The amount of restaurants in Cabramatta can be a little mind boggling to some as everywhere you look you see a cornucopia of food, mainly Asian of course. The first restaurant we sat down at was Pho Tau Bay on John Street. This place specializes in, you guessed it, pho. That wonderful heart warming noodle soup eaten at any time of the day. Seeing this was an eating tour we weren’t there to over-fill ourselves so the order was kept cropped to just two bowls of steaming pho bo dac biet (11) and shared amongst us all. This soup was a treasure-trove of beef goodies such as rare beef, beef briskets, beef balls and beef tendons. The beef balls are of the meatball kind, not the ones you’re thinking of! All of this protein with rice noodles, spring and shredded white onion makes for some slurping and lip-smacking goodness … even better with a squirt of chilli sauce.
Not too far away is a dark passage only a metre wide that was once home to junkies and their pointy toys. With a little trepidation we’re led down the passage and are surprised to find a restaurant known to our informative local guides as “that place down the alley-way”. Yes, this place does have a name – U.E. Chinese Restaurant. The cosy little space looks like it used to be a storage room of sorts and despite the fact it is so hidden away from the street it was almost brimming with people tucking into steaming bowls of something-or-other. With a little shuffling and rearranging we are given a table and choose two things off the miniscule Chinese/Vietnamese menu.
The beef in the egg noodle soup (10) comes severely tender and requires little chewing and the broth is divine. I could easily down a bowl of this on my own but of course this wasn’t the time. The duck leg with egg noodles (12) presents itself in a similar fashion and is also tenderly soft and very flavoursome. I can see why this “underground” place is so popular with the locals and thanks to not have to step over a junkie or two to get here.
Next on the restaurant agenda is a place I remember seeing on my last visit out here to Cabramatta. Somewhere I knew was famous for its impeccably-cooked crispy chicken and its perpetually long waiting queue. Good thing is that here at Tan Viet Noodle House the turnover was so rapid that we’re only standing and waiting for 10-15 minutes to get a seat. The cafeteria-style restaurant resembles Town Hall Station at 8.30am. People everywhere. And I can understand why. The crispy chicken (11) here is possibly the best I’ve encountered. No need for gastronomic descriptions other than it’s worth the 50 minute train trip from the city, including the additional half hour journey to Hurstville thanks to me forgetting to change trains at Sydenham.
To perk myself up a bit I ordered a hot milk coffee (3) that comes out in near traditional Vietnamese style. Black coffee with a generous squirt of condensed milk. I love this stuff ever since trying it for the first time in Hue, Vietnam, where you get a tin strainer dripping fresh coffee onto the condensed milk into your cup beneath. Good stuff.
Several other drinks were ordered, two of which I’d never tried before. The egg yolk, milk and soda (4) sounds a little dubious but is actually a refreshing cold drink that tastes just like custard. Really nice! The logan & lotus seed drink (3.5), however, is one for the aquired palate. The sweet and slightly savoury concoction had a bit of a “salad” quality about it. Crunchy, gritty, sweet, not for me.
Food courts in this town are normally associated with a food vendor from token parts of the world. A kebab place, an Indian place, Mc Heart-disease, Subway, a Thai place, sushi and maybe even a meat grill. Here in Cabramatta you’ve got the AA Supermarket arcade with its great little food hall nestled in with fresh fruit and vegetables and butchers. When I recently read Amy’s blog on Tan Hung Vuong I was immediately besotted with the fresh beauty of what she ate and when she directed us to this same place on our tour I was internally giddy like a pre-pubescent school girl.
Two plates came out, one of which I acknowledged from Amys blog: banh hoi nem nuong (8.9). Otherwise known as bbq pork sausage on vermicelli noodles. The noodles are in fact fashioned into small discs much like Sri Lankan string hoppers, designed to be placed onto a fresh lettuce leaf with a few assorted herbs, crushed peanuts, pickled vegetables and of course some of the delicious pork sausage, then doused in nuoc cham before shoving into your mouth. This is the kind of food I like to work for!
The other plate of banh cuon (steamed rice noodle sheets with pork mince and wood-ear mushrooms 8.9) didn’t require as much work. The soft and slightly warm parcels are rich in pork and white pepper and wonderful with the crunch from the pickled carrot and radish.
So there you have it. A whirl-wind tour of Cabramatta, food capital of Western Sydney. An authentic slice of Vietnam with no passport required!
Related post – Cabramatta Eating Tour, Street Food