Filled with goods from around the globe, the specialty stores of Sydney are irresistible to home cooks. The Good Food team grab their Eskies and hit the road.
It is almost a spiritual pilgrimage for me at the start of each year: a trip to Mediterranean Wholesalers in Melbourne's Brunswick. One trolley is not enough to handle the trays of San Marzano tinned tomatoes, Callipo tuna, wedges of Parmigiano Reggiano and packets of Gentile pasta. Somehow all those carbs soothe me and make me feel like I am ready to tackle the year. The produce is cheap and wonderful and the staff even laugh at my husband's joke as we lug boxes to the car and he says "see you next week".
Sydney is full of specialist stores like Mediterranean Wholesalers, too, Aladdin's caves of goods worth crossing town for. Some are new and glinting with well-lit tins and packets, others have been standing strong and authentic for decades.
We asked the Good Food team to tell us the stores they make a pilgrimage to at least once a year (maybe even once a week). And to enhance the journey, we asked them throw in their favourite nearby (or in-house) place to grab a snack at before or after the car boot has been loaded.
Good Food editor
USA Candy Factory
Oh, to have a shop like this when I was growing up reading American young-adult fiction and obsessed with tracking down Twinkies and Baby Ruth bars. What the heck were these Reese's Pieces that kids in Judy Blume books were always eating? I had to know.
Today, however, the US food importer is a must-visit for hot dog toppings, which are taken very seriously in our house. While LP's Quality Meats now make a great frankfurt, it's vital to have Beaver brand Coney Island mustard, Heinz Sweet Relish, El Pato chilli peppers and French's crisp-fried onions.
The store's selection of hot sauces is intimidating, and while I can safely bypass seven types of Snickers these days, it's impossible to leave without at least two bags of Ruffles.
551 Kingsway, Miranda, usacandyfactory.com.au
Snack stop: One cannot simply drive past Paul's Famous Hamburgers (12 Princes Highway, Sylvania) and not pick up a cheeseburger and pineapple crush.
The main drawcard at Valley View is the heady pyramids of fresh-ground spices. Photo: James Brickwood
Valley View Continental Groceries and Spices
The wonderful Ali Hamad operates this all-purpose grocer servicing the local Lebanese, Greek, Italian and Macedonian communities. There are cabinets filled with every conceivable olive, myriad cheeses and endless teas, but the main drawcard is Hamad's pyramids of heady fresh-ground spices.
Few pleasures compare to scooping out your own sumac and its woody citrus zing hitting your nostrils, even through a face mask. I'll visit at least twice a year to stock up on herbs and spices by the gram, especially zaatar and chilli flakes, which we seem to go through like a chip shop uses chicken salt. Bollocks to buying those tiny supermarket sachets.
40 The Appian Way, Bankstown
Manoush from Khalil's Lebanese Pizza. Photo: James Brickwood
Snack stop: Third-generation baker Khalil Nasra's Khalil's Lebanese Pizza (118-119 Bankstown City Plaza, Bankstown). The $2 oregano manoush isn't just one of the best-value breakfasts in Sydney, it's one of the best ways to start your morning straight-up.
I'm sure there are wood nerds who visit this barbecue supply store every weekend to fondle ironbark and geek out over manuka. If I had neighbours who were bigger fans of brisket smoke wafting into their backyard, I would be there too.
Friendly staff can guide you through all levels of charcoal-fuelled hardware if you're in the market for a new barbecue set-up, from Italian skewer grills to the mighty Big Green Egg, but I'm more regularly lured by the pantry section. Imported jerk seasonings, barbecue sauces and spice rubs, hello.
The neighbours do have tolerance for yakitori on the hibachi, thank the barbecue gods, so this is also my go-to for Japanese charcoal.
425 Parramatta Road, Leichhardt, bbqaroma.com.au
Snack stop: Anything from the wood oven at Cherry Moon General Store (77 Nelson Street, Annandale), such as cinnamon buns made with olive oil sourdough brioche and coated in cream-cheese icing.
Every now and then, I invent a perfectly random reason to head up to the Northern Beaches, just so I can drop in to Berkelo at Brookvale on the way back.
Tom Eadie's mantra "keep it real" resonates throughout the naturally leavened sourdough, ancient-grain pasta made with spelt or emmer, waffles, sausage rolls and bags of flour, freshly milled on site from grain grown in NSW.
I'm addicted to the crunchy oat slice biscuits and seeded crackers, too, even if they do make me feel like a budgerigar.
8 William Street, Brookvale (also Manly, Mosman, Mona Vale), berkelo.com.au
Snack stop: If it's Friday or Saturday, then it's a passionfruit, white chocolate and coconut lamington from Luscious Kiki's (16 Sydenham Road, Brookvale), just three blocks away.
You'll find every ingredient for your Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, South Korean and Vietnamese pantry at Miracle Supermarkets. Photo: Supplied
Suddenly, you're not in Sydney, you're in Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam. Miracle is a miracle, for when you are low on fried shallots, dried mushrooms and the best brands of jasmine rice (Golden Boy and Royal Umbrella, so good).
Big bonus: you bring home a heap of stuff to inspire new dishes for weeks on end – frozen, finely shaved pork and beef for shabu shabu and sukiyaki, XL Doughsticks (youtiao) for congee, tofu puffs for laksa, frozen lotus root for miso soups, and spicy Korean gochujang for everything.
Shop 1201, level 1, Castle Towers, 14 Castle Street, Castle Hill
Snack stop: The Mochi Ice frozen green tea mochi ice-cream (in-house or Coles). Who knew?
Pino Tomini Foresti of Pino's Dolce Vita Fine Foods with one of his sought-after hams in Kogarah. Photo: James Brickwood
Pino's Dolce Vita Fine Foods
Add half an hour to any trip south, or back from the south, in order to pick up the makings of dinner at Pino's. This proud Calabrian family rebuilt after a fire in 2016 to create a slightly crazy but delightful mix of cafe, trattoria, food store, salumeria and working butchery.
The sausages alone require a good 15 minutes of study – fennel, Toulouse, chorizo or cotechino? (Definitely cotechino – gently poach and serve on garlicky lentils).
Add spicy Calabrian 'nduja, mortadella, culatello, a giant $40 wedge of parmigiano reggiano, a tray of nonna's polpette (meatballs), and a bottle of Pugliese red, and life's sweet for at least a month.
45 President Avenue, Kogarah, pinosdolcevita.com.au
Snack stop: Time your visit around lunchtime for a prosciutto and provolone panino and a Peroni in the cafe.
When I walk into Russkis, I can hear my former Polish mother-in-law and Ukrainian father-in-law yelling at me to "buy this", "get that", "no, not that one, this one". So many of Bondi's kosher delis have gone, but we still have the 43-year-old Russkis, its bright red frontage splashed with the words "Feed me. Bite me. Eat me."
This is my go-to for Russian piroshki, pierogi and pelmeni dumplings, barrel-salted sauerkraut, and everything from horseradish to halva. Look for Sea Cave Siberian sturgeon caviar, Polan pickled cucumbers, Papandrea bresaola and Latis smoked herring, and if you forget the Andrew's Choice liverwurst, then go back and get it.
131 Bondi Road, Bondi, russkisdeli.com.au
Snack stop: Grab the smoked Polish cabanossi – one of the world's great snacking sausages – to eat on your way back to the car.
The beautiful Chef's Armoury store in Stanmore stocks Japanese essentials from knives to bamboo whisks. Photo: John Paul Urizar
When Japanese-certified knife sharpener Leigh Hudson first opened Chef's Armoury in 2009, it was designed as a showcase for the very best hand-crafted Japanese chef's knives.
Now it stocks just about everything Japanese, from Konro Japanese barbecues (want) to binchotan charcoal, cast-iron nabe cooking pots, bonito shavers (double-want), and matcha whisks.
It's also the place to go to upgrade the staples – my pantry now runs to both normal soy and Kishibori soy, normal mirin and Fukuraijun mirin, normal rice and koshihikari rice. Hot tip: their Sake Shop next door also stocks Yebisu Japanese beer.
105-107 Percival Road, Stanmore, chefsarmoury.com
Snack stop: Just grab the prawn wasabi crackers.
Naples-born Umberto Somma started the Paesanella cheese factory back in 1962, and thank the Lord he did, or Sydney would have missed out big-time on the delights of fresh bocconcini, mascarpone, mozzarella and provolone.
Still run by the Somma family, Paesanella is now a multi-level food emporium with a cafe downstairs and a whopping great deli upstairs.
I come to pick up a full shelf's worth of Mutti sugo, passata, cherry tomatoes, and squeeze-tubes of tomato paste, for the De Cecco pasta and Pollastrini canned sardines. And of course, for the ricotta, swimming in its whey right before my eyes.
150-152 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, paesanella.com.au
Snack stop: A prosciutto and formaggio panini from the cafe downstairs.
Finely sliced meats, salami, chorizo and marinated meats – it's charcuterie central at the family-run Portuguese smallgoods producer Sunshine Meats in Milperra.
Bring your Esky and stock up on their house-made maple-infused boneless ham, which has been voted Australia's best, scoring 100/100 in a competition run by Australian Pork. Double-smoked for 12 hours, it's amazing scoffed on its own or served with olives and bread.
The range isn't limited to pork – you'll also find whole butterflied chickens and duck, artisan sausages (chicken and chive is my fave) and beef or chicken rashers, if traditional bacon isn't your thing, plus loads of ready-to-slice meats including oven-roasted turkey, duck breast and chilli chicken. Your sandwiches and salads will never be the same again.
360 Horsley Road, Milperra, sunshinemeats.com.au
Snack stop: Make a meal of it in the shady courtyard with Sunshine's signature charcuterie board (above right).
NutRoasters Roselands shop is brimming with every raw and roasted nut you can imagine. Photo: NutRoasters
The Afiouny family has been in the business of roasting and selling nuts for nearly a century: first in Lebanon, and then in Australia after relocating here in the early '70s.
Their Roselands shop is brimming with every raw and roasted nut you can imagine: pistachios, cashews, whole pecans and macadamias, and almonds of every flavour and description.
You'll find Middle Eastern and Mediterranean snacks such as dates and dried figs alongside sea-salt pretzels and cranberries, plus Mezzabibi rosewater and pomegranate molasses, and Gasons specialty rice (paella, black sticky, sushi and more).
But it's the colourful imported Turkish delight I can't go past. Rolled in rose petals and shards of pistachio, it makes a beautiful gift for a friend or, you know, yourself.
79-81 Chapel Street, Roselands
Snack stop: The house kri kri peanuts with a baked-on salty-sweet coating – no, not great for the waistline, but so very good for the tastebuds.
Tamaleria & Mexican Deli
If it's Mexican food you're craving, hit up Rosa Cienfuegos' (pictured) deli on Marrickville Road. Many a taco fan has been known to cross town for a taste of her cooking.
Tuck into hand-made tacos and tamales on the spot (pork, chicken, brisket, chorizo and vegan are on high rotation), or arm yourself with all the fixings for a DIY feast at home, including masa flour for making tortillas from scratch if you really want a new challenge.
I go through buckets of her green salsa verde but it's the pantry section that holds all the hard-to-find goodies. San Marcos canned tomatillos, for example, or Goya seasonings, all your favourite Jarritos soda flavours and hot sauces such as El Yucateco's Chile Habanero Negro. Skip the usual supermarket chillies next time you cook and try dried ancho varieties instead; ditto with cheese, try the Oaxaca version. Not sure how to use them? Pick up a copy of Cienfuegos' cookbook, Comida Mexicana, for some recipe inspo.
463 Marrickville Road, Dulwich Hill, mexicanfoodaustralia.com
Snack stop: A packet of fiery Flamin' Hot Cheetos or a sweet little disc of de la Rosa "mazapan" peanut candy.
Other necessary detours
- Hoa Hung Tofu, Belmore: Sydney's go-to spot for 100 per cent Australian-grown and made handmade tofu.
- Zanetti 5 Star Gourmet Delicatessen, Haberfield: Hand-sliced sandwich meats, Italian flours, pastas, passata and panini.
- La Latina, Chatswood: Your favourite Latin American foods – arepas, salted plantain chips, fresco cheese, Chocoramo and jalapeno sauce in one spot.
- Hahn's Korean Butchers, Eastwood: Restaurant-quality Korean barbecue meats – bulgogi, marinated beef rib, chilli pork and top-notch wagyu.
- Thai Kee IGA, Chinatown: Everything you need to restock your Asian pantry.
- Skorin Deli, Concord: Fill up your basket with excellent Italian pasta, biscuits and fresh yeast.
- Tokyo Mart, Northbridge: Hunting down that hard-to-find Japanese ingredient? Chances are you'll find it in this compact shop tucked in a corner of Northbridge Plaza.
- Best Tastes Dim Sim, Homebush West: Frozen dumplings, dim sims, spring rolls, steamed buns and everything else you need for a yum cha party at home.
- Spaghetti 75, Avalon: This new spot on Barrenjoey Road has the Northern Beaches buzzing about fresh pasta made by hand daily.