“I remember my mum telling me that in the 70’s you couldn’t even buy rice in the supermarket. It wasn’t a thing. Which is quite bizarre because the Chinese have been here since the Gold Rush. But you could go to specific places like the Chinese supermarket and they would have rice…And that is what I think now about changing cuisine, and how amazing it is here, to be able to buy something from anywhere in the world in Australia. And grow anything as well”.
An enthusiastic cultivator and home beer brewer, Rohan grows a range of fruit, vegetables and herbs in his garden, including eggplant, sweet potato, hops and bananas. A vegetarian for the last twenty years and a recent vegan, Rohan grows much of what he needs for his meals. “It did change a lot my cooking, this dish is an example. I do a Thai style Green Curry, it is one of my staples which I make once a week. I can pretty much make that flavour from what’s growing – lime leaves, chilli, lemongrass and you pretty much have the dish”.
Relinquishing dependence on supermarkets is not the only result of growing your own produce, it can also change preconceived notions of what is deemed edible. “When you start to grow things for yourself you are more forgiving of difference than if you are purchasing from the supermarket. There is a big argument/ discussion about how much food gets wasted at the moment. Bent carrots get thrown out, or bruised potatoes or odd shaped things because we are so used to seeing them on the racks and all looking the same, and it is a consumer thing it is not just the supermarkets fault”.
A landscaper by trade, Rohan channels his knowledge to his own garden, and now has his most expansive repertoire of fresh produce to date. “I started off with herbs. This is by far the most extensive veggie garden I have had. It is a pretty rewarding hobby – because you get that really direct feedback from it. I am not sure if it tastes any different from what you buy at the supermarket but it certainly feels better”.
Growing your own produce is not without its challenges, it requires patience and a willingness to let nature take it’s course; “It’s always an experiment, I understand how it can be daunting for some people. You go and buy seedlings and potting mix and then a caterpillar goes and eats the whole thing. And you have the vagaries of weather and that sort of thing. Things fail all the time, but that’s all part of it. I don’t mind if something is nibbled by a caterpillar. I am still going to eat it”.
Rohan’s Pho with shortcut stock
Coriander to taste
Cinnamon to taste
Cloves to taste
Star anise to taste
Peanut oil to taste
1 brown onion chopped
Mushroom based soy sauce – to taste
1-2 chillies – finely chopped
Mint to taste – finely chopped
1 spring onion – finely chopped
1 eggplant sliced
Ginger – finely sliced
1 garlic clove – finely chopped
200g tofu sliced in chunks
8 mushrooms sliced
In a deep saucepan, lightly fry herbs using peanut oil
Add the ginger, garlic and brown onion
After a few minutes, add garlic, mushrooms, carrot, sliced capsicum and baby corn
When fully combined with herbs, add approximately four cups of water to the pan
Allow stock to slowly simmer for twenty minutes
Boil wheat noodles in a separate saucepan
Once noodles are cooked, place in a bowl. Using a ladle, submerge noodles with stock
Top with desired amount of chillies, spring onion, mint and coriander