Does Melbourne’s diverse food culture really cure homesickness?
Melbourne is known for its culinary delights, especially its brunch and coffee cultures, but it also features diverse cuisines too. But as international students, sometimes we don’t get the food that we want. It’s natural for us to be homesick and miss the food that we have and although we may come across similar cuisines to those made from home, they’re still not exactly how we want it to be (although they can be pretty damn close).
Speaking to international students at Trinity College Foundation Studies, we wanted to know what kind of unique dishes students miss that aren’t always available here in Melbourne. We asked them which dishes they would love to see more authenticity towards and for restaurant recommendations on where international students can feel less homesick.
Vietnam has a sizeable community in Australia that has several authentic restaurants, but instead of being inside the city, these restaurants are in neighbourhoods outside of it.
Vietnamese student Hien, 19, says that even though there are a lot of places where she can get authentic Vietnamese food in the suburbs, there is a lack of quality Vietnamese eateries in the CBD where she studies.
As an example, she said that there is no place in the city for her to find proper Vietnamese spring rolls. For Hien, the only time she gets to eat the quality spring rolls is when her family brings them over from Vietnam. She says that more Vietnamese restaurants would open in the city if more people from her country came to live in the city centre.
Even though the Indonesian community isn’t as large as the Vietnamese community in Australia, there are actually several authentic Indonesian restaurants to choose from in the city.
Sabrina loves trying new food and it is very fortunate that Melbourne has “great options of food,” she says. She goes out to eat a lot, however, her favourite food she says has to be noodles.
Having discovered several Indonesian restaurants since arriving in Melbourne, Sabrina feels that there is authenticity in the food she has eaten. Alas, she does also suggest that if there are more Indonesians in Melbourne, there may be more variety in the different types of Indonesian cuisine that would be available.
“There are a lot of different foods from different parts of Indonesia,” she said. More than just a authentic meal for Indonesians, she feels that this variety would also be “interesting for others to experience”.
Tat hasn’t eaten a whole lot of Thai food since coming to Melbourne although of the few that she has tried, she strongly feels that they aren’t truly authentic. This is mainly due to these restaurants’ adding way more extra vegetables that normally wouldn’t be found in regular Thai cuisines.
When asked about whether she has visited Ying Thai, one of Melbourne’s most popular Thai restaurants, she said she hadn’t but wished to given its reputation.
People coming from Iran might have better luck. Although not all types of Iranian food are available, there are still several authentic restaurant in Melbourne.
Tara has not had any difficulty finding Iranian restaurants in Melbourne. She has visited two Iranian restaurants since coming here: Hafez and Caspian.
To Tara, Caspian has the better food but if you prefer atmosphere, Hafez would be the place to visit. And while she does enjoy the authentic food she has come across at both restaurants, she’s also enjoyed eating other cuisines from other countries.
Currently, her favourite place to eat out at is Laksa House, a Malaysian restaurant that has been a hotbed for students since day one (that it is so close for so many international students living and studying in the city makes it a no brainer).
There aren’t many Ukrainian residents in Australia, but it is possible to find a restaurant with authentic food in Melbourne!
According to Yurii, the huge range and variety of food from different cultures in Melbourne is incredible. He says that it’s “tasty, but fatty,” however, surprisingly his favourite food is an Indonesian dish called Rendang which he describes as “spicy and fresh in the same time, it is a soup that gets my heart.”
Yurii’s favourite food from his country is a borsh national soup that contains vegetables and meat. To get an authentic version of this dish, Yurii visited the Nevsky Russian Restaurant which he feels was the best choice as he had been missing food from home. And like all the students we spoke with, Yurii agrees that were there more people from his country, he’d likely be seeing more variety and even more authenticity in food.
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.