Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chinatown... A Jewel of Adelaide That Almost Wasn't

Adelaide has a reasonable asian community, although this is the most un-asian city of all of Australia, with only about 6-7% of the population identifying themselves as asian in the 2006 census. Approximately, 60,000 people identified their parents from coming from an asian country. As such, it's doubly important that Adelaide have a focal centre for asian culture, and Chinatown and the annual OzAsia Festival are two important parts of that.

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There are two entrances, straddling Moonta Street, and Chinatown covers a couple of blocks of asian grocery shops, restaurants/food courts, and assorted businesses with an asian feel. Gouger Street, apart form having a number of great restaurants, also has a good number of Chinese/Asian restaurants (we might review a few later on).

Actually, the fact that there are any chinatown's in Australia should not be taken for granted. In the Restriction to Immigration Act of 1901, known colloquially as the White Australia Policy, limited the ability of migrants to work in Australia, and indeed for non-white people to immigrate to Australia. Actually to be fair, it wasn't a White Australia Policy - but rather a European Australia Policy... which stated that a prohibited immigrant included... 

(a) "Any person who when asked to do so by an officer fails to write out at dictation and sign in the presence of the officer a passage of fifty words in length in an European language directed by the officer"

That's not to say that non-Europeans were the only ones to be forbidden immigrant status. The 1901 Bill also excluded:
(b) "any person become a charge upon the public or upon any
public or charitable institution"
(c) "any idiot or insane person"
(d) "any person suffering from an infectious or contagious disease of a loathsome or dangerous character"
(e) "any person who has within three years been convicted of an offence"
(f) "any prostitute or person living on the prostitution of others
(g) "any persons under a contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth", where this exempted Pacific Islanders amongst a select set of people.

The reality is that the immigration officer could ask the prospective immigrant to dictate in any of the European languages, almost guaranteeing the ability to exclude unwanted immigrants (non-Europeans) from entering Australia.

Thankfully, the dictation test was removed - but it took until 1958 to do so!... and another 16 years before the White Australia Policy was gone for good.

So, apparently we weren't racist, just linguistically biased (as well as discriminating against the lowly, the idiots, diseased (or loathsome?), prostitutes or any manual labourers! Actually the first Chinese labourers came to Adelaide from Singapore in the 1840's, however, immigration of Chinese into South Australia was often a way of avoiding the immigration restrictions into the Victorian goldfields.

The Chinatown that we now know didn't really evolve until the 1970's and 80's, with the steady influx of Vietnamese migrants and refugees, escaping the war in Vietnam. The central element of Chinatown is Moonta Street, perhaps most recognizable for the two Paifang (Chinese-style archways) on both the southern and northern sides, which were donated by the Adelaide Council and Chinese government.

And of course, it wouldn't be a Chinatown without some Chinese Lion guardians...

And of course, there's other sorts to be found in Chinatown... and we bumped into S-kun at one of the shops... did I mention that they were offering free face-painting to children? Unfortunately, L-kun doesn't like face-painting... so he got an owl painted on his hand. Year of the Tiger was last year, this is Year of the Rabbit... but rabbits don't make for such impressive face-painting.
S-kun gets read to roar

Since then, there's been a slow growth of Asian migration into Adelaide, and a burgeoning of asian shops within the city, which generally cover both asian (and non-asian) vegetables, but particularly asian ingredients from all over. Nowadays, we can get a large number of ingredients from asia - including from Japan.

Actually, Chinatown sits at the western end of the Central Market (previous post). There is only one specific Japanese grocery store, known as Little Tokyo, which sits on the eastern side of Central Market (next to the Hilton Hotel). This is a small, but nice, shop that has a good range of Japanese ingredients.

 If you're Japanese, you might find it hard to pay the mark-up from Japanese prices, but that's the realities of a small Japanese community in Adelaide. You can also find a fair few of these ingredients in the Chinese supermarkets in Chinatown, so shopping around is also recommended. Little Tokyo also has a range of cooking utensils and dishes, plus a small range of other household and arts/crats goods.

On a related area, one of the breadshops that we definitely recommend is Breadtop, which is on Grote Street, next to Chinatown. There's lots of asian, including Japanese-style, breads and pastry's here, and they're relatively cheap too. They also do cakes, but we've not purchased any from here.

My favourite, melon pan, can also be purchased here... I was introduced to melon pan (a rockmelon flavoured bread) back in my first trip to Japan in 2003, and have been a devoted fan ever since. In case you didn't know, they're the two from the left on the bottom shelf (the cream-coloured ones are the ones I'm familiar with in Japan). They light, yummy, and very convenient when you're grabbing a bite to eat from a combini (convenience store) in Japan. Still, in Japan, there's soooo many yummy and convenient foods available.

I definitely recommend checking out both Little Tokyo and BreadTop... and next time your in and around Chinatown, it's good to reflect that Australia up until relatively recently had very strict immigration aimed almost entirely to prevent the sort of multi-culturalism that we enjoy, and indeed cherish today. It's only through such reflection that we can ensure that these sorts of things don't happen again.

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