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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tuong Lai, Cabramatta

My first review for Time Out Sydney. The following piece in Tuong Lai has been published in the May 2010 issue as part of my new monthly column. My focus? To uncover hidden gems in the 'burbs.

Writing to a word limit was challenging, and even then, about 15% of my submission hit the editing room floor. I've duplicated the review as it appears in Time Out Sydney but added all the photos I took during the course of my meal.

And in other news, I'm currently in Adelaide for the Tasting Australia food and wine festival, kindly hosted by South Australia Tourism. Trip highlights include the Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards on Monday night and meeting and having lunch with Maggie Beer (even my mum's excited about that one!). Posts will still continue, but for a sneak peek at info and photos on what Billy and I are up to, make sure you follow @grabyourfork on twitter.

Tuong Lai Vietnamese Restaurant

as published in Time Out Sydney, May 2010 issue, page 52

What is it?

A poky little restaurant hidden down an alley off the main drag of Cabramatta.

What's it like?

Tuong Lai is packed with Vietnamese nannas, couples, hungry workers and kids. The vibe is bustling and no-nonsense with the usual DIY cutlery, condiments and tissue boxes on every table. The menu on the wall (all written in Vietnamese) can be daunting at first but staff know enough English to provide guidance.

What should I order?

Sugar cane prawns ($11), or chao tom, are a Central Vietnamese specialty consisting of two skewers of light and fluffy prawn paste wrapped around sticks of fresh sugar cane.

How do you eat them?

Cut the prawn paste off the sugar cane and slice into bite-sized chunks. Dig in with your hands and wrap the paste into lettuce parcels with bean sprouts, perilla leaves and mint. Don't forget the vermicelli, stir-fried shallots and crushed peanuts. Dip into the sweet chilli, garlic and fish sauce dressing of nuoc cham. Then suck and chew the leftover sugar cane to get at the juice within.

Chao tom sugar cane prawns $11

What else?
Com tam suon bi cha ($7.50) is a sweet grilled pork chop served on broken rice with pork mince, steamed egg, shreds of pork skin dusted with roasted rice powder and a handful of cucumber and pickled carrots. Bun thit nem ($7) is a refreshing cold rice noodle dish topped with grilled pork, pickled vegetables and peanuts served with nuoc cham dressing.

Nuoc cham dipping sauce

Com dac biet rice special $8.00
Grilled pork chop on broken rice with fried egg

Pork mince steamed egg and
pork skin strands dusted with roast rice powder

Bun thit nem grilled pork noodle salad $7

Cha gio spring rolls $7.50

Pho dac biet special beef noodle soup $8

View Larger Map
Tuong Lai Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuong Lai Vietnamese Restaurant
3 Belvedere Arcade, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9727 2650

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 8.30am-6pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Cabramatta - Duc Thanh
Cabramatta - Hung Vuong
Cabramatta - Iron Chef Seafood
Cabramatta - Phu Quoc
Cabramatta - Thanh Binh

Time Out Sydney reviews:
ATL Marantha, Kensington (Indonesian fried chicken with edible bones)
Balkan Oven, Rockdale (Macedonian burek)
Durban Dish, Baulkham Hills (South African bunny chow)
Hijazi's Falafel, Arncliffe (Lebanese breakfast)
Island Dreams Cafe, Lakemba (Christmas Islands cuisine)
La Paula, Fairfield (Chilean empanadas, lomitos and sweets)
Sea Sweet, Parramatta (Lebanese sweet kashta cheese burger)
Sizzling Fillo, Lidcombe (Filipino pork hock crackling)
Tehran, Granville (Persian cuisine)
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/29/2010 05:30:00 am


  • At 4/29/2010 11:19 am, Blogger SHAHRUL HAIRY DOT COM said…

    nice blog! and all food look delicious! :D from Nuffnanger Malaysia


  • At 4/29/2010 12:05 pm, Anonymous Tebonin said…

    Love Vietnamese restaurant. Beef noodle soup always my love. Try the one on Swanston street in Melbourne they are good as well.

  • At 4/29/2010 1:02 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I've never come across Chao Tom before, but my my you do know how to write mouth-watering-feel-we're-there-with-you-nibbling-away descriptions!

    I'm sure this review will function as a great introduction to the wonderful world of grabyourfork for all the silly people out there who don't yet read your blog :)

  • At 4/29/2010 5:21 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Great review I like the short snappy nature of it - really suited to Time Out - it's just a pity they can't replicate all your stunning photographs

  • At 4/29/2010 8:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    viet food rocks! your blog too! i'd really love to see the restaurants' menu and their fav dishes in every food review of yours..as well as the pictures of contents of the food consumed..:) cheers. liz

  • At 4/29/2010 10:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Havvee funnnn!!! Hee hee Maggie Beer awesommmess!!
    Craving viet food now mmmm

  • At 4/30/2010 12:19 am, Anonymous divemummy said…

    wow, Maggie Beer. (that is cute that even your Mum is impressed)

    This place looks great - I must make the effort to go to Cabra one day.

  • At 4/30/2010 2:47 am, Anonymous Amy @ cookbookmaniac said…

    Oh Helen, you really have uncovered a gem. I've been dining at Tuong Lai for over 20 years and their menu has rarely changed, the quality is always good and the price is unbeatable.

    LOL. They have an english menu... but it is hopeless. I can barely understand Vietnamese let alone read it. But I was better off reading the Vietnamese menu than going off the english one.

  • At 4/30/2010 8:15 am, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Aww congrats on your first review! =) Cabra is so far out of my reach... well not really but I just can't be bothered with the 40-50min drive!

  • At 4/30/2010 6:11 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    Sounds like a busy little restaurant! My mouth waters at the idea of chewing the sugar cane sticks.

  • At 5/01/2010 8:17 am, Blogger foodwink said…

    Thanks for this Helen. I always feel lost in Cabra and have no idea of what to eat there!

    And congrats on your regular column in Time Out Sydney. You know that you write the best reviews, don't you?

  • At 5/01/2010 4:34 pm, Anonymous Trisha said…

    Your own column!!!!!!!!!!! That's fantastic Helen! :) Let me know when you're in my neck of woods (mine and Minh, actually) and I'll join ya! We might not have the same calibre of Vietnamese restaurants as Cabra but we're pretty close :)

  • At 5/02/2010 12:34 pm, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    Congratulations on getting published. I visited Cabra for the first time yesterday and it was good. I love the look of these sugar cane sticks and the pork chop.

  • At 5/02/2010 1:37 pm, Anonymous Beth said…

    yum, the sugar cane sticks looks so tasy!

  • At 5/02/2010 11:05 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Congrats again and thanks for reproducing the article =)

  • At 5/03/2010 3:43 pm, Blogger Forager said…

    Congrats on your first Time Out review!

    Tuong Lai is great - but then you have to be in Cabra, and reasonably priced too or the locals just go next door. Love the healthy competition there.

  • At 5/05/2010 11:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Congradulations on Timeout mag!!

    I thought i knew most or all of the places in CAbramatta,this certainly wasnt one i knew about, great find!!


  • At 5/29/2010 11:59 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One of my fav spots in Cabra .. the Banh Canh Cua is tha bomb (Crab udon noodle soup)..daymn i feel like one right now

    peace out ..
    romantic k


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