5 things Saturday, March 20, 2021 – the Cairns Foodie Five

Okay, so I spent most of last week in Cairns, in Tropical Far North Queensland – I flew up on Sunday morning and came home yesterday. I’ll tell you more about it over the next few weeks. Today, though, is about the food.

I was travelling solo and on a budget and thankfully there are plenty of street food style options available in Cairns – the Vietnamese and Thai food is particularly good here, and cheap as.

I also did a couple of day tours that included lunch and because I’m a member of the Accor hotel group and was staying at an Accor hotel (the Pullman Cairns International, in case you’re interested) I also got discounted meals.

The worst meal I had was, ironically, also the most expensive. Monday nights during the off-season, for the record, there isn’t much open. The hotel restaurant was shut, Soy Kitchen was shut, and a few along the waterfront were shut. I went to a restaurant that (I think) was connected to the Hilton Hotel, got a seat on the waterfront, and ordered a Malaysian Beef Rendang. While it looked the part there was no spice to speak of. The view was good though.

1.Rusty’s Markets

I told you about this place after my last visit. The post is here. It’s a Cairns institution and, if you’re a foodie, a must-do. Because it’s only open Friday to Sunday – was my first stop this trip.

They sell everything here – herbs, veggies, so many different kinds of tropical fruits, and who knew there were that many kinds of bananas. It amazed me also how many leaves were being sold as herbs – sweet potato leaves, choko leaves. (Side note, if you’re in the US you probably know choko as chayote or vegetable pear or mango squash.)

I stopped at one of the food trucks and grabbed a bowl of pho bo for lunch. Although piping hot (and I add extra chilli) it’s also perfect for this hot and humid climate.

2. Zucchini and Halloumi Fritters

These must be the current fashion because I saw them everywhere. They were served with local barramundi at the hotel and were on pretty much every breakfast menu around town. Because I had a few early starts I went to the supermarket and brought in yoghurts, crispbreads and avocado for breakfast in my room.

I did, however, venture downstairs on my final morning and was very glad I did. At the Pullman they serve the zucchini fritters as a muffin substitute for a very good eggs benedict.

On the food tour I went on during the week one of the tastes we enjoyed was zucchini and halloumi fritters with a chipolata sausage made using some Davidson Plum jam.

3. Soy Kitchen

This place, located outside the casino, is new since the last time I was here and is excellent. The food is priced well and very good. There’s also a fabulous mural inside.

I went back a few times and tried their duck spring rolls, Hainanese chicken (which, weirdly) was served hot (Hainanese chicken is usually served lukewarm), the gochugang spicy pork noodles (not pictured), and the shu mai.

4. Sunday Sessions

There are plenty of places along the waterfront to sit and enjoy a craft beer, locally made gin or an aperol spritz and a bar snack. The Salt House and The Boat Shed are my 2 recommendations – the duck spring rolls with a spicy tamarind sauce (pictured below) at the latter are very yummy indeed.

5. Something a little different

On the foodie tour, our lunch platter was a little different. On the platter were a skewer of kangaroo meat (the tenderest I’ve tasted) on satay sauce, a mini sausage roll made of crocodile with a little chorizo and a davidson plum relish, a grilled yabby that had been caught in the lake that morning, and some house-smoked chicken and trout.

Afterwards, we tasted some wines made of fruit – you can’t grow wine grapes up here. We sampled a herbally rose, and white wines made with mango, lychee and passionfruit. While they smelled amazing, they were a tad too sweet for my palate.


If you’re after pasta in Cairns you can’t go wrong with Piccolo Cucina. I had a fabulous carbonara there one night – made the traditional way without cream. They did it for me especially because we got into a discussion about how cream doesn’t belong in carbonara, but for some reason, most Australian and American tourists (back in the day when Cairns got international tourists) are used to having it with cream so that’s how they sell it. She was thrilled when I recognised the guanciale (cured pork cheek – another traditional ingredient) instead of bacon. ‘I thought you’d like that,’ she said. I did. very much.

Linking up on the Weekend Coffee share with Natalie.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

26 thoughts

  1. Oh Jo, you would have been in seventh heaven surrounded by all this delicious food. I followed your visit on Instagram and loved seeing your photos. I would love to do the Foodie trip you did on your last day, so might have to look at a trip North. xx

    1. We’re certainly very fortunate. In Queensland we have to wear masks at the airport and on the plane, but they’re not necessary elsewhere. Where I was visiting relies on international tourists at this time of the year – in fact, at most times of the year – so are really suffering business wise. It’s good to be able to support them a little.

  2. Hi Jo, The food looks colourful, healthy and delish! Interesting about worst meal being most expensive. Thank goodness for the view. I am curious about your lunch platter, since I saw a photo on Instagram. I think you had shortened the names, yet I got the gist of it.🙂 We have areas in our Okanagan (southern BC wine region) where some of the wines are made only from fruit. What fun! And, some alone time….priceless.

  3. Jo, I’m salivating as I read your post and see the photos 🙂 I’d be interested in trying the lunch platter because I haven’t had kangaroo, crocodile and yabby before. Thank you for sharing this with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    1. I’ve had crocodile before – but only up in Cairns. We can buy kangaroo is supermarkets – it’s super lean and very healthy, but I haven’t had tabby (a freshwater crayfish) for years.

    1. We’re very lucky to have been able to go up there during border closures. So many operators have said that if it wasn’t for south-eastern Queenslanders visiting even more of them would be shutting their doors when job keeper finishes.

  4. Beautiful photographs! I have not heard of or seen most of the food that you enjoyed on your visit. It sounds like you had a very enjoyable time. Good for you!

    1. It really is lovely up there – we don’t get some of the indigenous fruit (like the davidson plums) here and while we can buy kangaroo in the supermarkets, we certainly don’t have crocodile.

  5. And now I’m intrigued… I have been seeing shrimp carbonara around and wanting to try it but I’m not a huge fan of cream sauces since I’ve begun to realize that dairy products make my eczema flare up. However I have never heard of carbonara NOT having cream in it. What do they use to make it “saucy”– for lack of a better word?

    1. Traditionally it’s made with eggs and egg yolks. It’s poured into the hot pasta and, with a little of the pasta water, emulsifies into a sauce. The heat of the pasta “cooks” the egg gently rather than scrambling it. You get a creamy sauce with no cream.

      1. Thank you for getting back to me; I did end up realizing I could just Google it and that’s what we’ll be making for dinner tonight (not to mention I just read about Claire making it in Escape to Curlew Cottage– Which I am LOVING!! I nearly yelled “I knew it!” when the villain of the story was revealed).

  6. Wow Jo – so many food pics (but where were the chips???) I have no idea how you managed to cover so many different plates of food in such a short break – quite an epic achievement! It looks like you had a fabulous time away and I look forward to hearing more about it – and how refreshed and reinvigorated you are from it 🙂

  7. Wow, this all looks and sounds delightful Jo! What a great range of food and experiences you had, I am slightly jealous and hungry! I would love to join you for an Aperol Spritz 🙂 #weekendcoffeeshare

  8. Oh wow. Your trip looked awesome. All that yummy and unique food. I haven’t ventured too many places solo. Even locally. Other than shopping, I struggle with going to restaurants or movies alone, though I have friends who absolutely love it. I think I can do a coffee shop, but not a full on restaurant. I think I don’t like the idea of looking like I’m all alone…weird I know. Lol.

  9. Wow! This looks like a foodie paradise! The Vietnamese and Thai dishes look yummy. I love halloumi. Halloumi fritters sound wonderful. Reading this post makes me hungry! 🙂

  10. I was following along on the socials and it all looked thoroughly delicious! Reading this post has made me very hungry!

Comments are closed.