When you first arrive in Melbourne, the change in climate may have come as a surprise. If you arrive during the end of the year, you will quickly find that the winter in Melbourne is a lot colder than what you come to expect. The wind can easily build up to 20 km/h, bringing in the arctic wind and sending chills down your skin. Should you come onshore during the mid-year period, you will find that the humid tropical summer in Indonesia is nothing when compared to the dry hot summer here in Melbourne. That is not the end of it though, because soon you will learn that there is one more surprise punch that you may yet expect – the local living cost.
Yes, Melbourne is known as one of the world’s most liveable city. This, however, seems to obscure the fact that it also has a relatively high cost of living when compared to its neighbouring countries (notwithstanding Indonesia, of course). This high living cost extends to its food and restaurants, most of which will hover around $15.00 on average. While the size of the serving itself justifies the high cost, it also means that you have to exercise prudence when deciding what to eat. This is especially applicable to international students – after all, we are here on a budget. Moreover, for us Indonesians, food is an irreplaceable part of our culture and identity. Being unable to try out the various flavourful and delicious food available in Melbourne sounds like a nightmare for you, food lovers, out there.
This fact prompts us to scout around the city in search of affordable menus and food stores for you to try. While a $5 note will only give you a quick bite, a $10 note is actually more than enough to buy you a sumptuous lunch. If you are looking for a budget lunch/dinner under $10, you should definitely consider the following menus and places:
Halal Snack Pack (Viva Kebabs) – $9.00
Halal Snack Pack (HSP) is easily one of Melbourne’s signature treats. Juicy mutton and chicken meat are shredded to perfection before being marinated with garlic, BBQ and chilli sauce and sprinkled with cheese to give you that mouthwatering aroma. Served atop crunchy fries or warm rice of your choosing, it is easy to lose yourself in the strong savoury scent of the meat as your stomach craves for the first bite. The tantalising aroma and the generous serving are sure to fill your stomach with bliss and leave you craving for more. Even better, you can get this signature dish for an affordable price of $9.00! If you are craving for other menus that they have to offer, you can also try out their fresh kebabs, made with the nothing but best and freshest ingredients.
Don Don Box (Don Don) – $9.70
Are you craving a well-balanced lunch that includes fruits, vegetables and meat? If so, you have to consider going for a Don Don Box. This bento box provides you a well-balanced diet of rice, marinated chicken, beef (or pork), salad and seasonal fruits. A single serving is enough to last you a whole day and it comes with a cheap price tag of $9.70! The menu has become so popular that you can find branches all over the CBD serving the shop’s speciality dish. Their other menus include Chicken (Beef) Curry Don and Chicken (Beef) Teriyaki Don – all served for less than $10. Healthy, cheap and delicious, what more would you like to ask for?
Mixed Rice (Norsiah’s Kitchen) – $9.00
While a Turkish, Japanese and Western cuisine is good for curiosity, a familiar taste works wonders in alleviating your longing for home. One of the most familiar dishes that immediately come to mind would have to be the mixed rice (nasi campur) where the combination of spices and juicy meat come together to give you a culinary experience like no other. For this reason, we have also included Norsiah’s Kitchen into the list. Spicy and savoury, you can immediately pick up the delicious flavour wafting in the air. Following the scent, you will come across a glass door and a metallic tray full of tantalising choices before your very eyes. For $10.00, you can pick up to three different choices of vegetables and meat to go with your white rice. Find yourself drooling over the spices and curry as they both blend into an unforgettable lunch experience.
Karaage Chicken Don (Rice Workshop) – $8.50
It does not take much to enjoy a good and hearty Japanese food. By forking $8.50 out of your pocket, you can purchase yourself a regular bowl of Karaage Chicken Don at Rice Workshop. The kitchen hands and the kitchen head are all Japanese so you know that you are in for an authentic Japanese culinary experience. If you are feeling hungry and would like a bigger serving, you can upgrade to a large bowl for only $9.99. Or, if you are thinking of trying their other menus, you can go for their Chicken Katsu Don or their Ramen set which are all sold for less than $10.00.
All you can eat vegetarian curry (Crossways) – $6.95 (student and concession)
It is as it sounds. It is an all-you-can-eat curry dining experience for less than $10.00. As long as you can show your student pass or concession card, you are entitled to a student discount that will also allow you free-flowing drinks and curry. Even once you have graduated, by paying $2.00 extra, you will still be able to enjoy the same benefit. The strong curry is perfect for an afternoon kick and will wake you up from your mid-afternoon lethargy. Complement your meal with some cool orange juice and you will have yourself a perfect meal set for the afternoon!
It does not have to be hard to find a delicious budget meal. Look around the corners and turn into the narrow alleyway of the city block and you may find yourself a jewel in the rough. Remember to look closely when you least expect it.
Text and photos: Edward Tanoto