Tan Viet Noodle House
Shop 3/100 John Street, Cabramatta
This noodle house is one of the best cheap eats in Sydney. It has become a Cabramatta institution.
Walking into this restaurant always takes me back to my younger days in Cabramatta, so I always order an old favourite Vietnamese drink called soda sua hot ga – which is a raw egg yolk, mixed with condensed milk and soda water. Give it a try when you’re there, trust me you won’t be disappointed.
I also recommend the egg noodles with crispy skin chicken. Every time I talk about its crispy skin, I can’t help but salivate and the egg noodles are also a highlight. The noodle texture is so important and the chefs cook them to perfection. Located right at the top of bustling John Street, this Noodle House is always jam-packed and the queue is ridiculously long, but it's well worth the wait.
Another dish to try there is bo kho - a hearty Vietnamese beef stew with carrot, topped with fresh basil leaves and you'll want to enjoy it with a warm Vietnamese baguette.
Vinh Phat Chinese Tea House
1, 10-12 Hughes St, Cabramatta
Vinh Phat is one of the oldest restaurants in Cabramatta, a childhood haunt for my siblings and I. My parents used to take us all there if we got good grades at school. So for me, it wasn’t as often as I would have liked.
I vividly remember the old red curtains throughout the restaurant which were always drawn, but behind the curtains remain one of the best yum cha joints in town.
My go-to dishes are tripe with ginger shallot, chicken feet with black bean, fried prawns wrapped with tofu skin, prawn dumplings, BBQ pork buns, crispy taro dumplings and braised pork ribs.
Pho Tau Bay
Shop 12, 117 John Street (enter via Hill Street), Cabramatta
There’s no doubt I love pho.
A steaming bowl of pho always makes a great start to my day and wherever I am in the world I always try to find a Vietnamese restaurant to get my pho fix.
You can’t go wrong with pho in Cabramatta (there are so many great bowls on offer), but one of my favourite places is Pho Tau Bay and it has been opened for over 25 years.
I like my pho quite simple so I have it with just the super tender beef brisket, however, try the pho dac biet (with the lot) to get the full pho experience.
Silky rice noodles with beef brisket, slices of raw sirloin, beef balls, tripe, beef tendons and of course add in your bean sprouts, Asian basil, sawtooth coriander, lime and fresh chilli. Dip your meats into a mixture of hoisin sauce and chilli sauce.
Shop 11, 117 John Street (enter from Hill Street), Cabramatta
When it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, the words that immediately come to mind are fresh, light, healthy, balanced and delicate flavours.
Now Phu Quoc restaurant serves these kinds of dishes. DIY rice paper rolls are my favourites here. I love to wrap and roll my own rice paper and be sure to try chao tom (prawn mousse) with sugar cane and banh hoi nem nuong (grilled pork patties with steamed angel hair noodles). Other must-try dishes include:
Goi vit - Vietnamese styled duck salad
Bun mang vit - duck with bamboo shoot and vermicelli noodle soup
Banh hoi cha gio - spring rolls with steamed vermicelli noodle
109 John St, Cabramatta
Cabramatta is not only great for Vietnamese food, it's also a great place to do all your grocery shopping and source unique Southeast Asian ingredients. Eastland supermarket really has it all.
Grab your favourite noodles, Asian sauces, spices, fresh herbs, tropical fruits and even Asian crockery and cooking tools – new wok, perhaps? It’s worth doing your weekly shop here, as the produce is incredibly fresh at very affordable prices. I really enjoy coming here as it's family owned and run and I too, feel like part of the family when shopping here.
40 Park Road, Cabramatta
If you enjoy a bowl of pho, then you will love bun bo hue. A noodle soup originating from Hue, in the central part of Vietnam, it's also made from beef bones, however, it has more complex flavours than pho.
In my opinion, bun bo hue (BBH) will become the new pho. I do get BBH cravings often, and Dong Ba really does the trick for me. A spicy beef broth with hints of lemongrass and roasted dried chilli that also offers slow braised beef, pork terrine steamed in banana leaves, round rice noodles, blood jelly and even pig trotters.
Don’t forget to add in all the accompaniments of shaved water spinach, banana blossom, basil, mint and a squeeze of lime.
Viet Hoa Bakery
107 John St, Cabramatta
Growing up, my school lunch was a soggy Vietnamese baguette filled simply and only with garlic chives. I remember being teased by the other kids every day, "Luke’s eating grass again!". It was the only thing my parents could afford to give me. But as I got older and the family restaurant business improved, I was able to buy my own school lunch for $1, and with this, I could buy the best lunch anyone had at school – banh mi thit!
I would help set up the restaurant before school, then when I smelt the fresh baguettes coming out of the oven across the road at Viet Hoa Bakery, I would race over and order one for my lunch. For one dollar, I could get a delicious Vietnamese baguette filled with pork cold cuts, pate, mayo, pickled vegetables, coriander, spring onions, soy and fresh chilli.
Now, when I return to Cabramatta, I always order a pork roll from Viet Hoa for old times' sake. While the same lady who used to serve me 20 years ago is still there, the roll isn't $1 anymore, of course, it's now $4 – still affordably priced and very good.
4/29 John St, Cabramatta
My parents had one of the longest standing restaurants on John St in Cabramatta. However, they worked way too hard, never took a day off and were always open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They were simply exhausted, so at the age of 50, they sold the family business and retired.
However, what they quickly realised when they retired, was just how bored they actually were. They didn’t know what to do with themselves, all they ever knew in their life was working very hard and keeping busy.
So a few years later, they decided to open a hole-in-the-wall café-restaurant down a quiet laneway at the bottom end of John St near the train station. The goal was to open and operate a fairly quiet café-restaurant, they didn’t want it to be busy. They wanted to create a lifestyle for themselves and opening Café 86 was part of this new lifestyle.
They served Vietnamese coffee with a simple menu, which consisted of only five dishes. The plan was to arrive to work at their leisure, make bowls of noodles, a few dozen coffees and hang out with their friends.
But their plan failed as those five dishes were so damn good and popular that people were queuing up for it. Some travelling from afar to try their famous goat curry and bowls of pho. A year later they sold the business due to exhaustion and Café 86 is still there today but has lovely new owners. They don’t serve food anymore, but I still go there for my Vietnamese coffee fix of cafe sua da. Do try their soursop smoothie which is also really good!
Follow our Vietnamese food crawl from the south of Australia to the north. Next stop, Sydney, NSW. For an on-the-ground food crawl catch the new series of Luke Nguyen’s Railway Vietnam where he travels from the south to the north of the country, chatting, tasting and cooking along the way. Watch it 7:30pm on SBS and Sundays at 9pm on SBS Food from 5 2019 December to 30 January 2020 or on SBS On Demand.