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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Charity Dinner for the Archive of Vietnamese Boat People, Crystal Palace Function Centre, Canley Heights


I'd never been to Canley Heights before, but if there's one thing that will lead me way out (south) west, food would probably be it. There's a strong Vietnamese community here, and as we drove down Canley Vale Road, I loved the chaotic no-nonsense feel of pho noodle houses, bakeries and fabric shops all jostling for my attention.

Tonight I had been invited by friends to attend a fundraising dinner for the Archive of Vietnamese Boat People, a charity group which is working towards creating a meaningful record of the experiences and life stories of the Vietnamese boat people. I had been told that tonight in particular they were raising funds for the improvement of South East Asian refugee camps, and the maintenance of memorials for those who never made it .

dinner crowds

Crystal Palace was soon filled with tables of Vietnamese families all gathering in support. Wisened grandparents, proud parents, dressed-up teens and plenty of playful kids created the usual chattering din.

spring rolls
Cha Gio Re
Special spring rolls

We commenced proceedings with cha gio re, traditional Vietnamese spring rolls made with a skin of finely latticed vermicelli sheets. Deep-fried to a golden crunchy brown, these were filled with a moist mixture of pork mince and prawn--the prawn flavour was incredible.

Tom Rang Muoi
Salt and garlic prawns

A platter of tom rang muoi or salt and garlic prawns arrived next. The prawns, which were deep-fried with their shells still on, were so dry and crunchy that you could eat the whole thing, head and tail included. Scattered on top was a peppery mixture of deep fried shallots, spring onions and small slivers of chilli.

Again, the prawn flavour was astounding, and even though the skin was crisp, the flesh inside was tender and juicy.

quail plate
Chim Cul Quay
Roast quail

Continuing the deep-fried crispy theme was a tangled heap of chim cul quay, or roast quail. I've had quail quite a few times before, but these were by far my best encounter. Marinaded in sweet soy with a touch of star anise, these were deep-fried to an almost KFC-like texture. The flesh was still moist with a duck-like flavour, and again all the bones could be crunched on except for the leg (the wing tips were by far the best part).


Combination steamboat, or lau thap cam, provided the bulk for our dinner, and gave our arteries some respite from the deep-fried goodness. Portable gas burners were dispensed to each table, then provided with pots already filled with soup and steamboat ingredients.

inside the steamboat
Lau Thap Cam
Combination steamboat

After ten minutes of fragrant bubbling, we lifted the steamboat lid to reveal a heaving house party of prawns, squid, fish balls, pork slices, tofu, quail eggs, spring onions and tender leaves of Chinese cabbage.

ladling out steamboat

The broth was sweet and clear, and our cheeks were soon warm after a serving or two.

fried rice
Com Chien Duong Chau
Special fried rice

Plain rice is never served at banquets, as this indicates that there has been insufficient food for guests. Instead a luxury version of fried rice, or com chien duong chau, is often served at the end of the meal, allowing those who are still hungry to fill up on decadent carbs.

Refugee photos

Photos, videos and presentations throughout the night presented a humbling reminder of the determination, strength and resilience of the Vietnamese people.

Archive of Vietnamese Boat People

Crystal Palace Function Centre
219 Canley Vale Road, Canley Heights, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9727 9931
4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 7/09/2006 01:44:00 pm


  • At 7/10/2006 6:52 am, Blogger gobsmack'd said…

    Must've been a great honour to be invited. Food looks sinful! Sigh. PS Have you been to afternoon tea (buffet) at The Cortile as yet? If so, what did you think?

  • At 7/10/2006 4:32 pm, Blogger papa lazarou said…

    i've always have a few packs of the frozen spring rolls (the wrapped in vermicelli ones) at home in the freezer... the quail looks very good, but i've always gone for the roasted pigeon.. :P~
    btw, great food pics, great cause too... cheers

  • At 7/11/2006 5:47 am, Blogger Joycelyn said…

    hi helen, what a fabulous feast in the name of a great cause! what i would do to sink my teeth into some of those awesome-looking cha guo rie ;)

  • At 7/12/2006 10:22 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    That was the first time I have had spring rolls like that outside of VN.

    We must try and make it sometime.


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