When Sikh volunteers started serving free meals from a van in Tooradin and Frankston to the homeless in 2017 they were curious: would people like their vegetarian Punjabi curries?
“In the starting, we were thinking ‘People will like it or not like it?’,” Manpreet Singh, the vice-president of Sikh Volunteers Australia recalls.
“It was not just simple curries, it was very special curries we were making according to their taste. Because most of the people don’t like hot food we were trying to make it milder.”
We needn’t worry. The food vans have become popular in south-east Melbourne, plastered with Love everything & Share everything stickers.
Twice a week, volunteers – known as sevadars – distribute dishes from Tooradin Caravan Park, such as creamy mother paneers (a curry made with peas and fresh cheese), vegetable kormas, saag (a leaf vegetable dish) and alu pakora (fried potato slices) and Young Street car park in Frankston.
They added pasta and soups to their repertoire, though the locals begged for curries when Sikh Volunteers Australia served these in Bairnsdale during the bushfires, thinking they might be better suited to country tastes.
“Everywhere in the world if you go to a Sikh Gurdwara Sahib [temple] you will get free food – this is called langar in the Sikh faith,” Mr Singh says.