Sunshine Mosque – a personal touch

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Open day at Sunshine Mosque, 618 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9363 8245

Consider The Sauce would like to believe our dismay and disgust at the recent weeks’ deliberately inflamed anti-Muslim hysteria is universal across the land.

Sadly, though, having read much in the press of all kinds, on social media and various websites – luckily I am pretty much completely out of the loop when it comes to talkback radio – I know that is simply not the case.

But while these events have been unfolding, a thought bubbled up: “Why have I never been to a mosque?”

At very much the same time, the Cyprus Turkish Community of Victoria started publicising its “everyone welcome” open day – and we are only too happy to accept the invitation.

Predictably and joyfully, our visit is a whole lot of fun, full of friendly people with big smiles.

And, of course, we have our fill of the food on hand.

 

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The cheese-and-spinach gozleme I enjoy is as good as it gets – hot of the hot plate, fresh and wonderful.

But the coolest event of the day has an unexpectedly personal note …

 

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We have been on the mosque grounds just a matter of minutes when I run into my Star Weekly colleague Yasemin.

I’m surprised to see her, and she I.

But we shouldn’t be … after all, I did know she’s a local; and she, in turn, knows of my foodie/multicultural adventurer persona.

Yasemin is very busy selling tickets for the kebab operation but we nevertheless squeeze in some conversation.

For me, this is the western suburbs one-degree of separation at splendid work and a valued opportunity to see a colleague with whom I have in the past year finessed numerous stories as something other than a reporter to my sub-editor.

And for Yasemin, I hope (!), it’s a chance to see me as something other than a cranky, demanding, nitpicking pedant – perhaps as an openminded foodie blogger with untold curiosity and as a father.

That latter description being, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, very much how I see and define myself these days.

This is Yasemin’s mosque.

I ask her if she pretty much grew up here.

Her answer is: “Yes!”

 

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After my savory appetite has been satisfied, I enjoy a super strong and sweet Turkish coffee with a deep-fried dessert called sam isi.

It’s filo pastry encasing semolina, and like so many treasured desserts from that part of the world, is sweet without being overly so.

 

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I stop and have a yarn with Tammy of Stylish Sisters.

Tammy refers to herself as a “convert”, her husband being Somalian.

And, yes, she knows all about our favourite Union Road destination.

I love the name of her business – in my opinion, which in this context is worth no doubt very, very little – many of the “sisters” do indeed have style to burn.

 

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Eventually, the presence at the event of a flagrantly mustachioed dude with a busy camera having been noted, Ekrem Fuldagli introduces himself to us.

Ekrem is the chairman of the Cyprus Turkish Islamic Community of Victoria.

It’s a busy day for a busy man, but he makes time to escort us into the mosque proper and patiently answer my questions.

Ekrem has been in the chairman role for about a year.

He tells me it’s a challenging but rewarding role, involving as it does issues and projects both within the mosque community and its interactions with the wider world.

He describes the mosque community as very mainstream and relationships with the neighbours as just fine

The domed mosque interior itself is truly beautiful and, yes, it has what I would call a “spiritual” vibe.

Ekrem tells me the dome itself has no religious significance.

Rather it is all about acoustics and the oration requirements of the pre-electricity and pre-amplification times.

Sadly, other commitments mean we are unable to linger for the scheduled Q&A session to which I have been eagerly looking.

Maybe next time!

 

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Post-midnight Braybrook kebab

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Tasty Toasted Kebabs @ Fun Galore, 234 Ballarat Road, Braybrook

Funny, eh, how almost all the palaver about Melbourne’s food trucks seem to imply they’re some cool, NEW thing,

That’s simply not the case – vehicular food delivery systems go way back in Australia, I’m guessing as far back as the horse-drawn variety as opposed to those mounted on internal combustion or steam engine vehicles.

And then there’s Mr Whippy and the kebab shacks that are festooned across the city.

Perhaps in the case of the latter it’s a matter of out of time, out of mind – the kebab shacks don’t come into their own until after midnight.

They’re far from our usual routine, but we’re on hols so the rule book is out the window.

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Our sleep requirements have expanded to fit the extra time available, and – perversely – late nights are perfectly acceptable.

After his father has done with televised sport for the night, Bennie has glommed on to a screening of the 1955 flick The Tender Trap.

We don’t from whence does the lad’s penchant for vintage comics, cars, clothes, movies and so on come.

Sure, his dad and his mum are so inclined, but it hasn’t been forced down his throat.

Yet he’d happily prefer Louis Armstrong over the latest teeny bopper any day, and can equally happily disappear into old-school song-and-dance movies.

So I’m happy to let him suck up an hour or so of creepily sexist Frank Sinatra sparring with husband-chasing Debbie Reynolds – and even rise from the sofa for the occasion when he calls my bluff and quickly proffers an eager “Yes!” to the suggestion of a post-midnight snack.

Then off we go …

We reject one Ballarat Road, ahem, establishment on the grounds it looks rather forlorn and lacks even the most rudimentary seating, ahem, facilities.

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And thus we front at Fun Galore and the kebab shack run by a friendly fellow named Abdul.

He’s been tending this particular patch for six years and runs other shacks on Sydney Road and Flinders Street.

In those six years, he tells us, there have been only a couple of instances of rowdy, drunken or abusive behaviour.

“People are looking for something good to eat so are nearly always polite and friendly,” he says.

That’s certainly the case on the night we visit, with about 20 or so customers coming and going in the 20 minutes we’re hanging around.

These folks keep mostly to themselves.

What surprises somewhat is that in being outright Caucasian, Bennie and I are in a small minority, with most punters being of Asian persuasion, including the Sub-Continental variety, with some representation from Pacific and African parts of the world.

Why should this surprise? This is the western suburbs, this is Braybrook – what the hell did I expect?

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Our chicken kebabs cost $8 and are tasty.

Thankfully, Abdul uses Lebanese-style pita bread, so our snacks are without the significantly greater weightiness that would come with Greek-style pita or Turkish bread.

Our kebabs have been toasted so the bread is quite pleasingly crisp, yet the salad bits inside retain their crispness.

The chicken meat, for mine, gets lost among its fellow ingredients, including plenty of garlic and chilli sauces.

But perhaps that’s no bad thing.

Then it’s home and bed for us.

Tasty Toasted Kebabs on Urbanspoon

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Laying hands on a great feed at … Westifield Airport West Shopping Centre

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Back at work again. There’s precious little of it and Lord knows how long it will last – but it’s a fine thing nonetheless.

Perhaps best of all, it’s at Airport West.

As I discovered in my first week, the office location is a sweet 15-minutes, courtesy of the ring road, from Bennie’s school.

That’s a far cry from the white-knuckle madness of Geelong commuting or even the train/car combo of the CBD and South Melbourne.

Quarter of an hour?

I almost wept with the sheer relief of it the first time I did it.

If I’m careless enough to forget to make/take my own lunch, getting fed at my new place of employ is tricky.

The office is just a few minutes’ walk from Westifield Airport West Shopping Centre.

Oh dear …

It’s full of your nice, everyday ordinary people, but the centre itself is dreary and uninspiring.

It’s basically one long zigzagging snake that looks pretty much exactly the same no matter where you are in it.

Worse, there are only a series of dull lookalike cafes and a single lacklustre food court

No Grill’d or Guzman y Gomez here.

And, generally speaking, our growing appreciation of the spaciousness and style of the new food hall and retail segments at Highpoint is only going to be enhanced by spending time at this Airport West mall.

Kebab, chicken curry, plastic enshrined sushi/sashimi … all tried, all edible, if you get my drift.

What to do?

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Looking closer at the offering of the Chub kebab stand, I find the answer – stuffed vine leaves and Turkish pide.

The pies are made on the premises, come in all the usual flavours, are hefty, flavoursome and a supremely cheap $4.50.

This particular lunch’s salami and cheese number is rich and hearty.

As one of the blokes is throwing together my serve of stuffed vine leaves (three for $4), I ask if they’re made by his mum.

They sure look like they have been.

“By my aunty, actually!” he says.

Good enough!

They’re mighty – fat and full of lemony and tomatoey rice. They’re filling, though, so I could’ve lived without the fourth I’ve been provided on account of the interest I have shown.

What do you reckon?

Is it is possible that there’s something really worth eating at every shopping centre in Australia, no matter how grim the prospects may initially seem?

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Quick Stop Cafe

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Quick Stop Cafe, 146A Mickeham Rd, Tullamarine. Phone: 9335 3040

A business meeting of sorts is to take me, for the first as far as I’m aware, to Sunbury.

After studying the whereabouts of my destination and the ways of getting there from Yarraville, I resolve to give the ring road and Calder Highway a miss and go for the ease of the $14 toll route instead.

It’s then that I recall a tip-off from Juz, No.1 leaver of Consider The Sauce comments, about a kebab joint just off Mickelham Rd on the way to the airport.

Now there’s a handy lunch option for my return post-meeting travel!

Sadly, the joint is closed – maybe it’s too soon after the Christmas/New Year hullabaloo for a cheap eats establishment to open when situated in an otherwise drab light industrial precinct.

So I go tooling off along Mickelham Rd to see what, if anything, this part of the world offers by way of foodiness.

It’s within only a block or so that I spot Quick Stop Cafe. The size and style of the signage is so similar to that of the unopened place suggested by Juz that my immediate thought is that the business has simply shifted to a site with more potential drive-by customers.

Upon entering, I soon discover that is not the case.

Still, I resolve that – come what may – this will be my luncheon venue.

Quick Stop does a range of takeaway kebabs, some eat-in plates and even some keen looking Turkish-style breakfasts, such as the Menemen Breakfast of “lightly pan-fried pepper, tomato, cheese with egg” for $8.

I order the $12 chicken plate solely on account of the fact I like nicely, deeply tanned look of the chook going around and around behind the counter.

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As I sit back to await my meal, I look around this small and very basic cafe, which I surmise does a good lunch trade for tradies, drivers and the like, and revelers of various kinds and sobriety later at night – all of which, I subsequently discover, is indeed the case.

A handful of the aforementioned tradie types order after me and depart with their takeaway goodies before I lay eyes or teeth on my meal, and I am beginning to feel a little forgotten.

It turns out the slight delay has been caused by the house rice being completed.

And what rice it is – still slightly al dente, nicely salty and studded with heaps of short bits of vermicelli.

It goes real good with the chicken off the spit, which is not as crispy as I have been expecting. It IS delicious, though, and of surprisingly un-oily texture.

Both rice and chook, in turn, are super fine with the tangy, fiery chilli dip and the more mundane cucumber and yogurt number.

All of which goes to show you can never run out of surprises when it comes to getting a good, affordable feed in Melbourne.

I enjoy talking to the staff, including the boss, Amber, before departing in the somewhat sad knowledge that it will surely be a long time before I’m in this neck of the wood again.

Quick Stop Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Deniz Kebab House

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Deniz Kebab House, 829 Ballarat Rd, Deer Park. Phone: 9363 1188

Here’s a Turkish eats place that sells a lot of the sandwiches otherwise known as kebabs, but which deserves to be considered so much more than a kebab shack.

With its homely formica tables, tiled floor, very friendly service and extensive menu, Deniz Kebab House is very much a family-style full-on Turkish restaurant.

Talking with owners Tuncel and Inci is very cool, as it always when the people concerned are so full of enthusiasm and passion for what they are doing.

Everything is made in-house, they proudly tell me.

And that “everything” is a lot – not just the various meats, dips and salads but also all the sweets, bread, pides, boreks, pizzas and more.

My single dolma is good, with tomatoey rice that is so al dente it’s almost crunchy. I like it that way when it comes my way!

There’s three meat genres going around and around on spits – lamb doner, chicken and one called “slice lamb kebab”.

Seizing with glee on a point of difference, I order the latter.

It’s unlike any kebab meat dish I’ve ever experienced – nicely, gently chewy with a distinctive flavour that makes me almost think there’s some kind of cheese been used in its preparation.

I subsequently discover from Tuncel that the lamb is softened with milk and onion and cooked with salt, pepper, chilli, oregano and paprika. 

I’ve requested some of the house chilli dip so get that and none at all of the customary yogurt-based accompaniments for such a meal, but I’m cool with that and up for some heat.

The chilli dip is fiery hot and piquant, and goes great with not just the meat but also the bread, which arrives at my table so hot and fresh it’s steaming.

Dolma, meat plate with dip and salad, can of soft drink and a pide stuffed with lamb and herbs for the next day’s work lunch – and I’ve still got change from $20.

Tuncel tells me the opening of Chef Lagenda a few doors up a few months back is good for business in terms of helping the Deer Park strip foster a reputation for foodiness.

Deniz Kebab House on Urbanspoon

Cafe Global

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Cafe Global, 373 Sydney Rd, Brunswick.

Having satisfied our desire for new, fresh reading material, the Consider The Sauce lads find ourselves kicking around a part of Sydney Rd we didn’t expect to be anywhere near come lunchtime.

We’ve tried Mediterranean Wholesalers, open to the idea of cheapo pizza slices and cannoli, but we find all the tables taken.

So we wander on.

There’s no hurry, I tell Bennie, and this is Melbourne – let’s let the Food Spirits guide us.

And so it is that we contemplate what looks to be – from the outside – just another drab inner-city bakery.

We get a delightful surprise when we step through the door – here’s a grand room done out in rococo style with an emphasis on red and gold, a pizza oven at the far end providing a clue to the premises’ previous incarnation.

He looks at me. I grin. We nod to each other – this is it, this is lunch.

These days this is Turkish territory.

Cafe Global, we are told, has been open about four months and has family connections to another, famous Sydney Rd Turkish establishment.

As such, Cafe Global has the dips ‘n’ kebab landscape covered, but we like the look of the place for home-style food potential.

That’s all a moot point for us, as we’re immediately captivated by the gozleme production process being undertaken just inside the front door.

The pastry is being rolled out using the traditional wooden pole and stuffed with goodies on the one side, the completed parcels being cooked on the other.

There’s four fillings available.

We leave the four-cheese-and-mint and capsicum-eggplant-mushroom-onion-parsley for another day, going with the lamb-parsley and cheese-spinach for $6 a throw.

Our lunch is insanely good.

The pastry is rich and buttery and light. The fillings are flavoursome, their spare lightness and delicacy providing plenty of impact without heaviness.

The service is a bit muddled – we get no bread to go with the avocado dip we ordered. But it tastes like a regulation, if very smooth, guacamole anyway.

And we don’t receive the two stuffed vine leaves we requested.

But this is all to the good, so well fed and well pleased are we with our gozleme - so slim, so cheap, so delicious.

McKebab

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McKebab, 49 Gordon St, Footscray. Phone: 9317 9132

It’s not precisely, literally a hole in the wall, but McKebab has that sort of vibe about it.

This tiny kebab shop is situated next door to a convenience store, with both of them sitting on the ground floor of what is otherwise as a spectacularly ugly building.

Across the street is the pokies pub known as the Powell. Across Ballarat Rd, but still on Gordon St, is a foodie strip – a fish and chip shop, pizza place, Korean noodle hang, a couple of Indian eateries – that seems forever to be waiting for that magic spark.

It seems that often in the west, and no doubt elsewhere, businesses and their operators must make do with situations, locations and premises that are presented to them, that are affordable.

In this case, we suspect that what presents as a simple kebab joint has the capacity and knowledge to present more home-style cooking of the Turkish/Iraqi family that runs it.

We wish them well if that is the case.

Certainly we enjoy our brief visit and the friendly service we receive.

As we take one of the two tiny interior tables, we strike up a conversation with two blokes at the other who turn out to be senior players for the same rugby club for which Bennie plays. Like him, they too have enjoyed success earlier in the day.

It is the home-style dish that draws our eyes and impresses the most.

Well, impresses me the most anyway.

As we’re returning from a friend’s birthday party in Hoppers Crossing, Bennie is already quite full of party pies, sausage rolls, saveloys and chips, and would prefer to be at the burger place up the road anyway.

Later in the week, buddy!

We order “green beans, rice and salad” ($9.90), with the main protagonist turning out to be fasolea.

This is a fantastic, tangy dish of green beans tomato, capsicum, what is described to me as an “Arabic herb”, onion, garlic, salt and pepper.

The beans are, of course, very tender, but I find the whole thing delicious.

The tabouli is a tad too dry and onion-y for us, but the rice is fine.

The house-made turshi – pickled turnip – is fantastic, salty, bitter and crunchy.

We order as well four felafel balls, which are freshly made and good, with an inwardly greenish hue and a smooth, ungranulated texture.

The hummus that accompanies is smooth and mild of flavour and the bread – housemade, too – is like a cross between Lebanese pita and Turkish bread.

No doubt because of their location – students above, boozer across the road – the McKebab folks face heavy demand for your typical kebab options.

But we hope they hang in there with some more home-style fare.