For a majority of students, the first signs of homesickness come through missing the food you had at home. And although Melbourne’s food culture is as diverse as the people that live in the city, not every dish from back home is as available or as authentically created in many of the restaurants here.
Take pho for example, the beloved Vietnamese noodle soup dish that can be easily found in Melbourne. Vietnamese student, Trung says that while he enjoys the pho in Australia, it is still “not as good as [it is in] Vietnam”.
For Gary, a Chinese student from the Guangdong province, he “misses the memories dum sum give”.
The Chinese dumplings, which consist of different meats and vegetables wrapped in variations of rice paper, is quite available and easy to find in Melbourne but for Gary, they’re too expensive. He also adds that the quality of dim sum varies from restaurant. “Depending on the restaurant, it tastes [either] authentic or not,” he said. That being said, Gary does try and get his fill of dim sum at Shark Fin House once or twice a month to feel closer to home.
Alan meanwhile states that he misses having hotpot with his friends and family in China.
Hailing from Tianjin province, Alan says the hot pot in Melbourne is inauthentic in that it is neither cheap nor tastes the same. He’s tried making hot pot for himself at home but given how many spices and ingredients go into making it, trying to cook it can unfortunately fill the entire room or home with the shared dish’s aroma, an aroma that can take days to air out.
While many of the above dishes are quite easy to find in Melbourne, Brunei food is a bit harder to come by.
Nobel, a student from Brunei, deeply missed his nasi katok, a cheap meal consisting of rice, fried chicken, chili and sometimes peanuts. The dish can be prepared quickly and in Brunei is sometimes labelled as its local fast food. Having grown up with the dish, Nobel said he missed nasi katok tremendously, further adding that he also “missed the food, culture and language from back [in Brunei]”. He has attempted to cook the dish himself but is usually unsure of the ingredients included and steps required to make it.
Attempting to re-create these local specialties can be a difficult endeavor and sometimes near enough isn’t great enough. It can be easy to miss home and the comforts that it brings but at least some students can find solace in being able to go home every once in a while to welcome these home-made specialties back in their stomachs.
So the next time you groan about your mother’s cooking, maybe don’t be so quick to write it off. It might just be the very thing you ache for.
This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.