Sticky, sweet, salty and sour – it's like a candy shop for carnivores.
If you’ve ever wondered what beef candy would taste like, quit daydreaming. Phounguen has beaten you to it. Their Lao dried beef or sin haeng ($10) – beef slices marinated in spices and then dried to a jerky – is deep fried so all the fatty bits get extra crispy before being tossed in a sticky syrup. Laos usually eat this with rice as part of a meal. We reckon you BYO and have ‘em with beer.
Lao dried beef $10
Phounguen is camped on the other side of Cabramatta station, away from the main strip of restaurants. Things are quieter on this side, but that means parking is easier too. They do a mix of Lao and Thai dishes here – from green curry to pad thai to chicken feet salad. A photo menu makes ordering a cinch.
Lao pork sausage $10
The classic Lao pork sausage ($10) delivers on all fronts: zingy with lemongrass, kaffir lime and chilli, lusciously juicy and cooked so there’s a slight crisp to the skin.
BBQ marinated ox tongue $10
But what they’re really known for here is the ox tongue ($10). Forget everything you know. This oft-maligned offal is marinated and barbecued into some kind of unheard-of tender, smoky flavour punch.
Lao fried rice with pickled pork $10
The décor is pretty basic but who cares when most dishes are ten bucks a pop? Join the rubble of families, locals and uni students and hoe into Lao-style fried rice ($10), a textural bonanza of crunchy rice bits mixed with hot pink pickled pork, scrambled egg, shallots, peanut and shredded coconut.
Deep fried marinated quail $17
Get your hands on a pile of deep fried marinated quail ($13/$17), dunking each piece in a lemon juice and pepper dipping sauce.
Spiced minced beef salad (raw) $10
Go hard with the raw minced beef salad ($10), like a fish sauce version of steak tartare with bonus bible tripe.
Beef ball soup $11
They do a treasure hunt of tripe in the soups too. The beef ball soup ($11) comes with a clear sweet stock, or get the tom yum beef combination ($11) for a spicy kick.
Green papaya salad $10
Green papaya salad ($10) is a choose-your-own-adventure dilemma. Thai-style for bright and sweet? Or Lao-style, which is down and dirty with funky, salty fermented crab? You choose.
Phounguen Lao and Thai Restaurant
148 Cabramatta Road, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9727 2563
Open daily 12pm-9.30pm
This article appeared in the July 2015 issue of Time Out Sydney in my monthly Food & Drink column Eat This! [Read online]
Read more of my Time Out Sydney reviews
8 comments - Add some comment love
7/29/2015 11:29:00 pm