“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces,
just good food from fresh ingredients”
– Julia Child, American chef and cookbook author
One of my favourite activity to do in any city that I visit is to check out the local fresh food markets. I find these markets truly fascinating because they provide an insight into the food culture of the city, its people and their way of life.
Notwithstanding the beautiful colours of fresh fruits and vegetables, wholesome cuts of meat, seafood and other fresh ingredients, these markets, to me, are the windows into the soul of the people that are connected to bringing fresh food to our dinner tables.
In a multicultural Australia, many of these fresh food markets are built upon the sweat and toil of early migrants who came to settle in this country. Some of these migrants worked on vast farmland, established small delicatessens, green grocers and eateries that became their livelihood. Others became butchers, fished along our coastal lines and established small cottage industries some of which still exist today.
Today, Mysaucepan and I are visiting the Queen Victoria Market, conveniently located within a 5-minute walk north from the heart of Melbourne CBD. Established in 1878, I am in awe this market has existed for well over a hundred years in this city. I try to think about Sydney’s equivalent being the Paddy’s Market in Haymarket as we browse through row after row of butchers, seafood vendors and small delicatessens.
One of the first things that I notice is the sheer choice and variety of products on offer in the delis.
Some of these delis are more specialized than others but whether you are a gourmet chef or someone who simply loves to cook at home, this place is truly a paradise for seeking out those ingredients, whether you are planning on Italian, Japanese or Chinese for that next home party.
I can feel the passion of the vendors as we walk past each stall from the way the food and ingredients are presented.
The array of colours, smell and small tastings is enough to whet our appetite as we stop to sample fresh bread, smoked salmon dips, stuffed olives and my favourite – ham and bacon.
Sydney, what is your answer to so many of these delis offering such mouth-watering ingredients which are all located in the one place?
The vendors are enthusiastic in serving every customer, yelling our bargains and educating some who seem a little bewildered by the choice of so many products.
As we walk past the cold meats section, we are wide-eyed by the stacks of thinly sliced roast beef and pastrami, the mountain of shaved ham off-the-bone and trays of paper-thin prosciutto.
We enthusiastically suggest our favourite meals with these ingredients and how delicious our favourite sandwiches and antipasto can be with these cold cuts.
The red meat sections are not limited to just your favourite standing roast ribs on the bone. We spot fresh kangaroo fillets that look so lean in its vibrant red.
We find prices can be both relatively cheap and expensive across a variety of items and it might pay to shop around before buying. For today, we are merely feasting our eyes on all the food and thinking what we could cook with such beautiful ingredients.
Perhaps the one area that Sydney still holds the trump card is in seafood although the fresh seafood at Queen Victoria Market is very good.
The variety of fish, oysters, prawns, crabs and other shellfish is good although it pales in comparison to Sydney being the seafood mecca of Australia.
Many fresh food are home-made and we salivate thinking about the flavours of these sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes in a fresh salad.
Since our lunch at Movida, I have developed a new-found respect for the humble slivers of anchovies. Apart from using this delectable ingredient in my pasta recipes and salads, I find myself thinking about some creative canapes that would go so well with its salt complexity.
How about a smoked trout dip with some home-made mayo to accompany your rice crackers during happy hour? Or perhaps a smoked trout spaghetti pasta with some fresh cherry tomatoes for dinner.
The possibilities of pairing so many different ingredients together appear endless.
The delis section of the Queen Victoria Market is truly a feast for all the senses and I would highly recommend any visitor to Melbourne to check it out.
Fresh fruit markets
We wonder across to the fruit and vegetable section and the colours of these fresh ingredients never fail to amaze me. These markets appear to be a lot more organised than those in Sydney. Generally, the stalls are neat and the food appear to be better presented.
I always leave these markets with an urge to cook because of the beautiful ingredients and Queen Victoria Market is no exception.
Being so close to the city, I can’t help but think the delicious food being dished out by Melbourne’s top cafes and restaurants have something to do with the fresh ingredients from these markets.
So dear readers, which is your favourite food market in your city?
Queen Victoria Market
513 Elizabeth street
Melbourne, Victoria 3000
Tel: +61 3 9320 5822
Market Trading Hours
Tuesday 6am – 2pm
Thursday 6am – 2pm
Friday 6am – 5pm (General Merchandise to 4pm)
Saturday 6am – 3pm
Sunday 9am – 4pm
For more information on location, trading hours and car park, visit www.qvm.com.au