Though I absolutely hate Prahran, with its messiness and peculiar mix of cashed-up narcissistic wannabe-hipsters and barking mad drug addicts, it is one of the crucial gastronomic destinations in Melbourne.
Firstly, there is the obvious Prahran Market. Though I know there are lots and lots of interesting stalls – and thank god I don’t live nearby enough to go often, or I’d be bankrupt – the organic shop that fronts onto Elizabeth Street is a must-visit, as I have found it to be extremely competitive price-wise. They sell Zeally Bay sourdough for the extremely reasonable price of around $5.50 (only a dollar more than the now mass-produced and very disappointing Pane di Casa from boring old Baker’s Delight – which does not delight), whilst other places often put a dollar or two on top of that. They also always have some very cheap organic fruit and vegetables. We got watermelon for 90 cents a kilo, grapes for 2.95 a kilo, an enormous half of red cabbage for $3 and bananas for 1.99 a kilo. This is less than conventionally farmed produce, on special, at the supermarket. On a good day.
Hilariously, and weirdly, the organic apples (including the biggest Granny Smiths I’ve ever seen – amazing, given that organic produce can be on the small side) and many other items were a lot cheaper than the conventional produce at other stalls. Very strange…
They also sell more interesting items like red quinoa, which I must go back for when I run out of my white quinoa, and several varieties of organic/biodynamic milk. Nom nom nom. (I am very partial to unhomogenised organic milk, though I am not extreme enough to go for the full cream. That said, the Aphrodite “bathing” milk intrigues...)
Along with the fresh items, we bought some organic black bean spaghetti which, as a semi vegetarian, piqued my interest for its amazing protein levels. 41%! Can’t wait to try it, and it was an exciting thrill for $4.50.
Secondly, there is The Essential Ingredient. My mother was a bit mystified a couple of years ago when I went there and came home raving about it. When she visited on Friday, she understood – and then said, “Why didn’t you rave about it more?!”
We will be returning for the Australian black peppercorns, the interesting bulk packs of Lindt chocolate, and (oh gorgeous) the muffin-sized mini guglehopf tins (WANT)…
Thirdly, there is Fuji Mart.
As a devotee of Asian grocers, Fuji Mart ranks pretty damn high up because of the fascinating $2.50 kitchenware/homeware section, where you can get cute Engrish notebooks, pens, damp-absorbing containers, face masks, daikon graters, chopsticks, bottle brushes and bento boxes for less than the price of a really crap coffee. More amazingly, once Mama had pillaged the bargain section, and got some incredibly reasonable sencha matcha, we also got a stamped loyalty card and a free packet of I’m-not-quite-sure-what. I think it’s an okonomyaki packet mix… Further investigations will be required, but free stuff is always a winner.