Never have I considered myself the spontaneous type. I’m one of these people that needs a plan most of the time, you know – where we’re going, when, how long … you get the point. When it comes to holidays overseas I spend many hours researching a destination in depth, especially the restaurant scene and markets and anything that would be of interest. I then compile a categorised list of places to eat, places to drink, places to shop and places to see. There’s nothing worse than getting home after a holiday and then finding out about something you could have done, had you known about it. Many things on these lists of mine go unseen, but at least I knew my options. Obsessive compulsive? Perhaps a tad.
Last Sunday I stepped out of the norm. It was a nice day and I felt like going somewhere new for lunch. Somewhere I’ve been wanting to go for a long time. Cabramatta. This town’s best-known Vietnamese hub. The train ride out there from our Erskineville comfort zone seemed to take forever. Just under an hour on one of those stinky old trains without air-con. “Welcome aboard the armpit and mothball express all stops to Cabra!”
On the ride over I’m madly searching websites for a place to eat. That was the end of my spontaneity! On arrival it feels like we’ve crossed an international border of sorts. Are we in Saigon here? This place is amazing! The streets are teeming with hundreds of people heading out to lunch or the meat market or the countless fruit and veg markets along the main street and down the congested arcades. There’s an old woman wearing a cone hat selling fish from a plastic bucket, other people selling bunches of herbs and coiled-up lotus stems and cheap boxes of washing powder. And this is just on the footpath! I love it.
We end up grabbing a table at the heaving Bau Truong – the best restaurant in Cabra according to Urbanspoon. It’s crazy-busy in here. We’re promptly seated and given menu’s and given the bustle of this place, I’m guessing they don’t want us to linger when more people just keep piling in. The table next to us is delivered some impressive looking spring rolls. We’ve got to get them as they look just like the ones we had in Hue, Vietnam many years ago. Cha gio do bien – taro and pork spring rolls (8.5). Good lord, these little things are divine. Just like the ones we had in Hue.
Next to arrive is bun nem ng – meat balls on noodles (10). Another winner. Packed with garlic and spices and fried spring onion. Mr K goes for something similar. Bo cuon la lot – beef rolled in wild pepper leaf (10). These are also delicious and jam packed with flavour. As a little something extra I got a serve of xoi chien gion – crispy sticky rice (10). It sounds a little ordinary but the flavour and texture is sensational. Crispy outside and sticky inside, a little salty and damn good! Loved the little mound of grilled pork on the side. I did have plans of maybe trying the avocado and jackfruit shake but I just couldn’t fit it in. The serves here are very generous.
After paying up and vowing to return someday very soon (there’s so much more I wanted to try on the massive menu) we went for a bit of a wander and explored the streets and arcades. I couldn’t help but give these delicious pandan waffles a go, found in one of the bustling arcade eateries. Heavenly!