If ever you're feeling adventurous and want to experience the feeling of being in another culture without leaving the comfort of your own State and country, come with me on a discovery tour of Springvale Central and save money at the same time shopping for groceries. I encourage you to check out the images in the larger form, to fully appreciate the fresh food and its price range.
On Springvale road, flanked by Buckingham and Windsor Avenues ~ fresh greens await you
If you arrive there first thing in the morning for an asian breakfast of congee or a variety of French loaves and pastry with coffee, you're likely to bump into groups of elderly men having a male bonding session. There will be a group of men of asian descent and a group of French men. They seem to know the secret of staying connected as they age and are a familiar sight, sharing a meal and a yarn or two with each other.
This is where I get my congee, number 1 in a group of numbered pictures. Accompaniments in different compartments.
Near the seating area in the centre is a central stand that sells my favourite congee which is a rice porridge served with all its accompaniments in a large bowl. This consists of a couple of prawns, a quail egg, squid, seafood, meats, coagulated blood (blood tofu), intestines, sliced Chinese doughnut (giò cháo quẩy; not sweet) and the pièce de résistance, a piece of peppered spiced meat served hot, topped with spring onions and a side of chilli and lemon. I did say; 'if you were feeling adventurous', and don't worry, you can leave out the ingredients you don't want, but that would not be very adventurous would it.
I usually buy an extra stick of 'giò cháo quẩy' to dip into and soak up my rice congee as you would bread into chowder and that will fill me up for the whole day till dinner time for $5. To that I add a large cup of freshly squeezed sugar cane juice which generally has a touch of miniature orange squeezed into it. Beautiful and all natural. There are a variety of other hot meals, coffee, bubble teas and other asian 2 colour and 3 colour drinks also at this stand with meals in the $6 range, drinks around $3 to $4 and coffee under $3.
Bread and Cake Delight, Quan Cafe for Vietnamese rolls, French bread, pastries, meals, drinks and sweets
Nearby is the Quan cafe. They also sell bubble teas, sugar cane juice and various drinks, along with French bread, Chinese doughnuts and a variety of pastries. Being under French rule close to a century in the history of Vietnam, its legacy of French culture can be seen in the beautiful bread they make. Grab a lunch of fresh, light and crispy Vietnamese rolls buttered with pâté and filled either with cold meats or roasted chicken or pork, a salad of cucumber, carrot, spring onion, fresh coriander and Vietnamese sauce. If you've never tried it, check it out. A meat and salad roll with a bubble tea will set you back just $5. You can also buy regular meals here like spicy Thai seafood noodle soup, curry laksa, fish ball noodle soup, fried chicken with red rice to name a few for between $7 and $12 on average.
Golden Lake Cake and Roast for roast meats, sweets and pastries.
You're not short of an asian meal at Springvale Central. There is also a variety store, clothing shops, a lotto stand, a Bread Top shop and hairdressers. If you're not in the mood to cook dinner and just want to prepare something quick, just pick up some fresh noodles and some sliced roast duck, roast pork or char siew pork and mix it in with some vegetables and viola, dinner is served. You can also buy ready made dinner boxes for a very reasonable price of around $6 to $8 and eat out at home.
The vegetables, meats and seafood is always fresh and I really enjoy trying out the variety of vegetables I've never heard of or used before, not to mention all the fresh herbs. It just makes me feel healthy to think I'm bombarding my body with a variety of minerals and nutrients. I only just realised I can have fresh sliced crisp okra (ladies fingers) in my salads and it tastes delicious to me.
The meats I have found are far more reasonably priced and it has made me cringe if I have to pay more than $10 a kilo for topside steak or oyster blade steak or around $8.50 a kilo for lean pork. I can get fresh fish for $2.99 a kilo and upwards and they clean and scale it for you for free. If paying $18 a kilo for salmon is a bit more than one can afford, you can get fleshy salmon tails for $12 a kilo. Fresh oysters are around $11 a dozen and prawns come in a variety of sizes from $10 to $19 a kilo on average. There is also a frozen seafood store that sells flesh only frozen prawns for around $16 to $18 a kilo, squid etc. and 'yong tofu' which is a seafood impregnated tofu that is partially cooked and you just need to add it to some soup stock with some garlic, ginger and vegetables and you have a beautiful pot of soup in minutes once its heated through.
Springvale Shopping Centre across the road with a range of ready boxed meals and 'add your own ingredient' drinks
When you walk through to the back, there's a seating area with a Gloria Jeans Cafe and a few other shops where you can kick back and have a coffee or something to eat and across the road is the Springvale Shopping Centre, which is as big and almost a replica for Springvale Central. However, personally, I have always preferred the ambiance of Springvale Central, but thats not to say the other sections and in fact the surrounding areas within walking distance is not worth a visit. Visit Springvale Central with an adventurous spirit and an open mind prepared to experience what you may not be familiar with and feel like you've had an adventure in another realm, or just get some shopping done at a reasonable price. Be warned, the downside is that parking is precious, because the place is just so popular with the locals and other adventurers. Enjoy.