Established in 1866, Dandenong Market is the second oldest and largest market of Melbourne. Often referred to as the Cook’s Market, it has always played a central role in the community – farmers, small business owners and public alike.
My association with Dandenong Market began in 2013, the year I migrated with my family to Melbourne. Living a stone’s throw away, the market soon became my shopping haven. The vibrant and bustling scenes, fresh produce, spices, friendly vendors calling out their wares were all a reminder of my home in India. And those initial days of newness in a foreign land seemed to diminish away, instead replaced with a sense of belonging.
It’s my weekly trips to the market that has provided a lot of inspiration for the blog in those early days. Even today, a trip to Dandenong Market is enough for me to come back home feeling inspired and bursting with ideas. And that’s largely because of the amazing variety of produce that can be encountered here.
The bustling multicultural community lends a unique charm to the market making it a utopia for food lovers!
The market also conducts free Food Discovery Tours, a perfect way to go behind-the-scenes and get an exclusive glimpse into the everyday workings of a busy market. It also provides a deeper understanding of the produce, sustainability and interesting stories of the traders who runs these businesses.
With over 200 traders, the market is a bustling expanse and private tours like these can be of great help especially when you want to buy the best on offer. There are also different kinds of tours of offer and booking is essential even though the tours operate free of cost. Learn all about the tours and make a booking here.
I was lucky to be taken on a tour by Chef Tim Hollands, who is extremely passionate about Australian produce. In fact Chef Hollands is a well known food consultant and owner of Tim’s Foods and Tim Hollands Catering who is on a mission to introduce fresh Australian produce to the outside world. Food provenance and sustainability are very important to Chef Hollands and I could not have asked for a better tour guide.
Now as I mentioned, the Dandenong Market is huge and bustling with more than 200 traders and it would be impossible to write about each of them. So here is a photographic tribute to some of my favourite traders, shops and cafes to share with you.
(I have provided information regarding each place beneath the photograph, but you can also find more information about the traders here.)
Details of the giveaway for a $200 market voucher at the end of this post.
Let’s start the tour with a cup of coffee, shall we? Café Valentina by Melba Coffee is a great place to stop by for a cuppa of your choice. I especially loved the cold drip coffee and you may also like to take home some of their award winning roasted beans.
Hart’s Honey is another favourite of mine and I often stop by to replenish and stock up the honey section of my pantry. Owned by Joza Hart, the stall is very famous for the different varieties of honey like Iron Bark, Mixed Blossom, Red Gum, Leatherwood (from Tasmania) and Manuka (from New Zealand). Hart also stocks creamed honey and honey comb but my favourite is the Orange blossom honey for its citrusy undertones. Do stop by for a chat; Hart is great company and loves to talk about his products.
It’s a given that you will be shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at the market. Do wander around the different stalls like Luppino Fresh (the oldest trader in the market), S&G Fresh, Alexander Produce etc… to see what’s in season and score a bargain. Markets are all about exploring so refrain from buying all the produce from just one place and rushing out unless you are in a hurry. For me, these braided shallots were the highlight of the day!
Sam’s Spice and Grocery….the most inspiring space for me in the market. I can easily spend hours here pondering over rows and rows of spices from all around the globe. In fact, most of my spice education happens here. A trip to Dandenong Market is worth it just to visit this store.
All of you know how crazy I am about seafood and Dandenong Market is one of my absolute favourite places to buy fresh seafood. Recommending two shops;
The first is Hellenic Seafood, owned and operated by the Ganotis family. This is the place for sustainably sourced seafood, extremely high quality produce and my go to store for salmon, red snapper, oysters, mussels, clams etc….
The second is Schwarze Seafoods, my next favourite because of the sheer variety of seafood available. Especially the place to visit if you are sourcing seafood for traditional dishes from other cuisines like Indian, Asian etc… And to all those who have asked me so many times, I get fresh sardines and mackerel from here most of the time.
There is a great selection of bakeries inside the market and my top two picks would be Baker Boys and Melina’s Bakery & Larder.
Baker Boys is managed by Jawad Zada who fled Afghanistan to escape the Taliban rule and arrived as a refugee here in 2001. Since he was a baker there, he continued in the same profession here, taking courses and doing apprenticeships to establish himself as a baker here. While you will find all sorts of baked goods in his shop, my absolute favourite are the Afghan style flatbreads with herbs and chilli flakes……a stunning combination with a delicious lamb curry.
Melina’s is my go to shop for sourdough and rye bread. There are so many different styles available especially for those who are interested in artisan breads and European styles. My favourite would be the plain sourdough which makes an excellent base for a rustic and delicious Bruschetta.
Apart from all the fresh produce, deli, meat and seafood traders, Dandenong Market is also home to other shops, a space often referred to as The Bazaar. This place can indeed be a treasure house if you are willing to spend a little time and walk through the rows of clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, toys etc…..
One such store is Linda’s Workshop which specializes in fine pearl jewellery. Rows and rows of beautiful pearl jewellery that won’t break your bank!
The Afghan bazaar is actually located in the meat and deli hall because they also stock a huge variety of Middle Eastern groceries but I would recommend looking at the ornate traditional homewares , tea sets and other kitchenware for such bargain prices.
If you are a book lover, then you must pay a visit to Volkan Books. Owned by Mustafa, this is a very popular space not just to buy books but also to swap and sell books. And if you bump into me there, do come and say hello.
And even though I have not personally used their services, I was drawn to the beautiful ambience at Christalignment. The staff is trained in supernatural healing, presence therapy, dream interpretations etc…..
If all that shopping and walking around has left you tired, then it’s time to indulge your tastebuds at the Market Square.
Let’s start with Saccha for a refreshing glass of cold sugarcane juice. Lez is a veteran of the hospitality industry and he definitely knows to mix his drinks. Opt for the plain freshly squeezed juice or try one of his signature drinks. Highly recommended!
Food from all around the globe is on offer here and some of my favourites include The Grill (for delicious burgers and kransky sausages), Sansan’s Dumpling House (for handmade traditional dumplings, golden pies and soft Chinese buns), Andy’s Mauritian Hut (for dhal puri, curries and vadai/chilli cakes) and Fat Kebabs (for kebabs, Middle Eastern pizzas and the best lahmacun I have ever had).
And if you like spicy, rich and bold flavours, then it is PiqNiq Hut that you must head to for delicious Srilankan food. All the traditional favourites like Kothu roti, devilled chicken, goat curry etc…. are available.
Finish off your meal with delicious freshly made doughnuts from the much loved Dandee Donuts, perhaps the most famous of all eateries at the market.
I also had some very interesting conversations, all thanks to the DSLR around my neck.
Like this gentleman from Cairns who is visiting Melbourne and loves the Dandenong Market.
And these two gentlemen who came here 30 years ago from Iran and now call themselves proud Melbournians. It was a joy to see the pride they had in their eyes while speaking of what a welcoming nation Australia is. Let’s keep it that way folks!
I can write forever about Dandenong Market but all good things must come to an end. And we have the giveaway to talk about too;
The folks at Dandenong Market would love to have you and so they are giving away a $200 market voucher to one lucky subscriber.
- Subscribe to my blog using your email id (the subscription box can be found at the top right hand corner on the home page)
- Sign up to Dandenong Market newsletter here.
- Leave a comment below stating you have done both.
The competition will run from 15th to 28th March, 2017 and the winner will be drawn on 29th. Open only to residents of Victoria; the winner will be announced on my social media channels so make sure you are following me.
Good luck folks!