Saturday, 22 October 2011

Sweet treats emerge from festival's melting pot

There will be enough ladies' arms to strangle an army of men, but the bake does not stop there.
Isaiah's Delights, a Middle Eastern sweets shop in Fairfield Heights, will be knee-deep in Iranian cookies and Lebanese ''lady's arm'' pastries this morning as it prepares hundreds of exotic sweets for Sweet As, a multicultural food festival in south-west Sydney today.
Look beyond the lamington - that is the edict of the festival, which takes over the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre today as part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.
''The lady's arms are popular because of the cream, which we make from scratch ourselves,'' Rita Odisho, owner of Isaiah's Sweets, said. ''Every Lebanese place differentiates theirs by their cream.'' For this treat, the filo pastry arms are filled with the cream, deep fried, dipped in sugary syrup and then rolled in crushed pistachio nuts.
Odisho will also sell zlabia, a delicate, deep-fried web of dough; honey balls, pastry puffs deep fried and dipped in honey; ''heaven's bread'', a soft Iranian biscuit; and baklava.
Her Isaiah's Delight, a pastry choux filled with house-made cream, will join Malaysian ais kacang, Turkish lokum, West African benne cake, Indian gulab jamun, Chinese nian gao, Vietnamese coffee and more.
''All the recipes we use are from our mothers and grandmothers, with little bits changed and tweaked over the years,'' Sabrina Yousif, a chef and shop worker at Isaiah's, said.
Casula and the surrounding Liverpool area in south-west Sydney is a melting pot of cultures, with nearly half the population born overseas and a strong Middle Eastern and Pacific Islander presence.
More than 150 languages were spoken, said Kiersten Fishburn, the director of the Casula Powerhouse.
''South-west Sydney is really becoming a hub of gastronomy,'' Ms Fishburn said.
''We thought that sweets and desserts are so universal. There isn't a culture that doesn't enjoy sweets at the end of a meal so it was a great food to focus on.
''And 'sweet as' is a great western Sydney phrase,'' she said.
There will also be a barbecue, hands-on creative workshops and live entertainment.
Sweet As runs from 11am-4pm today at the Casula Powerhouse, 1a Casula Road, Casula, 9824 1121. $10 buys 12 vouchers, which will buy about five sweets.

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