With the current tragic situation in the Sudan, and the recent discission by the Federal Government to decrease the refugee intake from that region of the world, it was heartening to be so warmly greeted by a restaurant that proudly presents both the Australian and Sudanese flags on the menu and its logo.
34 Walker St. Dandenong
Taste of Africa is a quiet little shop, which has a tile map of Africa on the floor, some African paintings on the wall next to photos of a selection of the dishes served, and whose owner/chef is a Sudanese refugee – and probably the coolest proprietor we have met on our journey to date. We had just started examining the menu, when he came to us and told us that he would personally chose our meal for us – and we gladly succumbed to his will.
This week’s succulent selection of seductive Sudanese samplers were Sai, Rami, Caroline, Nick and Naomi.
Green chilli paste and soft bread
Mincemeat and vegetables
Kofta – Mince, onion, garlic, pepper, cumin, coriander
Shiah – Fried lamb, garlic, pepper, lemon, onion
Mahshee – Vegetables stuffed with grape leaves, tomato, rice, garlic, cumin, pepper, coriander
Steam rice with vegetables
Selection of garden vegetables – lettuce, cucumber, tomato and lemon
Hilba (Fenugreek) – Milk. flower & hilba
Custard – Milk, custard, sultana & sugar
We let the owner/chef chose our meal and we weren’t disappointed! The first plate brought out was a mixed mincemeat and vegetable dish that isn’t yet on the menu, but deserves to be there! The main characteristic of this dish was its dryness, which gave it a unique texture compared with similar dishes from other cultures.
The meatballs (kofta) were moist with a delicate sauce that had just a hint of spice. A highlight of the meal and the best meatballs we’ve encountered on our journey so far.
The fried lamb was sweet, due to the caramelisation of the onions it was cooked with, and had a hint of cinnamon. Squeezing the lemon juice onto the meat made this dish come to life.
The Mahshee consisted of a stuffed capsicum, a stuffed Lebanese eggplant, and a stuffed zucchini. Each of these vegetables added its own emphasis to the dish – the bitterness of the capsicum and zucchini contrasted with the sweetness of the eggplant, however the stuffing was subtle enough that these flavours enhanced the dish.
The desserts were quiet similar, both of them being light and not overly sweet. However, the unique fenugreek flavour, which could have so easily overpowered the Hilba, really gave this dessert a classic twist.
Not surprisingly given Sudan’s location, its food is a mix of Arabic (Egyptian) and African (Ethiopian) cuisine – and if Taste of Africa is any indication, it takes the best of both to produce a delicious fusion. Unfortunately, the dinner crowd in Dandenong doesn’t seem so enthralled by this cuisine; we were their only customers all night! If this restaurant was located on Brunswick Street you would need to book a table a week in advance just to get in the front door. The individual dishes are either $10 or $12, and for their quality and flavours, it is definitely worth the petrol money to schlep all the way to Dandenong!