There is only one dish you need to order at Tan Viet: crispy chicken.
At 11.45am on a Sunday, the queue outside this Cabramatta favourite is already forming. By the time 12.15pm rolls around, hungry diners have formed a line that would rival any yum cha queue.
Today Richard and I are eating our way around this vibrant suburb with neighbourhood local, Phuoc. The dining room has the same energy of a yum cha house, minus the trundling carts of bamboo steamers. The restaurant is larger than you'd first expect, extending way down the back, and filled with the chaotic clatter of families, friends and couples - kids' laughter ringing in the air, and toddlers determinedly surveying the room from their high chairs.
Tan Viet Noodle House
A tray of condiments and cutlery sits on each table, along with the requisite box of tissues, but the menu is impressively slick, laminated with professional photos and broken up into distinct categories for easy reference.
There is much on offer here, and although I'm tempted by the Hanian chicken ($11), curry goat ($10) and Vit Tiem black herbal duck ($12), we know we are in for a day of non-stop eating and stick with the classics.
Chanh Muoi preserved lemon drink $3.50 and
Soda Sua Hot Ga egg yolk with milk and soda $4
Drinks are the first to arrive. Chanh Muoi is a preserved lemon drink that is salty, sweet and refreshing. It has a similar flavour to preserved plum drink, albeit with a citrus tang, a tangle of salted lemon smithereens that sits muddled at the bottom.
Egg yolk with milk and soda is not as odd as you'd think, the richness of egg yolk sweetened with condensed milk and aerated with soda water. It's almost like a foamy eggnog without the nutmeg and cinnamon.
Mi Ga Da Don $11.00
Crispy chicken with egg noodles
The crispy chicken at Tan Viet is famous, and rightly so. Lifting off the flesh in a vision of splendour, the chicken skin is golden in hue and gossamer thin. We savour the juicy flesh and crunch down on the bones that disintegrate with ease.
Egg noodles are the most popular accompaniment to this dish, the huge portion topped with crisp iceberg lettuce, coriander leaves, garlic chives and crunchy smithereens of deep-fried garlic.
Banh Mi Bo Kho $9.50
Spicy beef with bread roll
We move onto bo kho, the Vietnamese beef curry that is a staple in many family homes. It's a simple but hearty stew of tender beef and chunks of carrot, garnished with fragrant basil leaves. We mop up the sauce with torn pieces of banh mi, the crusty bread roll adapted from the French baguette.
Com Dac Biet $11.00
Deluxe pork chop with broken rice
We finish with the com dac biet, the classic "rice special" that will appease even the most ravenous appetite. The humble pork chop is marinated in lemongrass and fish sauce and then grilled to a sticky caramelised celebration of more-ishness. We pick our way through the slice of steamed egg custard, shreds of pork and pork skin coated with roasted rice powder, a runny fried egg on rice and a refreshing salad of tomato, lettuce and cucumber.
Simple, fresh and delicious.
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Tan Viet Noodle House
3/100 John Street, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9727 6853
Open 7 days 9am-7pm
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11/12/2010 06:17:00 am