Noodlies, Sydney food blog discovers little Korea by the carpark
Lidcombe is one of those suburbs you travel through but rarely the final destination. Dooleys Catholic Club (where the pokies are worshipped) looms on one side of the train station and a stark multi-level carpark on the other. The suburb is still sleepy – the Dooley’s side is more Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants and shops, while the carpark side is quickly establishing itself as a Korean hub with lots of restaurants, grocery stores and a tight cluster of hairdressers. In Sydney, Chinese hairdressers do a fine cut in an upmarket environment but they’re pricey, Viets are cheap but they really need to sweep up more leaving Koreans to grab the middle ground glam, clean salons offering the latest Asian styles.
Arisu Korean is a newish part of Lidcombe’s little Korea. It’s new and almost clinical clean; sturdy wooden chairs and bbq ready tables, sensible brown tiles, plain walls – everything perfectly functional and efficient in that unique Korean way. One lone plastic fan with dangling chord shocks in its defiance of an otherwise perfect order.
As with most ethnic eateries in Sydney’s West, English signage is scarce, don’t be put off, staff can be shy but are actually very welcoming. In the ‘burbs is where I’ve found many exciting and wonderful culturally diverse food. Korean food is, um… powerful – the predominant flavours come from garlic (lots), ginger, soy, sesame oil and rich dark pastes made from fermented soybeans and/or chillies. The pickled cabbage kim chi side dish is the most obvious and ubiquitous example; sharp, spicy, sour and pungent, it’s also used in much Korean cooking. Be very suspicious if you don’t get at least four different types of kim chi as complimentary side dishes to your meal – a few are shown in the white bowls below, cabbage top right, sprouts bottom right.
The pipping hot, crimson pork soup above displays the typical Korean sour, spice, garlic punch, a shock at first though the palate adjusts amazingly quickly to make sense of all the competing flavours. Korean food can be ultra sweet too, the beef bulgogi is a perfect example, the marinate is almost sickly sweet but also strangely more-ish.
They warned us the spicy pork hock would be extra spicy, it comes out covered in fiery red bean paste with more chilli pieces mixed through the dish. There’s no visual embarrasement of pork trotter, it’s cut into smaller pieces, besides how can you make anything out under all that sauce? The pork meat with skin is fatty and rich, only marginally balanced with vegetables, the first mouthful, while full flavoured isn’t too spicy but the hotness builds quickly until every mouthful burns and you start sweating. It’s a complex, rewarding dish, you just need to be ready and understand it’s not for everyone.
Arisu is a good journey into the complex world of Korean food. And Lidcombe is developing quite nicely into a little Korean town.
Arisu Korean Restaurant
Shop 2, 4 Bridge St, Lidcombe
Ph: 9749 7171