Monday, August 24, 2009

Phu Quoc, Cabramatta (and other yummies)

I get a wide and varied mix of reactions from my friends and acquaintances when they find out I'm a food blogger. The most common is *blank stare*..."What's that?", and my favourite type is when they clap their hands with glee and then insist on taking me to eat at all their favourite places. This is exactly what Julie did, and Julie is awesome. She eagerly joined me for high tea at the QVB tea room and has been planning to take me to Cabramatta for ages, as it's one of her favourite eating spots and I am so unfamiliar with the area since it's hard for me to get to.

Burrgah ring!
It's an unnaturally hot and sunny day for winter, so it's just perfect for a day of wandering around and eating on the streets of Cabramatta. When we meet. I find out that Julie has brought me the cutest gift ever, a burger ring from the design markets! Heehee so awesome and cute! She got a sugared donut ring too :D Thanks Julie!

I'm letting Julie lead the way today, since she comes here a lot and I'm practically a tourist. Before we can ever make it to the restaurant she wants to go to for lunch, we can't resist getting a styrofoam cup full of icy cold, fresh sugarcane juice flavoured with kumquat. I am so addicted to this stuff, I get it whenever I get the chance and there's a machine grinding out fresh sugarcane juice practically every 10 metres down the street we are on. Happiness! I love this juice, particularly the extra tang from the kumquat, and now plain sugarcane juice like they have in Malaysia seems so boring without it!

We turn the corner off a busy street and end up at Phu Quoc. Julie tells me she doesn't know anything about the popularity or reviews of the places around the suburb, but she and her family have always been coming to Phu Quoc and it has been around for ages. It's bustling and full of families enjoying their lunch and there's food all over the tables which is always a sign to me that people are enjoying their food.

Banh Hoi Cha Gio - Steamed rice noodle with spring rolls ($13.00)
Apologies if I get the names or descriptions wrong, the menu was vast and confusing so I just noted the ones that Julie pointed at as she ordered so I'm hoping I got the right ones. She goes to different restaurants for their best dishes and she loves the spring rolls here since they are actually made using the same rice paper rolls in the photo at the top of this post that you use for fresh rolls. They're super super crunchy and crisp and are full of porky goodness.

Prawn crackers, fresh basil, beansprouts and lettuce

Banh Hoi Chao Tom - Steamed rice noodle with sugarcane prawns ($14.00)

The other things we are oldies but goodies. Moist fried sugar cane prawns with vermicelli noodles wrapped in rice paper rolls is always a naughty favourite of mine. I always gnaw on the sugarcane and suck the moisture out of it, why not?

Goi Sua Thom Thit - Jellyfish salad with pork and prawn ($15.00)

I love Vietnamese salads. My two favourites are their sliced chicken salad and this pork, prawn and jellyfish salad. This is a good one, with slivers of freshly cut onion, carrot, greens, herbs, jellyfish, pork, prawns, chillis, and the yummy garlicky fish sauce dressing that I love. We eat it on freshly fried prawn crackers and my favourite thing in the salad is the long skinny pieces of stringy young lotus stem.

Turns out we actually ordered enough food for 3 people, so we have tons leftover which we pack into takeaway boxes and amble our way back onto the street to walk off our lunch and search for some sweet things.

Pandan waffles ($1.50)
I've always been obsessed with pandan flavoured things and Vietnamese pandan waffles are one of my favourites to get. It's weird because you can get pandan flavoured everything in Malaysia and I never was tempted to get any of it while I was there, but now that I'm in Sydney and you don't see much pandan stuff around, I crave it like nothing else. So I knew I was getting some of these after walking past about 20 glass cases like this selling them.

We get them freshly made, which means they're piping hot, fluffy with a crisp outer layer and bits of shredded coconut throughout the batter. I know from experience that these are best while they're still hot so we snarf it down quickly.

Custard cake machine
By this point I'm starting to feel a little nauseous from all the food (although it was consumed over a fair amount of time with much walking in between) but I couldn't resist getting some fresh custard cakes after watching them being made with with this machine.

Custard cakes ($4.00-5.00 I think?) (Julie offered to be the hand model for the day haha)
Again these were only good while they were still warm, and I was happy to polish these off with Julie. Golden little cakes moulded into cute shapes which were fluffy with a waffle-like texture and filled with a light custard. It was only due to my champion dessert stomach that I could fit these in. My mouth kept saying yes even though the rest of me was saying no!

We wander around all the 2 dollar stores while Julie is looking for odds and ends and also visit a few of the many Asian grocery stores around. I'm in heaven because there are so many random things that I miss from Malaysia that I spot and can't resist buying. At some point we decided we were thirsty, so rather than being sensible and drinking water, we stop by Yummi Sweets and get ourselves random icy drinks.

Along with a huge menu of shakes and othe drinks, there's also a bunch of random sweets to choose from and you can select 6 or so for one cup and they mix it up with ice and coconut milk. It's super sweet and rich and guaranteed to give you a sugar high. I have no idea what goes with what so I randomly point at whatever including avocado, pandan jelly, barley, jackfruit, basil seeds and longans. It's weird in an awesome kind of way, though the chunks of avocado would probably be better if they had been blended up into the drink rather than left as chunks.

My rainbow drink ($3.00)
We walk all over the place in an attempt to walk off some of our eating, but I still end up going home completely stuffed, with an extremely heavy bag full of goodies. I managed to find many random brands of kaya that I haven't seen in Sydney before so I had to give them a taste test. So far I've only tried the canned Yeo's brand one which was surprisingly good for a non-homemade version.

Some of my haul for the day
One thing I had to get, even though they were expensive were some of these mooncakes. The mooncake festival is coming up soonish and mooncakes are starting to pop up in Asian stores everywhere. I never liked them as a child, finding them too dense and pasty, but these days I can't get enough of them. The reason I wanted these ones in particular was because the fillings had crunchy melon seeds in them, a favourite of mine.

Mooncake with pandan past, melon seeds and a single egg yolk
Usually I would get the lotus paste ones but I noticed they had pandan paste mooncakes and I had to get them. I must have had pandan on the brain because I also got pandan essence for baking. Only thing I didn't have time to look for was some fresh pandan leaves!

Anyway I'm trying to make my way through these mooncakes very very slowly. They're not cheap and they're not very good for you! But they taste so good. I'm not usually the hugest fan of the egg ones but this one isn't too eggy and it goes well with the sweet pandan paste.

Finally, one of my favourite things that I bought were these flower tea blossoms from Zen Garden. I've seem them around before but these were some of the cheapest I've seen and they were just lovely. They smelt wonderfully sweet and floral and I couldn't wait to take it home and place it in a pot of hot water to watch it blossom.

Ooh it's starting to open up!
Times like this I really wish I had a clear glass teapot, no matter how inconveniently fragile they are. In the pot it goes with the hot water and it opened up fairly quickly to reveal a red flower on the inside.

See the red flower petals inside...
The tea itself was as nice to drink as it was to look at. Sweet with intense floral flavours and I drank up the whole pot by myself. A wrinkled his nose at it when I showed him the pot but had a taste and thought it was really nice. I'm regretting my decision to only buy two blossoms, must go back and get more!

So pretty!
If only I lived closer so that I could shop and eat at Cabramatta all the time. Sigh. Anyway, this super long post is for Miss Julie, thanks for the lovely day hanging out and eating ourselves silly! Now I have to take her for some Malaysian eating :)

Phu Quoc, Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant
Shop 11, 117 Corner John St and Hill St
Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9724 2188
Phu Quoc on Urbanspoon

Zen Gardens Vegetarian Healthy Food
Shop 2/48 Hill St,
Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9723 8876‎
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  1. sounds like you had a fantastic day out! i'm a big sucker for sugar cane water (& for chewing on the sugar cane sticks after eating food off them first) too, so totally understand the obsession!

  2. What fun time you have! I haven’t ventured out to that area of Sydney (how can I claim myself to be a Vietnamese??). Anyway, love reading this post. The food makes miss Vietnam.

  3. What a day! Thank god for magical dessert stomachs.

    You know, I wouldn't know pandan flavour if it bit me on the bum (can it do that? I wouldn't know!). I really should educate myself in the ways of the pandan.

  4. Sounds like a fun day! How freaky that we were both there on the same day! Hehe. Yay for the power of the dessert stomach! I love those pandan waffles! And I never used to like mooncakes when I was little, but now I love them, but they're so bad for you. My family always get heaps, so I need to learn restrain myself this year! The tea looks awesome - yes we must go and get some :)

  5. I haven't been to Cabramatta after being in Sydney for almost 10 years, lack of friends who knows the area. Love this post... so full of yumminess! the typical reactions from my friends after learning I own a food blog is, "What is a blog?". This is 'My Generation' :(

  6. hehe what a great food tour! :P I love everything in those pictures including the burger ring. It looks very tall indeed too-like a real knuckle duster :)

  7. Isn't Cabramatta awesome? So cheap and vibrant with activity. Also, did you know that Phu Quoc is an island off Vietnam famous for it's fish sauce? I went there on my Vietnam trip ;)

  8. Buuuurrgeer rinnngg!! Ooh I want to try pandan waffles mmm

  9. How great is it sampling food from a new area. What fun! Those waffles look amazing! An overall feast, really!

  10. The burger ring is the cutest thing! Loved the post!

  11. what a food filled day! and i'm definitely getting pandan flavoured mooncakes this year too!

  12. Oh... the custard cakes look great and the waffles sound very interesting.

  13. Wow what a feast you had and that burger ring looks so cute! I like the look of the spring rolls - I have never seen anyone deep fry the rice noodles before!

    Mmmmm, pandan waffles!

  14. wow, so much food...and everything is so delicious! I cant get past the burger ring though, that is so mega cute! I wish I had one!

  15. Wow this is Cabramatta?! It's definitely my favourite fact about Sydney & surrounding suburbs that we can almost feel like we are in a different country!

    Never tried Pandan waffles before, looks sooo good!!

  16. I love Cabramatta and the seemingly endless food and snacks that are available!

    I love getting the fruit shakes, and the Pandan waffles are so good. Yum! Craving some now...

  17. shez - Yay I'm glad I'm not the only one who chews on the sugar cane! Julie looked at me a bit funny when I did it hehe

    Anh - Oh you have to go check it out sometime! It was pretty much my first time exploring the area since it's so far away from me and I absolutely loved it!

    Conor - Definitely check out pandan flavour sometime, it's one of my favs. It's not as weird as the colour would make you think.

    Betty - I know it's so weird! Though there were so many ppl there, too bad we didn't bump into each other :(

    Ellie - Yeah I get that a lot too from my friends and family. We will just have to educate them :)

    Lorraine - HAHA a burger knuckle duster! I love it!

    Forager - I'm completely obsessed with it now, going back this weekend :D That's so cool! Was the fish sauce really good there?

    FFichiban - Yess try the pandan waffles! And make sure you ask them for some freshly made ones :)

    Julia - I love it! I honestly felt like a tourist there haha, especially with my camera out! The waffles are the best!

    Food lover - Heehee thanks!

    panda - yay! They're the best, I've eaten all of them already, despite my attempts to slowly savour them!

    Anita - The custard cakes were awesome when they were fresh off the hot iron. Same with the waffles, not so good once they go cold and soggy though :(

    Rilsta - I know how cute is the ring? :) Yeah it was the first time I saw them use the actual rice paper roll, I've seen them use vermicelli noodles before.

    Maria - I know, I felt so full for the rest of the day! I love my burger ring :D

    Yas - I know, it really honestly felt like I was in a different mini city while I was there, I totally loved it. You have to try the pandan waffles!!!

    missklicious - It's so great how there's food every 5 steps down the road! Same here, could do with a couple waffles right now :)

  18. Isn't Cabramatta just so awesome? I think we're so lucky in Australia to have access to so many cultures and cuisines. Those prawn things on sugarcane are a favourite of mine, I love sucking the sugar out of the warm sugarcane afterwards too...hehe... and those crazy combination drinks are so filling and delicious! It's the best with barley, jackfruit, lychee, longans, grass jelly, mungbean, red bean and palm seeds -my typical order ;)

    Hey, it would be great if you could share this post in my new forum :)

  19. I totally agree! It's such a great area, I'm annoyed at myself that I hadn't gone until recently! Ooh I like the sound of your order, will have to remember that for next time :)

  20. I went here on the weekend for the Banh Hoi Chao Tom good price for $14. My all time favourite Thanh Binh on John St is $16. But Phu Quoc did the job with the prawn paste. But the Banh Hoi Thit Nuong the meat was so chewy!

  21. The prices all around Cabramatta are so amazingly cheap, it must be so competitive between all the restaurants. That's too bad about the chewy meat :( I was very happy with their prawn paste, one of the better ones out there!

  22. Hi,

    I'm looking for a website where I can buy Pandan Essence online. Does anyone know of any?


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