Ethiopian - Footscray
Footscray has long been a cultural food hotspot, but most recently it has transformed into an Ethiopian hub. This suburb boasts a growing East African population, which has given rise to an Ethiopian restaurant boom, alongside hair salons and clothing stores. Museums Victoria reports that the state is now home to the largest population of Ethiopia-born migrants in Australia, with a diverse mix of cultures such as the Amhara, Oromo, Harari (Adaree) and Tigray.
Ras Dashen is a particularly popular Ethiopian restaurant, with late breakfast, lunch, dinner and coffee options for its hungry customers. Its owner, Wondimu Alemu, was forced to leave Ethiopia by the Derg military junta after protesting its regime. He and his wife, Alemitu Aberra, opened Ras Dashen in Footscray after spending six years in a Sudanese refugee camp, then moving to New Zealand as political refugees before making their way to Australia in 2000. The restaurant is named after Ethiopia’s highest mountain, which Wondimu climbed in the 1970s when fleeing persecution from the junta.
Make sure to also try Café Lalibela for homestyle curries served on injera (spongy flatbreads) and authentic Ethiopian beer, or Konjo Café for jebena: organic, single-origin Ethiopian coffee poured from a traditional clay pot. After your meal, pick up traditional Ethiopian injera breads, pre-made curries, berbere spices and dry goods at Mesnoy: Melbourne’s first Ethiopian grocery store.
Vietnamese - Springvale and Richmond
Springvale has attracted a wide range of Vietnamese eateries thanks to a thriving Vietnamese community – just one of many cultures that calls Springvale home, but by far the largest.
While most Vietnam-born Australians are migrants, our early Vietnamese population was comprised mostly of refugees. When the Vietnam War ended with communist forces seizing South Vietnam in 1975, millions of South-East Asians (predominantly Vietnamese) fled the takeover. They sought asylum in a wide range of countries, one of which was Australia. The small businesses the Vietnamese set up in suburban Melbourne has transformed streetscapes like Springvale into culinary destinations.
Start your culinary journey with banh mi from Bun Bun Bakery and follow it up with phở or bun mam (fermented fish and seafood noodle soup) at Bun Ngon. Wash it all down with some sweet Vietnamese iced coffee from Café Dia Gia. Once you’ve toured these stops, explore the streets around Springvale Shopping Centre to find dozens more Vietnamese restaurants and cafes.
Richmond’s Victoria Street, affectionately termed Little Saigon, is an impressive runner-up. The street is lined with delicious, great-value pho, bánh mì, spring rolls and noodles, plus traditional butchers, bakers, grocers and fishmongers if you fancy making your own Vietnamese dishes.