• Muhammad Dawoodi at his store in Auburn. (Cumberland Council)
Mohammad Dawoodi fled Afghanistan 7 years ago and his dream of bringing sweet Central Asian treats to Sydney’s western suburbs is now a reality.
By
Camellia Ling Aebischer

19 Jun 2019 - 2:12 PM  UPDATED 25 Jun 2019 - 4:42 PM

Arriving in Australia as a refugee from Afghanistan, Mohammad Dawoodi, is now the proud owner of two juice and dessert bars and a grocery store Sydney's western suburbs.

Dawoodi built his business with a first juice bar in 2014, followed by a grocery store in 2015 and a second juice bar in 2017. One bar, Auburn Fresh Juice Centre, and the store are located in Auburn, and the second, I Juice Plus, on Haldon street in the suburb of Lakemba.

His juice bars specialise in serving Central Asian desserts – a dream that Dawoodi had when arriving with no financial or business experience, nor a word of English. The business owner has luckily been welcomed in the multicultural district of Cumberland Council where he set up shop some five years ago.

Dawood has made many friends in the Auburn community.

Dawoodi fled his home state of Afghanistan before travelling to bordering Pakistan for refuge. There, he was persecuted and eventually made his way to Australia. Dawoodi says there was a lot of sectarian violence and it was an unsafe place to be.

Luckily Dawoodi has shed the burden of fear and shares the western Sydney district where he now lives and works with a high population of refugees who have similar experiences. This has also created a diverse hub of multicultural foods offerings and businesses that serve the community – and his juice and dessert bars are a hit with the locals.

“In Auburn, every day is like two days…business is great and I have made many friends in the community,” he says.

One speciality offered at Auburn Fresh Juice Centre is the falooda ice-cream. The sweet dish is said to have originated in either Pakistan, Iran or somewhere across the Indian subcontinent. It’s made with rose syrup, sweet noodles and ice cream or milk, with varying additions such as nuts and basil seed.

“In Auburn, every day is like two days…business is great and I have made many friends in the community,” he says.

Dawoodi’s version includes a range of flavours and was the first of its kind to be served to the Cumberland Council community.

He says his Afghani ice cream, called sheer-yakh, is also a big hit.

“It’s a blend of vanilla ice-cream, milk, condensed milk, a pinch of saffron, ground pistachio and rose water. In Afghanistan, sheer-yakh would bring people together – families, friends and especially couples,” he says.

Dawood's falluda ice cream at Auburn Fresh Juice Centre

The menu also features a “sunshine” option under its ice cream listing which adds fruit and nut garnishes to three scoops of your choosing (pictured below), as well as shake flavours like date or fig.

“As a businessman who struggled to get here, my advice to others in my shoes is to never give up on [your] dreams,” Dawoodi adds.

“Have a goal and never give up.”

Cumberland Mayor, Greg Cummings says the Cumberland community has a strong sense of mutual respect for its diverse makeup and is a welcoming environment.

 

“Refugee Week is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the contribution refugees make to our community,” Cummings said.

As part of Refugee Week (16-22 June) the council has opened bookings for an interactive program called ‘Refugee Camp in my Neighbourhood’, where attendees can hear stories from local residents as part of a guided tour.

The council also holds professional development tours for businesses and non-profit organisations, as well as school groups, to educate those who wish to learn more about the refugee experience and how they can better support new arrivals in their respective fields.

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Carrot halwa

Carrot halwa or gajar ka halwa is a favourite Punjabi recipe, but variations appear in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Halwa means sweet in Arabic and how sweet it is, too – an almost caramelised concoction of grated carrots and soft cashews, drizzled with cream.

Falooda

This dish is also made in Iran and India, however this recipe is inspired by the version made in Pakistan.

Homemade Afghan sweets (sheer pira)

Rosewater is popular in Middle Eastern cooking, and the star of Turkish delight. This recipe for Afghan sweets also includes walnuts and pistachios.