Thanks to chefs from diverse cultures fire-grilling, broiling, smoking, and slow-cooking in eateries around the city, Sydneysiders have their pick of the pantry when it comes to expertly prepared international cuisine. And there’s no better example of this global food fair than in Western Sydney.
More than 2.5 million people—hailing from around 170 different countries and speaking more than 100 languages—call this part of Sydney home. It’s these communities and their food traditions that are explored and celebrated in the new ABC docuseries, 8 Nights Out West.
Over eight episodes, actor and writer Arka Das brings audiences along a feasting journey moving between eight cultures that have made their culinary mark on various pockets of Western Sydney. Also the show’s co-creator alongside Matias Bolla, Das says the intention is to champion the authentic, affordable food available in this important part of our city, as well as the resilient spirit of these communities.
“Growing up eating all around Western Sydney—which undoubtedly has the best food game—I thought about how there was no food show [spotlighting it]. I wanted to make one through a local lens and talk to the communities that are holding up the food culture in the area,” he says.
“The diversity and breadth of food in Western Sydney is unmatched, and I hope more people find travelling for good food accessible after watching the show.”
This televised degustation springboards off the success of Here Out West, which premiered as the opening night film at the 2021 Sydney Film Festival. The series represents the communities of the eight writers of this anthology film, including Das, with guests from Here Out West starring in each food excursion.
On one night, the crew head to Canley Heights to tear apart Vietnamese crispy-skin chicken and noodles, and taste infamously stinky-sweet durian. On another adventure, the Filipino community of Blacktown and Rooty Hill show off smoke-grilled street food, the refreshing layers of sweet shaved ice that make Halo-Halo, and a Filipino manicure—because treat yo’self.
Das says choosing a stand-out dish from the series is like picking a favourite child, but he has to give a hand to the Chilean barbecue experience (aka asado) at Theo's Cecinas in Fairfield.
“The Chilean asado out the back of the butcher shop was a highlight. I had never been to an asado before and he had slow cooked punta de ganso (rump) for hours before we started filming. Everything that came off the grill was so freakin’ delicious.”
From Ashfield to Strathfield, Das lived in many corners of Sydney’s west growing up, watching the area adapt and change with new waves of immigration.
“There has been a lot of development in infrastructure and also new generations of younger people deciding to stay in Western Sydney and build community, which is very special,” he says.
Like the rest of the nation, the pandemic slowed anticipated population growth in the west. It was slated to expand by more than 1 million residents over the next 20 years, but that’s dropped by around 40% since pre-COVID projections. Nonetheless, Western Sydney is still one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia.
Whether you’re a Western Sydney local, looking to make it your new stomping ground, or just visiting for a day, it’s time to book in for a few must-eat meals in the area.
When he’s craving Korean fried chicken, Das heads to Red Pepper at the recently refurbished but consistently laid-back Strathfield Sports Club. For a smorgasbord of Turkish dips, charcoaled shish, gozleme, and doner kebabs (late night or otherwise) he recommends Auburn institution, New Star Kebab.
“And a special shout out to my favourite cafe, Circa Espresso in Parramatta—you gotta get the Ottoman eggs.”
You can catch 8 Nights Out West on ABC and ABC iView from Sunday 7 August.
For more great stuff to watch this weekend, check out the best movies and shows on DIsney+ right now.
Image credit: ABC