savoury donuts dunked in delicious sambar sauce, sprinkled with chopped onion.
A2B is a far outpost of the original, with an extensive menu serving full meals, thali, and a comprehensive sweet section. Paul Roberts tells me that A2B was a corner dosa shop outside his college in Chennai, and back in the day, a dosa cost 65 paisa. Today, A2B is a world wide operation.
Thank you Roberts family for this very fine suggestion!
Chrissie's request for a biriyani is not forgotten, so we stagger to New Hydrabad House and order the goat biriyani. Also on offer we find, and only during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan is Haleem, so of course we order that too. Sweet and salty nimbu pani (fresh lime juice) all round and we wait expectantly.
We quickly realize that the biriyani is not of the traditional, complex spiced-rice-cooked-slowly- together-with-meat variety. Here you'll get a restaurant cheat rendition of tender cooked goat curry layered with yellow rice. The biriyani queens were not to be hoodwinked!
The restaurant is saved from us giving it a tetchy 'fail' when the Haleem arrives to save the day. A delicious, slow cooked stew of lamb so soft it has dissolved into the lentils and wheat sauce, flavoured with spices like green cardamom, bay leaf, fenugreek, fennel, black pepper and nutmeg; it restored our tempers, and we left quite satisfied, (to the beat of Indian rap music).
For me, the Haleem at Hydrabad House is the day's top pick along with the paper dosa at A2B, and the rose falooda dessert drink at Durga's.
Apart from lots to eat on offer, Harris Park is liberally dotted with grocery stores stocking all the ingredients, fresh, dried, bottled and canned from the subcontinent. Sweet shops are also everywhere, and most cafes and restaurants with a full menu offer a separate glass case at the counter of the most popular Indian sweets. The reigning queen of sweetshops when we were there looked to be Taj Indian Sweets. The little box of goodies I brought home was a hit with neighbours.
Somehow drawn to Little India Supermarket with its cheery sign and potted plants out the front, we found everything from boxes of Mysore sandalwood soap, to sacks of the premium biriyani rice, India Gate Golden Sellar.
Harris park is not hard to negotiate. The streets are laid out on a grid, the area is tidy, clean, and well signposted. If you go during a weekday, it is an easy drive, and parking is plentiful. Be warned though: evenings and week-ends transform into a sub-continental traffic frenzy of bad driving and even worse parking. Go by train and save yourself the anxiety.
According to Diana who is well traversed on these streets, there is quite a high turnover of eating places here in Harris Park. Before you go, ask around, check to see that these mentioned here are still open, and track down all the latest recommendations and suggestions. To get a full sense of Harris Park, also head over to Lorrie's blog where she's covered Harris Park too, with her signature magical images.
Have yourself a lot of fun!
Places to eat include:
Shop 4-6/14-20 Station St E,
Harris Park NSW 2150
Durga's Indian Street Food & Dessert Bar
70 Wigram Street
Narayan's Veg Paradise Food Truck
79 Marion St (round the back, down the side of the house)
Adyar Ananda Bhavan or A2B
116 Wigram Street
Taj Indian Sweets and Restaurant
91 Wigram Street
Shri Refreshment Bar
53c Wigram Street
Billus Indian Eatery
62 Wigram Street
Little India Supermarket
78 Wigram Street
Patel Brothers Supermarket
85-87 Marion Street
99 Wigram Street