By Vivienne Pearson
In many parts of the world, a kid cajoling their parent to buy them food might involve a big, multinational fast-food store.
So Leslie Ford, owner of Red Ginger, was greatly amused (and chuffed) to hear a child outside her Byron store, calling out, ‘I want Red Ginger, I want Red Ginger!’
The child was most likely referring to the Yum Cha-style dumplings, served in cute seating areas instore. Or, he may have been pleading to have some of the same dumplings, available frozen, to take home.
Another possibility would be his desire for the distinctly Asian-flavoured ice-cream (available in small tubs) with flavours such as green tea, black sesame and mangoes and cream.
All these things are good and worth a fuss, but Red Ginger is about even more than food. ‘What Red Ginger is known for is that you come in and eat dumplings, but it’s so much more,’ says Leslie.
Visiting Red Ginger is a whole experience, distilling many elements of Asia.
Red Ginger started life as a tiny Asian grocery store (initially two doors down from its current Byron location – next to Jonsons on Jonson Street). This element is still going strong, with rice, noodles, sago, sauces, spices and pastes all available, reflecting cuisines from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Japan and Malaysia.
Much is imported but products are locally sourced when fitting, including from Zest and Tridosha. ‘For anyone who is cooking Asian food, we have the best brands,’ says Leslie.
A recent addition to the range is locally foraged seaweed by Kombu Cody. Kombu kelp and Ogo Nori seaweed dust are two in the range.
Produce available for home cooks extends to the fridge/freezer, with fresh kimchi (made by a Korean family on the Gold Coast), tofu, miso, fresh noodles, sago and roast duck and pork.
Tea and teaware are also big part of Red Ginger. ‘We have many Asian-style teapots and sell the traditional teapot warmer baskets that we serve our Yum Cha tea in,’ says Leslie.
Other items for the home abound, all of which make great gifts. Silk lotus lamps, Mexican oilcloth tablecloths and lunchbags, Fair Trade recycled plastic baskets, traditional Chinese slippers and Japanese tableware are just some of the beautiful and useful items on offer.
Unlike many food and retail outlets, Red Ginger is a riot of colour. The staff aprons, which are available to buy, feature bright peonies and phoenixes, both symbols of good luck in China. ‘We’re a long way from the monotone that is currently on trend,’ says Leslie.
After 15 years of trade, Red Ginger is still going strong. ‘Red Ginger is well known in the Bay,’ says Leslie. ‘Lots of locals love it and have a sense of ownership.’
That’s lots of people who, either loudly or internally, are calling: ‘I want Red Ginger!’
Red Ginger, 2/111 Jonson Street, Byron Bay, and
just off the main street of Bangalow, behind Our Corner Store. Both stores open 7 days but check website for times