Friday, July 17, 2009

Good Eats

I knew before I arrived in Australia that the country is relatively welcoming of immigrants, but I was unprepared for just how diverse the population is. White Australians do sometimes say things that make me wonder if they’ve never met a person of color before—Pipi, for example, saw a cooking-show host call someone an “Indian giver" on live television. But I know this cluelessness can’t be for lack of exposure. Walk down any street in any Australian city, and you’ll see a surprising number of non-sunburned faces.

One happy consequence of this diversity is that Australia, while not exactly a foodie destination, does have some great Asian food. I had Malaysian for the first time in my life in Sydney, and in Melbourne, I had Peiking duck for only the second time ever.

One of the reasons I’ve eaten this dish so seldom is that at home, you usually have to order in advance, or wait a very long time for your duck to come. Not so at the Bamboo House restaurant in downtown Melbourne. Peiking duck is a regular menu item there.

After some delicious appetizers (including soup dumplings, hard to find in the United States), the waiter brought out half of a roasted duck for our inspection, dramatically presenting it in front of us like it was an expensive bottle of wine. We nodded appreciatively, not sure what we were expected to say. (“Yup, that’s a duck; can’t fool me!” sprung to mind.) The waiter took it away, and moments later returned with these little bundles, each of which had the perfect amount of duck meat, duck skin, plum sauce, and scallion inside.

It was fantastic, one of the best things we ate down under. Let’s hear it for the brave immigrants who are literally adding a little spice to the colonies.

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