Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hung Vuong (Vietnamese)

Address: John St, Cabramatta (Just look for a sign that looks like the one above)

Admittedly this restaurant belongs to the grandma of a very good friend of mine. So what I say is biased, but there is a story behind the foundings of this place. It didn’t always used to have a shopfront on John St, in fact she used to sell fresh rice rolls, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and sweets from a small stall off the main shopping area in Cabramatta (Sydney’s unofficial Vietnamese town). It did really well (and the rice rolls were fresh!) until the local council closed down the stalls.

One thing I learnt in this process was that the business of asian food can be very dodgy. Family feuds arose from relatives or apprentices using bleach and other chemicals to “whiten” the rice noodles used to make rice rolls. So if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Moving on, my favourite Vietnamese dish is a noodle soup called Bun Bo Hue (pictured below). Pronounced “Boon Bor Weh”, it consists of a typical pho-style broth (many hours of boiling all the flavour out of bone in a vat) with chilli oil, spaghetti-style rice noodles, pork knuckle, pigs blood, onions, coriander, shallots, and that pork meat slice. It doesn’t like a culinary delight but at under $10 for a huge bowl, it’s quite a unique worldly experience. For a broth – it is extremely complex and dense with flavour. This type of broth is difficult even to replicate in a traditional Vietnamese home – requiring many hours of preparation and leftovers for the rest of the week(so don’t plan on cooking it unless you’re planning to feed a generation).

Below: Typical servings of mint leaves, soya bean sprouts and a wedge of lemon to taste (put in your noodle soup), and condiments such as that xo/satay paste.

Above: Another great cultural experience – you have to drink sugar cane juice off the side of the road. This was nice and handy – right out the front of the shop. Thank goodness they sieved it because sometimes it can be filled with sediment and cane fibres and worst case scenario – bugs. The sugar cane is fed into this juice extractor along with oranges, giving this drink a nice refreshing tang. Great in summer!