Annual dinner and workshop series, The Travelling Table, is back in Adelaide to celebrate the cuisine of Asian migrants in South Australia.
“I’m the only member of my family in Australia,” says Dam Bui. “When I escaped, the only thing I could hold on to was the flag of the Republic of Vietnam and the family recipes in my head to pass on to future generations.”
Bui says she arrived in Australia as a political refugee in 1988 after spending time in a refugee camp in Malaysia. Before that, she says she was imprisoned in Vietnam and managed to flee the country by boat after several attempts.
In Vietnam, it’s her mother who taught her how to pick the freshest ingredients, get the best deals at the market, and cook traditional dishes. “Now when I cook Vietnamese food at home, we talk about the food and we share stories and I remember when I was in Vietnam with my whole family,” she says.
Bui is one of the dozen of migrants who agreed to share family recipes for the second edition of The Travelling Table in Adelaide.
The Travelling Table founder and co-director Vic Pisani says the initiative began last year “as a bit of a nonna restaurant”.
“My family was born in Italy and I always had a passion for my heritage. The place where I learned the most about my heritage was through my grandmother and mother at the kitchen table.
“We want to explore South Australia migrant history through the grandmas and matriarchs of the different waves of migration and let them tell their migration stories.”
This year’s edition of The Travelling Table celebrates the contribution of the Asian wave of immigration to South Australia. Vietnamese, Sri Lankan and Filipino cuisines will be the focus of three large feasts and three workshops between 6 and 9 June.
Members of each community have developed a multi-course ‘feed me’-style menu with chef Alana Brabin for a long table restaurant experience at Unley Town Hall. Expect dishes like arroz caldo and leche flan for the Filipino dinner, lamprais and fish cutlets for the Sri Lankan dinner, and steamed meatloaf with prawn crackers and three-colour dessert for the Vietnamese one.
For each course, the matriarchs are set to come on stage to chat about the story behind their recipes and share how to best enjoy their dishes. “A lot of these recipes are being passed down generations, but have never been written down so we’re also documenting that,” says Pisani.
All the workshop attendees will get a taste of the food, and dinners will also be given an opportunity to provide training and paid employment to newly arrived refugees.
The cooking workshops will be a lesson in how to make Pinoy BBQ marinades and papaya atchara, Sri Lankan chicken curry and coconut roti, and Vietnamese bánh xèo. “That pancake is very popular in the south of Vietnam. It’s made with rice flour, coconut cream and turmeric. Inside you have prawn, pork belly or chicken, bean sprouts, mung beans, spring onion and herbs,” says Bui.
“It’s very important when you make it, to make the outside very crunchy, and I’ll show you how.”
Bui says she’s very excited about this opportunity to share her story and recipes. “It’s a good chance for the Vietnamese community to be involved and for me to show my culture to everyone in South Australia and to pass on my recipes to the future generation.”