Food neighbourhood: Sandringham
Paradise Indian Foods
By Anna Shahab-King. Photos by Ken Downie.
The compact block of shops between Halesowen Ave and Haverstock Rd has been dubbed Auckland’s Little India but that title is far too simplistic: while many shopkeepers here do have roots in India, the flavour of the place also comes from Sri Lankan, Afghan, Chinese and Cambodian immigrants. Literally.
Where, oh where, would we be without the spices of the subcontinent? Sandringham is where to buy them, and while Khyber Foods & Spices put the suburb on the food map, there are now several other notable Indian grocers. Top n Town is my pick. Nuts, seeds, spices and about 100 varieties of dried chilli sit beside fresh yoghurt and roti, all at marvellously low prices. Next door at Oum Pillaiyar Trader, they entice with pottles of the fiery coconut condiment sambol, and have a takeaway menu of vegetarian Sri Lankan curries.
Paradise is so popular they’re expanding into the third shop in the row and proudly installing a “live kitchen”. Signed portraits of Indian cricketers grace the dining room, the owners are from Hyderabad and the customers are loyal. One couple told me they won’t eat anywhere else, and said the paneer dishes are the most generously cheesy in town.
Sri Lankan food burst onto the scene when 7 Siri opened a few years ago, and their famous lump rice and kottu roti have more recently been joined by a selection of seafood curries. And the godfather of Sandringham cheap eats, Satya, is still going strong, though it no longer seems so cheap compared to the competition.
What’s lacking in the main shops — decent coffee and vegetables that don’t look rather sad — is in abundance a few blocks south. Every Tuesday and Friday morning, the Wesley Community Markets draw an eager crowd. I love this place — there’s a positive buzz (aided by ukuleles on the sound system) in the air, the produce is top notch and cheap, and with just one row of stalls and not a lot of tat, it doesn’t swallow you up for half a day in the manner of Otara or Avondale. Yael Shochat of Ima heads here twice a week to handpick produce for her restaurant. Fresh tofu (try the moreish chilli tofu), fresh fish and mussels and free-range eggs from stallholder Philip’s plot in Drury round out the fruit and veg.
Attached to the nearby community centre in a bright airy corner, The Roskill Coffee Project opened in December last year. Run by a team of three, it’s a non-profit gig where any profits made are set to go back into the local community via youth-focused initiatives. Local youth are also trained in food prep and cooking. Ingredients including coffee (People’s, and very good) are mostly fair trade/ethical and there’s a strong eco-drive with composting, recycling and reusable cups encouraged.
Another of Shochat’s haunts around here is Auckland Halal Meats, where she buys lamb for her lunchtime pitas. Owner Zia, from Aghanistan, took over six years ago, but he tells me the shop itself has been a butcher’s since the 1930s. He’s very proud of his meat, which bears NZ Beef & Lamb endorsements, and he stocks organic whole chickens too. The spicy kebab mince is delicious when skewered, grilled and stuffed into fresh pita with salad and yoghurt. Over the road, it’s Gujuratis who run Khan’s Halal Butchers and they encourage new customers to try their famous tandoori chicken. It’s very good, and so is the other thing to try from here: spicy lamb sausages. A glass of milk will help with the heat.
Anna King Shahab blogs at eatsbyanna.com.