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Monday, January 03, 2011

December 28, 2010: A day in Dandenong

On the advice of our friend Erin we ventured out to Dandenong on one of our recent summer days off. She's vegetarian and has spent some time working in the neighbourhood so she had the expertise to map out the eating and shopping that would most interest us.

We strolled through Dandenong's Little India and spotted a couple of Fijian grocers on our way from the train station to Lonsdale street, but made our first stop at A1 Bakery.  Here, Erin advised, we should try the za'atar bread with salad and a non-alcoholic beer.  Sadly they were out of salad - which apparently includes some delectable pickles! - and our za'atar bread ($1.20) was comparable to the ones we've bought closer to home. The apple-flavoured 'beer' ($2) was more like a soda in flavour, and a great pair for the bread regardless.

A1 Bakery also stocks a range of Middle Eastern groceries - I was excited to discover and purchase a bag of Persian dried limes.

Our next stop was Aarththi Supermarket, where the convenience store-style entry gave way to shelves of Indian groceries.  We replenished our supplies of pickle and spices as well as picking up a small pouch of tandoori faux-chicken.  Savers then swallowed us whole; we emerged, dazed, more than an hour later with a handful of becoming garments for Michael.

We ate lunch proper at Lakshmi Vilas Vegetarian Cuisine.  This unassuming cafe is tucked away just behind the main street and offers a menu of Indian snacks, dosai, rice and thali plates.  In a reversal of our usual orders, Michael gobbled down a masala ghee dosa ($7) while I went the whole hog with a special thali ($9.50).  The three curries were terrific, including an unusual potato concoction, and the pappadum and chapathi were most memorable for their freshness and perfect texture.  I could barely touch the sambar and rasam - boy, were they hot!  Michael happily poured them over his dosa, while I 'borrowed' his coconut chutney.  Dessert was a new one for me - a small tub of thin noodles in a very sweet saffron milk (perhaps it was kheer or pheerni?).

We continued to collect Indian groceries at the enormous MKS Spices'n'Things, occasionally distracted (along with most of the staff and customers!) by the fall of several Australian wickets broadcast on their large screens.

Late in the day, and a public holiday at that, we gave up on any further op-shopping and made our way back to the train station with a short stopover at the Punjab Sweet Centre.  With a large display case full of treats costing just $1-$1.50 each I struggled to choose just two, though it was ultimately for the best.  They were both one-dimensional in their sweetness, lacking the hint of rosewater, saffron, cardamom or pistachios that I enjoy most in Indian sweets.  There are a few other sweet spots in the neighbourhood so I'll happily shop around for my sugar fix in future.

Our half-day tour of Dandenong was just the thing to amuse us on an obligation-free summer day.  We know this suburb has more still to offer and we're keen to return when a few more op-shops are open.  Please drop us a comment if you have other Dandenong delights to recommend!

Check out another blogger's DIY Dandenong tour on Bear Head Soup.  A1 Bakery has appeared on I Eat Therefore I Am, while Lakshmi Vilas is blogged at The Yembire Strikes Back and In The Mood For Noodles.

A1 Bakery
201 Lonsdale St, Dandenong
9794 9500

Aarththi Supermarket
243 Lonsdale St, Dandenong
9794 8931

Lakshmi Vilas Vegetarian Cuisine
5/31 Putney St, Dandenong
9793 7726

MKS Spices'n'Things
23 Putney St, Dandenong
9701 3165

Punjab Sweet Centre
2B Mason St, Dandenong
9792 1694


  1. Miss Marples is worth a trip, even just once. Scones aren't really "scones" but it's a cute place.

    Pie in the Sky is also good, although it's been years since I went.

    My all time favorite is The Ranges in Olinda.

  2. Shellie, I think you're confusing Dandenong with The Dandenongs :)

  3. That looks like a great way to spend a day off. How cool to have such a concentration of Indian places in one area - I know that's a common thing in cities, but I've never lived anywhere that has that, so it's a total novelty.

  4. Lakshmi Vilas used to have a second store near Glen Waverley. I worked near there about seven years ago when I first moved to Melbourne, I ate there basically everyday for the year that I worked there. I nearly didn't leave my job as I was so sad to be leaving that place. I'll have to travel out to dandy for a reminisce.

  5. Food & Wine festival are doing an Afghan Spice Banquet this year at the Dandenong Market in March. I did the afghan tour last year and food at Pamir's and Afghan Tasty was amazing. Should be incredible this year. Highly recommended.

  6. Check out the fantastic food in the Afghan Bazaar precinct in Thomas Street Dandenong, Pamir Kebab House is really worth a visit

  7. On za'atar bread, lately I've been cooking my own using your super-easy pizza recipe + good olive oil + za'atar mix. Given that it costs a buck and tastes delicious from any number of Sydney Road outlets, I'm not sure why I do this, but I'm enjoying it. The same recipe but dukkah instead of za'atar is also very good.

  8. Iron Chef Shellie & Hookturns - as a non-native to Melbourne, it's a mistake I've made plenty of times myself!

    It's lots of fun, Theresa! Something we like to do on holidays in new cities too, though we have to limit the take-home buying. :-)

    Nudbot, I'd be interested to know how similar the two stores might be!

    Thanks for the tip, Foodie!

    Thanks Anon, we'll file this away for our next visit to the area. :-)

    Lisa, that's a cool idea! I've used that recipe to make sesame bread for dipping but not gone the whole spicy hog.

  9. Where can I find your pizza recipe? I've got a 15 year old budding baker at home who aces me in the yeast dept.

  10. I work in the area and can second the suggestions for Afgan Tasty and Pamir's, they're both great! Also, the fresh produce market is open on Tuesday's, Friday's and Saturday's and really good for cheap fresh veg.

  11. Foodie - this is the recipe Lisa and I were referring to. Hope you like it!

    Thanks Anon! We'll try to co-ordinate with the market on our next visit. :-)

  12. It's been while since I've been to Dandenong!

    Have you tried Al Alamy in Coburg? They also do a great za'atar pizza and also sell Middle Eastern groceries.

  13. Libby - we've tried a few places in Brunswick but not Al Alamy. Thanks for the tip. :-)

  14. Just tried the new Salang Restaurant at 343 Lonsdale Street in Dandenong and the food is really amazing

  15. Cool, we'll make a note to check it out in future. :-)

  16. Hey, if you love Afghan food get a ticket to the Afghan Spice Banquet its part of the Food and Wine Festival and the Market is also open on that Sunday ( 13 March ) we are all going!

  17. Looks cool, but I dunno if they'll cater to us vegos. :-/

  18. You have to try the Gozlemes @ dough works in the Dandenong market theeeere aaaare divine!!!!

    1. We love gozlemes! Thanks for the tip. :-)