Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cabbing it for a day - Part II

Street mural in Cabramatta

Continuing on our Cabramatta adventure, I'm impressed with the sheer number of grocery related stores on or near the main road. Arcade after arcade jam-packed with fruit and vegies, butcheries, fishmongers and Asian grocery stores. And, of course, snacks, drinks and Vietnamese fare to tempt the hungry - or in our case, even not so hungry - shoppers.

Array of toppings for che - dessert drink

Custard puffs

These freshly made custard puffs come out of a revolving black metal contraption which is a childish joy to watch. The machine dispenses batter into little rectangular cups, cooking to a golden brown and somehow mysteriously baking gooey custard within. This warm box provides us with the fuel to browse numerous arcades and the occasional 'specialty' clothing store.

Banh tet and other glutinous rice goodies for sale


Live yabbies

Funny-looking pomfret fish

If I didn't know it before, I certainly know now: it's custard apple season. I spotted boxes upon boxes of the knobby green fruit in my grocery traversing, ending up with a kilo or two myself to lug onto the train back home. I also sample a custard apple smoothie-like drink, highly recommended by the travelling companion. It's an icy blend of custard apple flesh and simply divine, playing on the creaminess of the custard apple with just the right amount of sweetness.

It leads us right to our next meal at the little restaurant and drinks shop tucked neatly at the end of one of numerous arcades. Like many others, they have cling-wrapped takeaway boxes of food displayed at the store front - and in hindsight I realise this caters to the non-Vietnamese speaking customers, as same language communication proves a slight challenge.

Wrapping and condiments at Que Huong, John Street, Cabramatta

There's a workstation of rice paper rolls in fresh production at the arcade-facing front of the store, but I'm keen for a deeper probe into traditional Vietnamese cuisine. A few more recommendations, pointing, quizzical looks and broken sentences - and we're ready to roll.

Goi du du - Vietnamese green papaya salad

First up is a salad of shredded green papaya, marinated Vietnamese beef jerky I'm told, Thai basil, peanuts and a fiery sauce dressing not unlike nuoc cham. It's sweet and sour but halfway through the chilli overwhelms all the crunchy papaya and soft, flavour-packed lumps of jerky. My tender burning lips are thankful for the soothing custard apple drink.

Banh khot - savoury coconut pancakes with prawn

I can hardly contain my delight and reignited appetite when the banh khot are delivered to our table. To be eaten packaged in the earlier butter lettuce leaves, mint, Thai basil and bowl of nuoc cham dipping sauce, I forgo the offer of a demonstration from companion dearest, confident that I can get food in my mouth without too much trouble. After burning my fingers on the first scorchingly hot piece - even through the lettuce - and dripping sauce, losing mint leaves and generally making a mess of the table, I think perhaps there is an art to eating finger wrapped items.

Banh khot with prawn and shallots

These little yellow discs appear to be deep fried or similar, having crispened edges and blackened shallot pieces. The tiny prawns are cooked in their shells, adding an extra hit of crustacean flavour. The pancake itself is lightly scented with coconut and is slightly glutinous. I adore the crunch of the thinner outer edges whereas the centre is soft and light, and wrapped in lettuce with loads of mint and basil, I'm yet to decide whether the dish is healthy or not. Not that I really care when it's so much fun to create and devour.

The banh khot are deceptively small but filling, the starchy pancake probably doing its work here. We head out of Cabramatta stuffed, laughing and laden with bags of groceries. I won't go as far as to say it was a strenuous day of eating and shopping but we were both beat by sunset and almost glad for the 40+ minute rest back to Central station.

Que Huong on Urbanspoon


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Great photo/food tour! Ooh Banh khot are my favourite! :D I think they fry/grill them on these cast iron moulds like waffle irons or takoyaki moulds. I can eat dozens of them and burnt myself on them the first time I ate them too! :)

Tina said...

Thanks Lorraine :) I just love discovering new favourites.


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