What is soul food? Well, it is food that is very much a part of African American culture. The most popular soul food dish would have to be fried chicken, but there are other common dishes; for example corn bread and grits, as well as vegetables and legumes such as black eyed peas, okra, collard greens and candied yams (sweet potatoes). In addition to fried chicken, meat plays an important role in soul food. For example, pork is a popular meat with ham and bacon being used in various dishes, and pickled pigs feet itself is a key classic soul food dish.
Soul food is not particularly healthy as most of the dishes feature high amounts of salt and are often deep fried, but it is a fascinating cuisine and culture, which actually has Native American influences, namely in the corn based dishes such as grits and cornbread, which are of American Indian origin. Within soul food there are a few different cornbread dishes which are popular; for example jonnycakes, which are similar to pancakes and hushpuppies, which are deep fried cornbread balls.
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Southern cuisine on the other hand is a celebration of Cajun and Louisiana Creole influences. Classic Cajun dishes include gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish boil and classic Louisiana Creole dishes include red beans and rice, shrimp creole and shrimp bisque. While southern cuisine features spice and 'hot sauces', there are still some similarities with soul food; grits and corn bread as popular and so is fried chicken and okra and black eyed peas.
Although Sydney is no where near the deep south, there are a few restaurants located in and around Sydney and New South Wales which specialise in soul food and southern cuisine and culture.
To begin the soul food and southern food journey, head to New Orleans Cafe in Crows Nest, for you guessed it, a celebration of New Orleans cuisine and culture. The menu at this live music venue includes Louisiana buffalo wings, red beans and rice, jambalaya, bourbon street gumbo, corn bread and po' boys, a Louisiana style sub, which has either steak or chicken. Expect to pay around $20 for a main here.
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South Restaurant was a great place for southern style cuisine but it closed back in 2010. However the owners reopened as Blue Plate Bar and Grill and their menu is now more American themed than southern and soul inspired. However there are some southern and soul dishes still available, such as jambalaya, blackened fish, southern fried chicken and crawfish and prawn boil. A fried fish po' boy is available on the brunch menu. Expect to pay around $25 for a main meal here.
Wet Paint Restaurant is another mid priced establishment. Located in the eastern suburbs, the menu is a bit of an international affair, as north African lamb backstrap and eye fillet with yorkshire pudding are also served, however the signature dish at Wet Paint Restaurant is Louisiana stuffed chicken, which is served with cornbread. The menu here is seasonal, so when you visit, you might be able to enjoy another southern classic. The main meals are priced around $25.
Also, I should mention USA Foods, an online store (situated in Melbourne) which specialises in American foods. Through their online store, you can purchase various American brands of instant grits, sweet potato pancake mix and lots of southern BBQ sauces, gravies and batter mixes. It is the go to destination for all your southern and soul food needs. They ship their products Australia wide.
Sydney is home to many more great soul food and southern bars, cafes and restaurants, so if you know of a great spot for soul food and southern cuisine located in or around Sydney, please leave a comment.
Check out the best Soul Food in Sydney
Jazz City Diner
238 Crown St.
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9332-2903
Jazz City Milk Bar
Republic 2 Building Courtyard
Palmer Street (between Liverpool and Burton Street)
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 8354-1776