Cheap and cheerful. How can you go wrong?
There a relaxing sense of ease when we enter Dong Ba in Cabramatta, a familiar Vietnamese restaurant layout of no-nonsense chairs and tables stocked with tissues boxes, cutlery, sauces bottles and silver thermoses of tea.
We've trailed behind Margaret of fangirlish, a first-time face-to-face meeting for both Suze and I, although our long time readings of each other's blog means we feel like we know each other already. Phuoc joins us shortly thereafter, an impromptu food blogger meet-up on a gorgeously sunny Saturday in Sydney's west.
Nuoc Dau Tuoi fresh coconut drink $3.50 and
Soda Sua Hot Ga soda with egg and milk $3.50
Is there anything more exciting than a good drinks menu?
We deliberate over the 22 different options, a dizzying selection that ranges from avocado milk shakes to Rau Ma pennywort drink, and Che Be Mau three colour drink to Ca Phe Sua Da strong Vietnamese coffee with ice and condensed milk.
I go with the simple refreshment of fresh coconut drink in the end, the cool sweetness of young coconut juice livened by smooth shavings of coconut flesh in the bottom of the glass. A soursop milkshakes is an icy cold taste of the tropics, the soursop like a slightly tart version of a custard apple.
Soda Sua Hot Ga is the most intriguing, an egg soda made with egg yolk, sweetened condensed milk and soda water. It tastes like a carbonated eggy Yakult, or a custard soft drink, and yet it's oddly refreshing if in small doses.
Bun Bo Hue $8
Bun Bo Hue is the specialty here, a spicy beef noodle broth that is finished with lemongrass and chilli. The clear noodle broth isn't as rich as you'd think, lightened by shaving of raw onion and a sprinkle of shallots.
Bean sprouts, cabbage and mint
A platter of bean sprouts, cabbage and mint should be added to the soup and submerged briefly, the crunch of vegetables contrasting with hidden slices of tender beef and a tangle of slippery rice noodles.
Com Suon Nuong $8
Rice with grilled pork rib in lemongrass and chilli
Grilled pork rib is always a winner, marinated in lemongrass, fish sauce and chilli and then grilled until smoky and caramelised. A mound of tomato rice and a cheerful salad of tomato, lettuce and cucumber add colour.
Com Ga Da Gion $9
Rice with crispy skin chicken
Crispy skin chicken is succulent beneath a brittle layer of golden fried skin, a chicken thigh chopped into pieces that are best picked up and eaten with fingers.
Bun Hoi Bo Xa Ot $12
Beef with chilli and lemongrass and rice vermicelli
I go for the beef with chilli and lemongrass rice vermicelli, opting for the roll-your-own version that threatens to take over the entire table with an assortment of plates and condiments.
Square rice paper sheets are used to roll up stir-fried beef with a mix of lettuce leaves, mint, perilla leaves, bean sprouts, cucumber and carrot. My only gripe is there are no pickled carrots or daikon to be seen, although I am rather enamoured with the square rice paper sheets, not the usual round variety, even if noone else is fascinated.
Fresh salad condiments
Square rice paper sheets (not round!)
My rice paper roll handiwork
The rice paper rolls are dipped in the Vietnamese national dipping sauce nuoc cham, a zingy dressing made from fish sauce, garlic, sugar and lime.
The enormous framed photos on the walls strike me as being better than any trite portrait of a seductive Asian female. Giant dishes beaming down from above are much more lustful in my books, a picture of calm above the happy chaos of families, couples and chattering friends.
We spill back out on to the main drag of John Street, always a treasure trove of street snacks, converging with the hustle bustle of shoppers that stop and start past the grandmothers selling homegrown vegetables and parcels of sticky rice in makeshift stalls, and the cacophony of sugar cane juicers and spruiking salespeople.
A paper bag of custard-filled sponge cakes is piping hot and bought for only a couple of coins. A heart-shaped pandan waffle comes in a fetching shade of green, soft and chewy with shredded coconut.
Hot and spicy chicken
Did we really just have lunch? There's always room for a little fried chicken. We stop by Red Lea and share two pieces of hot and spicy chicken for good measure.
Clockwise from bottom: Avocado shake, jackfruit shake, soursop shake and fruit salad shake
A final stop at Kaysone Sweets is perfect for stocking up on fried banana fritters and sweet potato snacks. We nurse takeaway fruit shakes of avocado, jackfruit, soursop and fruit salad, soaking up the sun whilst watching the locals pass on by in Freedom Plaza.
Grab Your Fork live on 702AM ABC Radio this Saturday
Weekends with Simon Marnie will be broadcasting live from Freedom Plaza in Cabramatta, this Saturday October 2, 2010 as part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.
The 702 Festival Food Reviewer Andrew Rose will be interviewing myself and fellow food bloggers Simon and Trina on the art of food blogging as well as our favourite dishes in Cabramatta.
702 will broadcasting live from 8.30am to midday, with our segment set to take place at
Freedom Plaza will also be hosting Crave SIFF event Allsorts Barbecue from 10am-1pm that will include a cooking demonstration by MasterChef season two finalist Alvin Quah.
Come down and say hello, or tune in to 702 ABC Sydney!
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Shop 5/117 John Street, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9723 0336
Open 7 days 8am-8pm
Also open at
Cabramatta - Shop 5, 40 Park Road, Tel: +61 (02) 9755 0727
Bankstown - shop 2, 296 Chapel Road South, Tel: +61 (02) 9708 0327
Red Lea Chicken
57 John Street, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9726 3017
Shop 4, 59-61 Park Road, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9755 5759
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Cabramatta food tour
Cabramatta food tour with Luke Nguyen
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9/29/2010 03:31:00 am