• "With Indian food you can feed a family for $10," Jaya says. (Sofia Levin)Source: Sofia Levin
After introducing Melbourne to Indian food 48 years ago, Ceylon Curry Corner has moved. But yes, it still serves the city's best samosas.
Sofia Levin

8 Nov 2019 - 12:52 PM  UPDATED 8 Nov 2019 - 1:02 PM

After 48 years on Russell Street, Ceylon Curry Corner - run by Jaya and Michael Sharma who are credited with introducing Victoria to Indian food - has moved.

It's now situated opposite Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne after battling with high costs.

Jaya tells SBS Food, "In the city, the [former] shop was very busy. People used to just walk in because our prices are very reasonable, but what happened was the rent and everything was just too sky high.

"So we're doing flyers and I'm going to the traders and talking to them and saying we have to rejuvenate the area in some way, a different way."

In July, after 48 years on Russell Street, Ceylon Curry Corner moved opposite Victoria Market

The Sharmas were one of only 40 Indian families in Victoria when they immigrated to Australia in 1974. They were born in Fiji but lived in England before they arrived. 

The first Indians to land in Australia were actually British convicts. Even when India became independent in 1947, it was mostly Indian-born British citizens and Anglo-Indians making the journey Down Under.

"You see, in our shop there's no waste. We cook and we sell spices, we make curry paste, we make lassie."

The Indian population slowly began to rise when the White Australia Policy was abolished in 1973, but by then the country's first Indian takeaway store and grocer, Curry Corner, had already been operating for two years in the heart of Chinatown at Shop 2, 180 Russell Street.

It was originally owned by the couple that started Maharajah's Choice Indian products and spices, but it sold to a Sri Lankan woman the same year Jaya and Michael immigrated. Four years later they bought Curry Corner for $14,000 and changed the name to Ceylon Curry Corner. 

Jaya's regulars extend beyond the city, visiting weekly from other suburbs and sometimes rural Victoria and interstate.

Jaya says, "When I first took over we used to have Anglo-Indian customers who immigrated here before Indians, and then a lot of Australians, English and Germans born in India.

"The Chinese knew Malaysian food which is similar [to Indian food] and they would buy spices."

Ceylon Curry Corner supplied popular restaurants with their curry paste and samosas, including the now-closed Golden Orchid and still-thriving Flower Drum. 

At their new store, Jaya's daughter cooks her recipes and her son works in the shop in the afternoons. There are three curries on the menu, as well as the famous samosas, chapatti, paratha and chicken and curry rolls. Students swing by for the oversized $3 samosas; others take advantage of a $10.80 deal with curry, rice, homemade pickle, a traditional sweet and Coke.

"Because we make it ourselves we can keep the cost down. With Indian food you can feed a family for $10 and even that's including meat… and it's very filling," says Jaya.

Her regulars extend beyond the city, visiting weekly from other suburbs and sometimes rural Victoria and interstate. "There's a man who comes every week from Hawthorn. He used to come to our other shop and could never get parking, so the poor man used to eat in the car and go home, but now he comes here," says Jaya. 

The Sharmas are credited with introducing Victoria to Indian food.

Currently the majority of the store is the Indian grocer with seating for four by the door. The Sharma family plans to add seating to the small courtyard and extend the kitchen. "We're not doing bad here, we are covering the cost," says Jaya.

In the 1970s an Indian couple immigrated to Melbourne and took over the city's first Indian grocer and takeaway shop.

"You see, in our shop there's no waste. We cook and we sell spices, we make curry paste, we make lassie. What we want to do is more wholesale.

"We were thinking of introducing puri in the morning for breakfast because once you eat Indian breakfast you don't need to eat all day… But we just have to do one project at a time!"

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Ceylon Curry Corner
Shop 3/292 Victoria Street, North Melbourne
Daily 9am – 7pm

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