Sydney's best food for $5

Per Kilo's areguipe con queso (caramel on cheese) $5 dessert.
Per Kilo's areguipe con queso (caramel on cheese) $5 dessert. Photo: Edwina Pickles

The 2014 edition of Good Food Under $30 has just hit the shelves and, as always, it's a celebration of the best affordable eating in Sydney, covering more than 550 venues and 60-odd cuisines across 140 suburbs. The budget buys at least two courses a person and while some eateries just scrape in, others make our $30 budget look laughably extravagant. In the spirit of the latter, here's our pick on the best feeds in Sydney at the 'can't argue' price of $5 or less.

The go-to $5 feeds

Vietnamese baguettes - banh mi - filled with pork, pate, pickled veg and fresh coriander are Sydney's current cheap-eat-darlings and it's no wonder - they're filling, flavour-packed, fresh and often cost less than a fiver. The ones we queue for? Marrickville Pork Roll on Illawarra Road at Marrickville, King's Hot Bread on Forest Road, Hurstville, and Vinata's on Hughes Street, Cabramatta.

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food U$30 guide.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food U$30 guide. 

Lebanese pizza (manakish) is a serious steal, too. At one of our favourites, Charlie's Pizzeria on Canterbury Road, Canterbury, prices start at just $1.50 for a pizza topped with za'atar, a tangy mix of oregano, thyme and sesame seeds.

A sushi hand roll or two, or the cheaper-still inari, is another failsafe option when loose change is all you have to work with. Sushi Hub has branches scattered across Sydney including a busy stall at Galeries Victoria. Big spenders can go with a soft shell crab hand roll for $3.20, while the crowd-favourite salmon and avocado roll is $2.80. Inari topped with seaweed salad are $1.80 a pop.

Soups and pho

The Thai boat noodle soup at Chonsiam on Campbell Street is hard to beat at $4 a bowl. It's thick and aromatic, chock-full of noodles, pork pieces and dense pork balls.

Anyone bothered by the fact this soup's rich, dark broth has pig's blood in it might opt instead for a bowl of shoyu soup (chicken and soy based) at the busy Tenkomori eatery at Regent Place, George Street (a spin-off of nearby Mappen and Oiden). This one's thinner in texture but still full of flavour and a bargain at $4.10. There's also under-$5 bowls of tonkotsu (pork bone broth) and priced by-the-piece sides such as takoyaki.

Meanwhile the Madame Nhu Vietnamese food stall at Galeries Victoria sells soul-reviving cups of pho with noodles, bean sprouts and coriander, but no meat, for $3.50.

Sandwiches and buns

Pulled pork remains a favourite menu item in Sydney cafes but none come close in price to pocket-sized Haymarket eatery, Xi'an Cuisine, where it features in the popular Chinese street snack, rou jia mo. The juicy pork-filled pita is $3.80 or $4.30 with the addition of coriander and capsicum. They also do "super hot" chilli cumin beef ($4.50) and egg with green chilli versions ($4).

Chatswood's Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen does terrific gwa bao; folded steamed buns with a sweet, soft slab of braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, fresh coriander and sugary crushed peanuts for $4.50.

The highlight at Arncliffe's Hijazi Falafel is their namesake falafel so make a meal of them by ordering the falafel roll with pink pickled turnip, tabouleh, tomato and hummus, $4, or $3 takeaway.

Pastries and pies

A new store at Mount Street, North Sydney, means there are now six places to get a Bourke Street Bakery fix, and plenty of options for $5 or less including the famous pork and fennel sausage roll, $4.50, and golden bacon, gruyere and leek quiche $5.

Newtown's Pastizzi Cafe sells the irresistibly crunchy, flaky Maltese pastries at $2.50 each. There are 15 flavours to choose from but it's hard to go past ricotta and feta, and the kick of chilli con carne.

Pilgrims at Cronulla has brought a slice of the south coast to Sydney and while the famous burgers bust the $5 budget, Pilgrims's vegie pies, including the crowd-favourite curry lentil, are right on the money. The Anzac cookies are tops too and only $1 each.

Pub and bar food

Revamped Petersham's stalwart Oxford Tavern has added more clothes to the staff and some good, cheap snacks to the new menu. A small cheeseburger comes in at $5, while tacos (try the Baja fish flavour) are usually $5.50 but a steal at $3 on Wednesdays, 6pm-10pm.

The Soda Factory at Surry Hills complements its retro American diner vibe by selling hotdogs at the good old-fashioned price of $1 - Tuesdays only - while $5 on Wednesdays buys a burger, fries or fried chicken.

Global gems

Start an overseas trip for the tastebuds in Colombia at Per Kilo on Erskine Street, where your buffet selection costs $2.50 per 100 grams (go crazy with the knock-out condiments) and $5 buys "arequipe con queso", a traditional dish of cheese topped with thick dulce de leche.

Next stop, Chinese steamed buns at Chubby Girl's Bunz Shop on Broadway at Ultimo are $1.50 each and come in seven varieties including cumin lamb, while a fist-sized, runny-yolk scotch egg at fine-diner offshoot Arras Too whisks you off to the UK for $4.50.

Sweets

Witness the pulling power of 'puffs' at the Emperor's Puffs hole-in-the-wall at the Hay Street end of the Dixon Street mall. The little spherical cakes filled with hot custard sell for 30 cents each or four for $1. Don't mind the queue - when these babies are hot off the press it's worth it.

The speciality at Alice's Makan in the Pavilion food court on George Street is kuih - colourful Malaysian sweets. The offerings change but our pick is kuih serimuka - sticky rice topped with pandan and coconut custard, and pandan chiffon cake is $3. Try multi-textured ice kacang, too - shaved ice with palm sugar, evaporated milk, and various sweet jellies, beans and seeds, $5.

Blacktown's Main Street is the hot spot for Filipino food and the original is Philippines Takeaway, where alongside sisig and stews are turon - banana and jackfruit spring rolls covered in sugar syrup set to toffee, just $1 each.

 

The 2014 Good Food Under $30 will be available for $5 with The Sydney Morning Herald this weekend from participating newsagents, while stocks last. It is also available in selected bookshops and online at smhshop.com.au for $9.99.

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