It’s funny how your plans can change in a split second. There I am minding my own business sipping on a coffee at a café by Rockdale Station when I look up and see a familiar face. This person seemed a little preoccupied and was looking for something herself and when she asked if I wanted to join her I couldn’t help but partake. It wasn’t as if I had any grand plans so, why not? I sipped the last dregs of my coffee, paid-up and off we went. Look out Rockdale, the food-paps are in town!
Rockdale is a jumble of nationalities; a microcosm of cultures from the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe with many fascinating small businesses and pokey arcades offering budget-friendly fresh fruit & veg, Halal meats, syrupy pastries, $10 haircuts, Indian spices and rotisserie chickens. It truly is an area worthy of exploration.
One nationality that seems to have its hand heavy on the culinary scene is Macedonian and taking a wander down the pedestrianised part of King Street you can’t help but feel like you’re somewhere in Eastern Europe (perhaps if you blur your eyes a little) with its string of al fresco eateries bubbling with locals out for a catch-up. We take a seat at one of a handful of burek places in the area and begin a bit of a taste-fest of what this particular place, Balkan Oven Burek Bakery Café, has on its cards.
Burek is something I’m all-too-familiar with so it isn’t just the Macedonians that eat the stuff. This rustic layered sweet or savoury pastry can be found throughout the Balkan region including Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia and its origins lay somewhere in the Ottoman Empire. The pastry can be compared to filo but it does have a little more elasticity and the best way to wash it down is with a strong black coffee or glass of chilled butter milk.
On arrival we discover the burek is all gone but a fresh batch was about to come out of the oven so to pass the time we share a sensational strudla so jabolka (strudel with apples) and I’m completely blown away at how identical it is to the one my mother makes. Great to know as it’s way cheaper to get a train to Rockdale than fly up to Brisbane.
Once the three varieties of burek come steaming out of the oven they’re quickly hacked into quarters ($5) and each one of them is just the way they should be except I find the cheese one a bit heavy on the salty BulgInnoDBn and Australian feta. A small selection of slatki (sweets) can be chosen from the cabinet inside the bakery, all of which are traditional offerings at a place like this. Date & almond roll, coconut roll, chocolate & fig wafer, fruit slice and tulumbi, a fried biscuit dough soaked in syrup. Some are a bit hit and miss but the best part is the ritual of coffee that comes served in a džezva. Now I feel like I’m in Eastern Europe, or at my parents place.