Among the many events in the Crave Sydney International Food Festival (throughout October) are tours that explore the fascinating food culture of Sydney. And one of those tours is organised and run by Jennifer Lam of Jenius and the I ate my way through company.
The 3-hour tour, called 'I ate my way through Cabramatta', takes you through the bustling arcades, streets and shops in Sydney's Little Vietnam. Jen is assisted by Betty Pham (of Betty's Bites), and Betty led the tour we went on this Saturday.
Believe it or not, I'd never visited Cabramatta before - I lived near neighbouring Liverpool until I was 5 years old, but back then (in the Dark Ages), it was just another Australian suburb. These days, Cabramatta is the hub for all things Vietnamese, and that includes groceries, fresh produce and, of course, restaurants.
Let's start the tour in the No. 1 Shopping Centre:
There are a couple of fruit and veg shops here, a fishmonger, florist, butcher and food court. The quality of the vegetables is amazing, and so cheap. Makes me wonder why you can't get such great produce anywhere else, ie. near where I live.
Then you step out through the carpark area at the back into another arcade:
Huge number of jackfruit and durians for sale - and the durians were massive! Betty gave a great commentary on the produce for sale, including ways of preparing and cooking them.
Then we stopped for a quick bite (pre-lunch):
Tan Viet restaurant is famous for its crispy chicken, and it lived up to its reputation. The chicken can be ordered with a number of accompaniments, and we had it with tomato rice, egg noodles and clear soup and bean sprouts. The queue of diners out the front is a sign that this place is gooood!
But there's more... we strolled down John Street to our next dining destination. Here are some of the shops along the way:
Heaps of dress shops, fabric shops and cute children (children not for sale).
Lunch #2 is at Bau Truong:
Another fabulous restaurant, and the dishes that Betty ordered were a fantastic selection of typically fresh and delicious Vietnamese cuisine. We had prawn and pork with green papaya salad, prawn and beef rice paper rolls, deep-fried beef rolls (you wrap them in the lettuce and herb leaves), beef with green mango salad, Vietnamese pancake with yellow beans and pork rice paper rolls.
And yes, that's a big menu.
The tour winds up with a visit to a couple of grocery stores and a dessert stop:
Typically, the stores also stock kitchenware, joss sticks, prepared food to take away, and drinks. It's a great chance to buy some of the foods and ingredients that we'd come across on the tour, and to check out the cool products (Barbie soda, anyone?). That's Jen, me and Betty in the pic above.
The tour was a wonderful way to experience Cabramatta. Coming from someone who had not visited before, it's almost like being in another country. Betty and Jen are knowledgable and passionate about the area and Vietnam in general. And they do know all the best places to eat and the dishes you must try.
Details of the I ate my way through Cabramatta tours can be found here. They run on selected weekends in October and cost $55 per person (food is paid for separately). You also get a groovy hessian market bag and a copy of Jen's book.
Excellent value and experience!
Excellent value and experience!
And finally, after marvelling at the beautiful green mango salad at lunch, I wanted to try it at home. Betty helpfully pointed out that you can buy peeled and sliced packs of green mango (comes with chilli salt). I also got some spiced pork roll embedded with chilli and herbs. Dinner is ready:
For the green mango salad, I made a dressing of grated palm sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, crushed garlic, chilli and hot water. Really delicious and salty, sour and sweet at the same time. A fine way to end our local tour of Vietnam.