For a little town, Woolgoolga knows how to turn it on for a festival. After nearly a week of rain the sun was out in full force and the little seaside village was bursting at the seams with people anxious to sample the local food and culture.
Woolgoolga is home to the largest Sikh community in Australia. So it is only natural that the little town should play host to an annual Curry Festival. It is an opportunity for the local Sikh and Punjabi community to celebrate their cuisine and heritage.
The festival grows exponentially each year and has all the glitz of Bollywood itself. The women in gorgeous Sari’s and traditional jewelry, the men chose boldly coloured turbans and traditional dress. We are surrounded by the rich sights, smells and sounds of the Indian community.
We were barely through the gates when we were overcome by the delicious aroma of spicy curry dishes. I made a beeline to a local lady I knew from growing up in the area. I had spotted her stand at last year’s festival but I had already eaten my fill. This year I was not going to make the same mistake, I said hello to Del and ordered my plate of Beef Kashmiri, & Butter Chicken with rice.
As expected it was delicious, Dels family had owned the Indian Restaurant behind my house and I knew their curries well. Her sister also owns Oberios Indian Restaurant in Coffs Harbour which I frequent on an all too regular basis.
I finished my beef and managed a few mouthfuls of the Butter Chicken before the children decided they too were hungry. I gave up my Butter Chicken and watched the little vultures demolish the dish.
Mr GG is a predictable creature; I knew what he would choose to eat before he even entered the gates. He loves the Hare Krishna food. So even with all the new food tents available he still went straight to the longest line at the festival to purchase his vegetarian feast.
While we were all eating we became aware of a visitor in the tree above our heads. We were not alone basking in the warm autumn weather. A two metre carpet python was curled around one of the branches about 1 metre above us. I took a few photos but he wasn’t too bothered about posing for the camera so I didn’t get a picture of his face at all.
On centre stage there was a steady stream of entertainers but my favourite were the Sher Punjabi Bhangra Group. They are an Indian dance group with gorgeous elaborate costumes and a fantastic presence.
The highlight of this year’s festival for me was the special guest appearance of Masterchef’s Jimmy Seervai. Jimmy was giving three cooking demonstrations throughout the day. The demonstration I was most interested in was the Prawn Curry. On Masterchef the Crab Curry was Jimmy’s signature dish, for the Curry Festival he was showcasing basically the same dish substituting prawn for the crab.
I have to admit, I am not the best curry cook. I love to eat curry but they never seem to taste the same when I make them. So naturally I was thrilled to be getting a cooking demonstration by “The Curryman” himself.
Jimmy was bigger than life and full of personality and good humour. It was hard to know when he was kidding and when he was giving away real gossip from the Masterchef show. Either way the audience was just as captivated by his stories as the curry he was cooking. For the full story and Jimmy’s Prawn Curry recipe stay tuned for more….
This year there were also markets on the beach. I watched at one stall where ladies were applying henna tattoos using the traditional henna paste to create beautiful Indian Mehndi designs. Naturally there were rides for the children, desserts, ice-cream and so many more curry stands than ever before. The local Seaview Tavern had established a make shift bar for those requiring liquid refreshments and the atmosphere was sensational.
The festival continued into the evening with more live entertainment and plenty more food, but we were with children in tow, so unfortunately, I can only say I was sorry to miss that part of the days festivities.