Exploring the food and culture of Cabramatta with kids

Cabramatta Pai Lau Gate in Freedom Plaza

“Has anyone ever written an article about an Asian city without using the words ‘bustling’ or ‘teeming’?” asked a friend on Facebook just as I started to write this post about Cabramatta with kids and, while technically it is an Australian city, it’s one that definitely owes a fundamental part of its character to Asia.

In fact, Cabramatta is probably Australia’s most ethnically diverse area, with around three quarters of its residents born overseas. In ‘Cabra’ (as the locals call it) you’ll find at least a dozen different types of authentic and affordable Asian Cuisine, traditional herbalists with their wonderfully smelly concoctions (of which I am a huge fan) and an abundance of colourful and crowded stores plying their wares. From Asian groceries to fabric and electronic gadgets, it’s all here.

Fresh Produce Cabramatta

And yes, dear Facebook friend, it is ‘bustling’ buzzing! Particularly the area around John Street, Cabra’s main strip, which is where our little party is heading as Raffles is “starving!” Just for a change. Yes, that is sarcasm you’re detecting. This child is unfillable! I mean, we have just devoured a ridiculously large Vietnamese feast that has left the rest of our party waddling but, like a cow, it would seem that Kid Compactus has a spare stomach.

John Street is teeming heaving with little hole-in-the-wall eateries, each doing their own tasty thing, so I’m pretty certain we’ll have no dramas finding something that will fill Raffles gaping gob. We wander up and down pokey strip malls, each swarming with locals and secreting hidden treasures.

There are verdant veggies battling for shelf space with plump and luscious tropical fruits.

lovely leaves at a Cabramatta grocer

There are some old Eats World family faves plus others we’ve never even seen before like these momordica fruit

momordica fruit

The kids are fairly repulsed by the infamously stinky durian.


But are quite taken with the look of some spiky red rambutans. A kindly grocer offers the kids a sample and they’re soon smitten with the sweet treats, Raffles proclaiming them to be “super awesome spiky lychees.” Indeed! We bag up some of their awesomeness to munch as we continue on our merry way.

We peruse the interesting jars of what Raffles suspiciously declares “magic witch’s potions” in a traditional medicine store.

Traditional Herbal remedies

There are stores full of kitschy colourful plastic nic nacs and local ladies selling vegetables and herbs out of their own gardens from stalls fashioned out of milk crates and clearly designed for a quick getaway.

cabramatta shops

In fact, it weren’t for the weatherboard and red brick we drove by to get here it wouldn’t be hard to believe we really are in South-East Asia.

But are quite taken with the look of the spiky red rambutans.

Cruising the main street of Cabramatta with kids sees us seetling on a bunch of random snacks and we pull up a park bunch with our pals for a DIY high-tea Cabra style.

high tea cabramatta style

Sugarpuff tucks into banh kep (pandan waffles),

pandan waffle

Our friends littlies dig into egg custard pies and other mixed custardy filled pastries from a local baker.

custard puffsRaffles isn’t a huge fan of custard so instead snacks on some your tiao (fried bread sticks) and shares a lychee ice tea with bursting balls of lychee juice with his mum. And by share, I mean I get a taste before he buggers off with the lot of it. His tardus like tummy finally sated, he’s off to clamber inelegantly over some nearby lions and dance about wildly with a local busker who’s channeling a little Michael Jackson circa 1983.

kids in cabramatta

Before we head off there’s one more thing we want to see. Dotted between the fibro homes in the residential streets surrounding John Street you’ll find enormous Buddhist statues and shrines festooned with flags and other ornamental offerings in the front yards of traditional Aussie weatherboard and red brick houses.

Red Brick House Temple in Cabra

While they may lack the ornate detail of their Asian counterparts, they certainly don’t lack charm. We’re all quite taken with the quirky cool little shrines as indeed we are with Cabramatta.

Detail of shrine at cabramatta

17 Comments on Exploring the food and culture of Cabramatta with kids

  1. Robomum
    March 1, 2013 at 9:31 am (11 years ago)

    I love this post because I have a soft spot for my south western Sydney.
    My trips to Cabamatta usually involve picking up fabric but they are few and far between. I love the idea of walking through with my kids, checking out the all the amazing things it has to offer. Statues, people, food, funny fruit, variety stores.
    I am definitely going to visit Cabra with my little ones. Excellent post. Thank you!

      March 1, 2013 at 9:38 am (11 years ago)

      Thankss, so glad you liked it. More Sydney family food adventures coming soon 🙂

  2. robomum
    March 1, 2013 at 9:34 am (11 years ago)

    I love this post because I love my south western Sydney.
    My trips to Cabramatta are usually to pick up fabric but they are few and far between.
    I like the idea of taking my kids to check out the statues, people, funny fruit and variety stores. I will definitely do this soon.
    Excellent post. Thank you!

  3. Cooker and a Looker
    March 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm (11 years ago)

    What an exciting day out! There’s nothing similar in our parts, but my folks just moved to West End in Brisbane. I’m hoping there are lots of adventures in our future at Nan & Pop’s house.

      March 16, 2013 at 8:01 pm (11 years ago)

      Loads of great eating opportunities around the West End I believe. Plus Nan & Pop. Sounds perfect 🙂

  4. aparentinglife
    March 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm (11 years ago)

    Great post thanks for sharing. I have never been there but it sounds just devine. I love how in Australia you can go somewhere and it feel like another world all together. Fairy wishes and butterfly kisses

      March 1, 2013 at 8:52 pm (11 years ago)

      It’s the great joy of a multicultural society. There are so many great places to visit right here at home 🙂

  5. Have a laugh on me
    March 1, 2013 at 5:21 pm (11 years ago)

    Love these photos – such cute kids! I used to work in western Sydney it’s a melting pot for sure x

      March 1, 2013 at 8:51 pm (11 years ago)

      Thanks. It’s a wonderful spot, isn’t it? 🙂

  6. Winnie @ Bubfriendly
    March 1, 2013 at 7:47 pm (11 years ago)

    What a great post!!! You have definitely sum it soooo well!!! Those momordica fruit ( we call it luo han guo in Chinese) reminds me of the special soup and sweet drink that my nan used to make for us when we were little – sweet memories 🙂 Its meant to have special properties to cure ‘heatiness’ – a popular drink in summer and for those hot tempered ones! Nice to see Raffles enjoying himself! 🙂 If you are interested I wrote about their famous crispy skin chicken restaurant on my blog 🙂


      March 1, 2013 at 8:40 pm (11 years ago)

      Thanks Winnie. we’ll have to checkout Tan Viet Noodle House and the crisp skin chicken on our next visit.

      March 1, 2013 at 8:54 pm (11 years ago)

      Thanks for visiting Vicki, hope you can follow more of our tasty trips. 🙂

  7. Zanni Arnot
    March 1, 2013 at 9:00 pm (11 years ago)

    Sounds fabulous! I have never been, but am certainly tempted. I used to love the asian communities in Melbourne. We really were spoilt for food choices. 🙂

      March 1, 2013 at 9:07 pm (11 years ago)

      It’s great if you love a hit of culture and great food. Melbourne is wonderful. would love to get my boy down there to eat his way around all those lovely communities. 🙂

  8. Shelley
    March 19, 2013 at 10:32 pm (11 years ago)

    I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on! 🙂

      March 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm (11 years ago)

      So good to hear from you Shelley. Hope you’re settling in well after your amazing journey. x


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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