SI Vault
Harry Cox
November 05, 1956
Australia's Olympic city, happily in the throes of a solid gastronomic renaissance, will treat travelers to Continental menus, some fine local wines and excellent native cooking
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November 05, 1956

On The Town In Melbourne

Australia's Olympic city, happily in the throes of a solid gastronomic renaissance, will treat travelers to Continental menus, some fine local wines and excellent native cooking

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Other Australian foods that the Oxford excels in are two magnificent fish, the red emperor and the barramundi. The Oxford is the only Melbourne hotel that regularly puts on kangaroo tail soup—a little like oxtail soup, but stronger, slightly gamier and in a class with New Zealand toheroa and Australian turtle soup.

For curry lovers, the Ceylon, just out of the city in South Yarra is the place. Run by an attractive young Eurasian girl in a bright sari, Joyce van der Poor-ten, daughter of a tea planter, the Ceylon imports all the curry ingredients, from coriander seed, aniseed, fennel seed, cumin, dill, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, saffron and chilies to the for bidding Maldive Islands fish (black hard lumps of sea flesh sunbaked in the hot sand 400 miles off Ceylon).

It is a ritual of the Ceylon that all curries must be cooked in coconut milk. This is extracted by a special machine from massive bags of 80 coconuts each, dumped regularly in the backyard of the Ceylon. Even the honey for panipol (honey and coconut pancake) is not the honey the bees make but what is called, in Ceylon, jaggery, a nectar bled from the coconut palm at the point where the frond branches out from the trunk.

The Lingnan, in the city's Chinese quarter, Little Bourke Street, features unusual Chinese dishes. Gnan loong har is made with a Tasmanian crayfish, a tender and juicy southern version of the lobster. The meat is taken from the shell, minced with mushrooms, water chestnuts and Chinese flavorings, returned to the shell and given a crisp crust in the oven. It is a kind of Chinese variation (or it could be the original) of lobster Newburg. It is served in a smother of brown sauce.

Bar wong arp is only one of several hundred ways the Chinese have contrived to cook a duck. The raw duck is boned, then stuffed with a mixture of water-lily seeds, barley, Chinese herbs and the unbroken yolks of three duck eggs set down the center of the bird in a straight line. It is first roasted to a mahogany brown, then steamed. It is served cut down the center so that the duck egg yolks open out like small Dutch cheeses sliced neatly in halves.

Something similar is bark far guy. All the raw meat and bones of a chicken are taken out without breaking the skin. The meat is minced with herbs and seasonings, then put back into the skin. It is steamed and served in a mound and covered with a white sauce.

Chiney Poon, proprietor of the Lingnan, air freights down from the mud flats inside the Great Barrier Reef live North Queensland mud crabs, rated one of the most delicious shellfish in the world. They are not merely a finger-bowl job—they warrant a hand basin, but they are worth it.

Recently The William Angliss Food Trades School in Melbourne has become the center for domestic planning for the Olympics. Headed by German Chef Walter Zimmerman, the school is now running regular night classes for Melbourne housewives who, because hotel space is so limited, have been booked up to take in paying Olympic guests.

Walter Zimmerman holds all the European certificates. Before he came to Australia he cooked for Claridge's, the Waldorf-Astoria, the Hilton chain and others. He is specially fond of a photograph that shows him, as a pert and slim young man not yet filled out with fine food, beside the great Escoffier at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin when he helped Escoffier prepare the dinner German Kaiser Wilhelm and Edward VII of England had together in 1909.

Zimmerman's injunction to the Melbourne housewives: the first night the guests arrive, put on a truly Australian dinner (such as roast lamb with green peas and mint sauce, preceded by a soup or fish course and followed by a sweet such as apple pie and cream). After that, change to the national food of their guests.

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