I’m relearning Sydney. Every weekend I have spare I spend exploring Sydney suburbs finding out the best picnic spots, the best bakeries,the best Italian, Polish and Spanish delis, the best local restaurants etc etc. Sometimes the easiest and best way to do this is if an expert Sydneysider just shows you. So that’s what I did. I booked myself on one of Jennifer Lams’ “I ate my way through” tours.
I feel so behind my other Aussie food enthusiasts who have been dining on dumplings, Pho, and Ramen for years. Never the less now is the time for me to catch up.
The first and more elusive cuisines I’m keen to learn is Vietnamese. After indulging my panache for all things French whilest living in London I knew it was time to take advantage of the large Asian community living in Sydney.
Our tour was very relaxed, meeting at lunch time in Cabramatta. I was early but I resisted the temptation to start buying food. Our group was small, 5 in all, which is always an advantage if you want to ask alot of questions and hear what is said. The tour is run by Jennifer Lam and Betty. In the summer period the groups can grow to up to 12 people. We were all presented with a lovely hessian “I ate my way through” bag, which contained a copy of Jennifers’ book about her trip through Vietnam, some notes about the tour and a few recipes so we could get started straight away.
Our tour began by walking around the shops in Cabramatta. There are alot of arcades filled with grocers, butchers, seafood shops, and bakeries. Jen and Betty pointed out a few typical Vietnamese ingredients and welcomed my strange questions. We also tried some very refreshing sugar cane juice.
Fresh Sugar Cane Juice
By this stage I was feeling comfortable, knowing my way around and where to get a good banh mi, crispy duck, those pandan waffles and the best Pho. You can imagine how hungry I was by now. The streets were lined with shops selling takeaway and the ‘Aunties’ who illegally sell their homemade goods on tiny crates in front of shops.
Crispy Chicken with tomato rice
Luckily we were headed to the restaurant well know for their crispy chicken, Tan Viet. The process is started the day before where the chicken is poached then the skin is dried and rubbed with spices before being fried the next day. The result is moist chicken and super crispy flavour filled skin.
The place was packed with a queue out the door. Jen had lined up a table for us with the manager earlier so thankfully we didn’t have to do the line. It was just enough to wet the palate as we moved onto the next feast.
Pork and rice noodles on prawn crackers
Guan au Bau Truong has the largest menu in Cabramatta, about 180 dishes on the menu. At any ordinary restaurant you would imagine the chaos this would cause in the kitchen and the produce that would be sitting around waiting to be ordered. The food that arrived at our table proved that’s certainly not the case here. The food was all very fresh and from what I could spy at other tables it was true everywhere.
Pork rice paper fried spring rolls
Fish paste cooked around sugar cane with rice noodles, peanuts, herbs (with rice paper to roll them in)
This place is definitely on the ‘come back to’ list. The service was fairly swift and dirty plates were quickly swapped with fresh ones as more dishes arrived. It was very reasonably priced too, actually it was cheap. We all left well fed for $10 each (not including drinks)!
The tour finished with a chance to do some shopping whilst having the expertise of Jen and Betty on hand. We did some grocery shopping and then a spot of fresh food shopping. If your going to stock up on your asian ingredients I highly recommend you make a trip to Cabramatta. The prices for spices and fresh ingredients are very cheap here, definitely making the trip a worthwhile one. I’m sure you will be inspired while your walking the streets too.
The total cost of the tour was $57.62 (including on-line booking fee but not including food) and ran for about 3 hours.