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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tet Festival, Fairfield Showground

Fresh sugar cane juice

The Chinese celebrate Chinese New Year. The Vietnamese call it Tet. Every year Tet is celebrated by Sydney's Vietnamese community, culminating in a huge festival open to all. For years this event had been held at Warwick Farm, but this year it made the move to the Fairfield Showground. Speedy and I headed over to check out all the action with friends - a first time visit for all of us.

Entry ticket $5.00

I'm glad I'd thought to take a photo of my entry ticket because it was promptly collected by the time I walked the 20m from the sales booth to the entry gate. The entry fee was apparently donated to charity.

Inside there are rows and rows of white marquee tents, the tantalising aromas of charcoaled meat, rides aplenty complete with side show alley, and families and prams as far as the eye can see. It's pretty much the Vietnamese equivalent to the Royal Easter Show, but with much tantalising food.

Nem nuong grilled pork skewers and barbecued corn

Bun thit nuong - vermicelli noodles with bbq pork

Happy noodlers

A prawn carved from a carrot!
Demonstrating the latest must have vegetable shredders and knives

Barbecue grils

Spring rolls and chao tom prawn paste on sugar cane stick

Vietnamese lotto / bingo

The Vietnamese lotto stand was a hugely popular attraction with hopeful punters. What was most striking was the entertaining manner in which the numbers were called. The singing was loud and rhythmic, and I'm told the numbers were called in a similar fashion to "Number 11, Legs Eleven" and "Two Fat Ladies, 88". The sing-song catchphrases drilled their way into my subconscious, I could still hear them repeating in my head on the way home.

Pork skewers

Noodles for all

BBQ pork balls

Bo la lop beef wrapped in leaves

The bo la lop were fantastic bited-sized morsels. These vine leaf-rolled mini cigars contained a fatty spicy beef sausage laced with fish sauce, garlic and chilli. The leaf is eaten along with the beef, its time on the barbecue lacing it with smoky flavours.

Banh khoc mini savoury pancakes

Banh khoc (also known as banh khot) were also a revelation in flavours and texture. I watched fascinated as cast iron pans, each with eight rounded indents and placed over intense gas flames, were heated with oil. An unpeeled small prawn was dropped in each until the shell deep-fried to a cackle, then a dollop of rice flour batter ladled in.

A sprinkle of green shallots followed, then the mixture allowed to cook until the bottom was a golden crisp.

Served with a generous douse of nuoc cham dipping sauce and a side of pickled shredded carrots, I couldn't get enough of these starchy little pancakes with gloriously crisp and crunchy bottoms.

Banh khoc $7.00 for 8

A great day for all.

Cung chúc tân xuân.
Happy New Year.

Tenderising grilled squid

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This year's Tet Festival was held at Fairfield Showground, February 6-8, 2009.
16 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/11/2009 01:01:00 am


  • At 2/11/2009 3:32 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Whut - I missed ALL of that goodness?! My stomach will never forgive me. Next year, I hope I won't just be reading about the food and salivating over photos.

    As usual, great coverage, Helen. Thanks in particular for mentioning "banh khoc". I tried some in Vietnam, but could never do Google research on it, as I never knew what it was called.

  • At 2/11/2009 7:26 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Shame I did'nt go. Speeedy tells me it's no longer a gangsters paradise.

    How did you guys manage to come home with such a big bag of chocolate gold coins?

    Food looks yummy. I find that it is very easy to OD on the betel wrapped beef. The carrot prawn looks good but I thought it was a squidie.

  • At 2/11/2009 8:54 am, Blogger shez said…

    Mmmmm! I can smell the charcoal grilled meats now. And "Oh! sugar cane water!" Always tastes best freshly squeezes, don't you think?

  • At 2/11/2009 11:06 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    this was happening right behind my backyard and I had no clue??? Jeez I sure did miss out this year, however the weather must have made it very sticky.

  • At 2/11/2009 12:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oooh look at that carved prawn-the things they can do with a carrot and a knife lol! I love those little rice cakes, I can eat a frightening amount of them-and have! Looks like loads of fun.

  • At 2/11/2009 12:59 pm, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    Hi Helen,

    that Banh khoc looks interesting almost like my takoyaki pan but not as deep. I've never seen it before.

  • At 2/11/2009 2:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    yummmm. that all looks so good!

    and i adore the carrot prawn. he is so cute.

  • At 2/11/2009 5:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen

    i still have nightmares about that guy rhyming all them numbers!
    P.S sorry for the error in translating the food....maybe i should not have jigged viet school with pocahontas and nuggs all them years ><

  • At 2/11/2009 8:21 pm, Blogger Lilia said…

    If you post a festival bfore the play date, probably many been there together. Where did you find information about these festivals?

  • At 2/11/2009 9:34 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ivan - I've been meaning to get to the Tet Festival for a while. Hope you get there next year, especially for the banh khoc!

    Hi Veruca Salt - Good thing about going late in the day... one of the stalls was packing up and desperate to get rid of their chocolate gold coins.

    I wasn't sure if the leaf was a vine leaf or a betel leaf. It sure tasted good though. Next year you will have to come!

    Hi Shez - Fresh sugar cane juice is great, esp with the cumquats added.

    Hi Linda - lol. It's only new to Fairfield Showground but from what I understand, the move should be somewhat permanent from now on. You'll have to get there next year! We arrived about 8pm so the southerly had already come through :)

    Hi Lorraine - They had a whole heap of carved animals plus a watermelon with a rose carved inside. The rice cakes are divine - the crispy bottoms are the best part!

    Hi Pickles - Maybe you'll have to do a stopover in Vietnam and get one :) Or you could try making them in your takoyaki pan...

    Hi Lindsey Clare - The food was great, and quite affordable too. The prawn was very cute. I loved his floating whiskers.

    Hi Chibbiest Chan lol. Sometimes I hear it as I drift off to sleep! And thanks for being good company too, and don't worry, I'd be the last person to point the finger!

    Hi Lilia - I keep an eye on local newspapers and websites, especially council ones. There are always food events going on in Sydney!

  • At 2/12/2009 3:01 am, Blogger Thibeault's Table said…

    OOOOH those little pancakes look wonderful. I'd love to make them. I actually have that pan and now thanks to you I know what they are called and will find a recipe. Thank you.


  • At 2/12/2009 8:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh my godfathers! I'm going to Vietnam tomorrow! I'll text my boss; I'm sure she'll understand. If she doesn't I'll just show her these pictures. If she still doesn't understand, then she is quite plainly deranged or blind.

    There's nothing wrong with being either of those things, but if she is, this casts a very different light over the 'feedback' she's given recently on my performance.

  • At 2/12/2009 9:07 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Thibeault's Table - Happy cooking. So great to hear your cast iron pan will finally get used!

    Hi Lee - Enjoy your trip :)

  • At 6/06/2009 1:17 am, Blogger flying piig said…

    hi, it is actually called 'banh khot' (not c).

  • At 6/07/2009 1:02 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Flying Piig - I copied the spelling direct from the vendor's sign. I think both suffice, although banh khot is probably a more popular spelling - according to Google anyway!

  • At 2/14/2011 10:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    next year i will be there,
    Peter Phan Montreal, Québec, Canada


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