A food lover's guide to Bankstown, Sydney

Whether it's black limes for flavouring a sour fish soup, fragrant pho, house-made salami, or enough baklava to feed 200 wedding guests, Bankstown and its surrounding suburbs can provide.

"The area is really the first port of call for newly arrived migrants in Sydney," City of Canterbury-Bankstown mayor Khal Asfour said.

"No matter where you have come from in the world you can access support here, and probably find someone who speaks your language and sells your food. With 130 cultures represented throughout the city, I always say our food courts are like the United Nations."

Valley View Continental Groceries and Spices owner Ali Hamad with Sahar Elsemary from Taste Cultural Food Tours.
Valley View Continental Groceries and Spices owner Ali Hamad with Sahar Elsemary from Taste Cultural Food Tours. Photo: James Brickwood

Cr Asfour is on a mission to build the Canterbury-Bankstown brand and believes food is the best way to attract more visitors. In addition to rates relief, the council is supporting cafes and restaurants affected by the coronavirus crisis with grants of up to $2000 to assist with marketing and the provision of safe dining environments.

However, many Bankstown food retailers predict it will be a long process of recovery.

"Around 80 per cent of our clientele are elderly people and they've stopped shopping at the store over the past three months" said Joanne Karpouzis, owner of Olympic Continental Delicatessen near Bankstown station. Established in 1956, the Greek deli produces a wide range of European smallgoods, bacon and hams on premises.

"Trade is down about 40 per cent. Many of our elderly customers were sneaking out of the house when COVID first hit - I think it was a fun escape for them. 'My kids don't know I'm here' they would tell us," Ms Karpouzis said.

"But now their children are shopping for them and a lot of the younger generation won't visit us because it can be difficult to find a park nearby. They'll just go to one of the major shopping centres instead - wherever is most convenient."

Ali Hamad operates Valley View Continental Groceries and Spices in Bankstown's Compass Centre. He said business has not picked up since social distancing measures have eased.

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"It's still very scary for older people to go out - they're worried about their health and prefer to stay home, especially now that winter is here," he said. "Uber Eats and all the other delivery apps have affected us too. Everyone just wants food sent straight to their house now. No one is buying spices to make things from scratch."

Taste Cultural Food Tours is a social enterprise training new migrants and refugees to host excursions through suburbs such as Liverpool, Cabramatta and Merrylands.

Egyptian-born Taste guide Sahar Elsemary will soon reopen her tours after a three month hiatus.

"It's important to support small businesses such as Olympic Deli because they're such a big part of our community and cultural history," she said. "My only hope is that more people visit Bankstown and be amazed at what it has to offer."

Taste's three-hour Bankstown tour includes restaurants where many staff are on temporary visas and not eligible for JobKeeper.

"My mother and I have been lucky enough to remain open with a 50 per cent reduction in rent from the landlord," said Anthony Dinh, who operates Vietnamese eatery Banh Cuon Kim Thanh.

"The rent reduction ends this month though, so who knows what is going to happen after that, especially if we still have a reduced diner capacity due to social distancing."

All Bankstown restaurants visited by the Herald were practising strict social distancing and safety measures.

Breakfast manoush at Khalil's.

Breakfast manoush at Khalil's. Photo: James Brickwood

A self-guided food tour of Bankstown

Warning: may contain high levels of star anise, carbohydrates and cake.

Valley View Continental Groceries and Spices
40 The Appian Way

A wonderland of spices to inspire home cooking from now until the end of time, with no shortage of tea blends, cheese and honey either. Don't miss the sweet and heady Lebanese seven-spice mix, ready to enhance any slow-roasted lamb dish it touches.

Afandi Cafe
44A The Appian Way

Many locals regard this unassuming cafe and takeaway to make the best nabulsi knafeh in Sydney. While the pistachio-topped sweet cheese dessert is Afandi's main drawcard, coffee heated over hot sand Turkish-style is also a winner.

Khalil's Lebanese Pizza
119 Bankstown City Plaza

Few breakfasts wake the face like za'atar-fragrant manoush, zippy with Lebanese oregano and the citric kick of sumac. Third-generation baker Khalil Nasra makes a delicious fetta, mozzarella and haloumi pizza too.

Nam Fong Hot Bread
54 Bankstown City Plaza

There are a large number of Vietnamese bakeries vying for the title of Bankstown's best banh mi and Nam Fong may well claim the trophy. A $5 pork roll that's soft and crunchy in all the right places.

Olympic Continental Delicatessen
38/40 Bankstown City Plaza

Founded in the same year Melbourne hosted an Olympics, this terrazzo-tiled time capsule attracts all nationalities for its house-smoked ham, smallgoods, goat legs and Greek staples.

Anthony Dinh with his mother Kim Thanh making steamed rice paper rolls.

Anthony Dinh with his mother Kim Thanh making steamed rice paper rolls. Photo: James Brickwood

Banh Cuon Kim Thanh
Shop 7, 313 Chapel Road

There are six regular menu items at Kim Tanh's banh cuon hotspot and each feature a gold standard version of the Vietnamese slippery rice noodle. Nuoc cham dipping sauce is essential whether your banh cuon is filled with pork mince, omelette or wood-ear mushrooms.

Son Trang Asian Supermarket
304 Chapel Road

A well-managed Vietnamese grocer featuring hard-to-find fish sauce brands, vermicelli and every spice you could ever need to make a rip-roaring pho or bun bo hue.

Mohammad El Basha greets customers at Chehade El Bahsa and Sons Sweets.

Mohammad El Basha greets customers at Chehade El Bahsa and Sons Sweets. Photo: James Brickwood

Chehade El Bahsa & Sons Sweets
288 Chapel Road

When an important event requires catering, Middle Eastern locals come to this Lebanese favourite where pistachio, sugar syrup and pine nuts star in all manner of pastries. Basma, boukaj and baloriyah are sold by the single piece or kilogram.

Taste of Egypt
18-20 Greenfield Parade

Visit with friends and family and settle in for a feast of charcoal chicken, fall-apart lamb shank and spiced kefta sausages. Kushari is a must, Egypt's number one street food featuring a noodle base, lentils, rice, fried onion and spiced tomato sauce.

An Restaurant
27 Greenfield Parade

Many food lovers believe An is the home of Sydney's (perhaps Australia's) best pho, evident by a constant queue at the eatery's door. The beef noodle soups are especially world class, humming with ginger, cloves and cardamom in a marrow-rich broth.