After our failed attempt to check out Cabramatta one night a few months ago I was very keen to come back during daylight hours to explore this Vietnamese-enclave in South West Sydney for myself.
The Boy and I had embarked on a wonderful food tour during our honeymoon in Hawaii in January, so I was keen to let someone lead me by the hand through Cabramatta. Food tours are a great way to get an insight to a particular city, suburb or cuisine by the people who know the area best, and I for one love them!
Our "I ate my way through Cabramatta" tour was led by fellow food bloggers Jennifer and Betty. Betty is a Cabramatta local and knows the suburb like the back of her hand and Jennifer is the brainchild behind the "I ate my way through ..." tours.
The tour begins by weaving our way through one of the many arcades in Cabramatta. We're shown some of the fruit markets offering Mangostein, Jackfruit, Longans and more - much more exciting than our local Coles that's for sure. The ever controversial Durian is pointed out to us - this is the fruit that people either love or hate. I've heard it described as smelling like off meat, stinky feet, vomit and rotten cheese! Mmmm...enticing. I did try it once in gelato form and have to admit the flavour didn't appeal to me.
Next we wander through another arcade that houses one of the best BBQ meat shops and bread shops in the suburb. The arcade is narrow and crowded and we can see why. A shop window stands before us with a mouth watering selection of BBQ meats including roast duck, BBQ pork, a whole pigs head, intestines and piggy tails - the later few items are not quite so enticing to my Aussie bogan tastebuds.
We emerge from the arcade onto bustling John Street - Cabramatta's main street. This road is home to more fruit and vegetable shops as well as Asian grocery stores, restaurants, bargain clothing shops and a group of old Vietnamese aunties selling their wares on the footpath.
Although enterprising, these ladies are technically not suppose to sell on the street so they often get chased away by the police, which seems a shame as they add real character to the main drag. We buy a tub of chopped Lemongrass from them to use in a Vietnamese noodle salad we've been making; and also grab a Sugarcane juice from a shop as all of this food touring is thirsty work.
Our next stop is Tan Viet, the home of the most awesome crispy skin chicken - possibly on the entire planet! This is the restaurant we tried to go to on our last visit to Cabramatta but they shut early so we were left to wander up and down John Street chicken-less and hungry. On this visit Betty has gone ahead to secure a table for our group, so we get to jump the long queue snaking out the door. The chicken is as good as I had hoped, juicy meat and uber-crispy skin. This mini-feast set us back just $5.00 each.
Next stop is Bau Truong, a restaurant that is well know for its epically long menu (and where we ended up eating after we couldn't get in to Tan Viet last visit).
I had no idea what to order from the nearly 200 items on offer, so leave it to the experts. They come up with an amazing feast that costs us only $15 each and leaves me feeling sated and happy. The fresh taste of all the dishes, and the flavoursome grilled meats, are what impressed me most, thought I have to say the DIY Rice Paper Rolls were a little beyond my abilities!
After our feast we have a little wander around the shops and stop for something sweet. We try a Taro Fritter which is sweet and has a similar texture to a sweet potato. I'm keen to try something more...adventurous and Jennifer helps me order a dessert/drink for YUMMI Sweets that is filled to the brim with loads of interesting ingredients...Jack Fruit, Pearl Barley, green wiggly things, coconut milk and more things that I've totally forgotten about. The drink is sweet and filling, a meal in itself and I struggle to finish it.
It may seem a bit odd to some people doing a food tour in the city where you live, but I have to say that with a suburb as diverse and interesting as Cabramatta it was the perfect introduction to this Little Vietnam that is right on our door step. We're already planning a trip back to do more eating and to buy some ingredients to make a Vietnamese Salad.
Tan Viet is at 100 John Street, Cabramatta. They shut by 7pm so go early to avoid missing out.
Bau Truong is at 70 John Street, Cabramatta.
For more information on the I Ate My Way Through tours can you visit their website.