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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dong Ba, Cabramatta

Cheap and cheerful. How can you go wrong?

There a relaxing sense of ease when we enter Dong Ba in Cabramatta, a familiar Vietnamese restaurant layout of no-nonsense chairs and tables stocked with tissues boxes, cutlery, sauces bottles and silver thermoses of tea.

We've trailed behind Margaret of fangirlish, a first-time face-to-face meeting for both Suze and I, although our long time readings of each other's blog means we feel like we know each other already. Phuoc joins us shortly thereafter, an impromptu food blogger meet-up on a gorgeously sunny Saturday in Sydney's west.

Nuoc Dau Tuoi fresh coconut drink $3.50 and
Soda Sua Hot Ga soda with egg and milk $3.50

Is there anything more exciting than a good drinks menu?

We deliberate over the 22 different options, a dizzying selection that ranges from avocado milk shakes to Rau Ma pennywort drink, and Che Be Mau three colour drink to Ca Phe Sua Da strong Vietnamese coffee with ice and condensed milk.

I go with the simple refreshment of fresh coconut drink in the end, the cool sweetness of young coconut juice livened by smooth shavings of coconut flesh in the bottom of the glass. A soursop milkshakes is an icy cold taste of the tropics, the soursop like a slightly tart version of a custard apple.

Soda Sua Hot Ga is the most intriguing, an egg soda made with egg yolk, sweetened condensed milk and soda water. It tastes like a carbonated eggy Yakult, or a custard soft drink, and yet it's oddly refreshing if in small doses.

Bun Bo Hue $8

Bun Bo Hue is the specialty here, a spicy beef noodle broth that is finished with lemongrass and chilli. The clear noodle broth isn't as rich as you'd think, lightened by shaving of raw onion and a sprinkle of shallots.

Bean sprouts, cabbage and mint

A platter of bean sprouts, cabbage and mint should be added to the soup and submerged briefly, the crunch of vegetables contrasting with hidden slices of tender beef and a tangle of slippery rice noodles.

Com Suon Nuong $8
Rice with grilled pork rib in lemongrass and chilli

Grilled pork rib is always a winner, marinated in lemongrass, fish sauce and chilli and then grilled until smoky and caramelised. A mound of tomato rice and a cheerful salad of tomato, lettuce and cucumber add colour.

Com Ga Da Gion $9
Rice with crispy skin chicken

Crispy skin chicken is succulent beneath a brittle layer of golden fried skin, a chicken thigh chopped into pieces that are best picked up and eaten with fingers.

Bun Hoi Bo Xa Ot $12
Beef with chilli and lemongrass and rice vermicelli

I go for the beef with chilli and lemongrass rice vermicelli, opting for the roll-your-own version that threatens to take over the entire table with an assortment of plates and condiments.

Square rice paper sheets are used to roll up stir-fried beef with a mix of lettuce leaves, mint, perilla leaves, bean sprouts, cucumber and carrot. My only gripe is there are no pickled carrots or daikon to be seen, although I am rather enamoured with the square rice paper sheets, not the usual round variety, even if noone else is fascinated.

Fresh salad condiments

Square rice paper sheets (not round!)

My rice paper roll handiwork

The rice paper rolls are dipped in the Vietnamese national dipping sauce nuoc cham, a zingy dressing made from fish sauce, garlic, sugar and lime.

Food porn

The enormous framed photos on the walls strike me as being better than any trite portrait of a seductive Asian female. Giant dishes beaming down from above are much more lustful in my books, a picture of calm above the happy chaos of families, couples and chattering friends.

Pandan waffle

We spill back out on to the main drag of John Street, always a treasure trove of street snacks, converging with the hustle bustle of shoppers that stop and start past the grandmothers selling homegrown vegetables and parcels of sticky rice in makeshift stalls, and the cacophony of sugar cane juicers and spruiking salespeople.

A paper bag of custard-filled sponge cakes is piping hot and bought for only a couple of coins. A heart-shaped pandan waffle comes in a fetching shade of green, soft and chewy with shredded coconut.

Hot and spicy chicken

Did we really just have lunch? There's always room for a little fried chicken. We stop by Red Lea and share two pieces of hot and spicy chicken for good measure.

Clockwise from bottom: Avocado shake, jackfruit shake, soursop shake and fruit salad shake

A final stop at Kaysone Sweets is perfect for stocking up on fried banana fritters and sweet potato snacks. We nurse takeaway fruit shakes of avocado, jackfruit, soursop and fruit salad, soaking up the sun whilst watching the locals pass on by in Freedom Plaza.

Grab Your Fork live on 702AM ABC Radio this Saturday

Weekends with Simon Marnie will be broadcasting live from Freedom Plaza in Cabramatta, this Saturday October 2, 2010 as part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.

The 702 Festival Food Reviewer Andrew Rose will be interviewing myself and fellow food bloggers Simon and Trina on the art of food blogging as well as our favourite dishes in Cabramatta.

702 will broadcasting live from 8.30am to midday, with our segment set to take place at 10.30am 10.15am (intital chat) and 11am (in-air tasting and longer interview), although with live radio, schedules are always elastic.

Freedom Plaza will also be hosting Crave SIFF event Allsorts Barbecue from 10am-1pm that will include a cooking demonstration by MasterChef season two finalist Alvin Quah.

Come down and say hello, or tune in to 702 ABC Sydney!

View Larger Map
Dong Ba on Urbanspoon

Dong Ba
Shop 5/117 John Street, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9723 0336
Open 7 days 8am-8pm

Also open at
Cabramatta - Shop 5, 40 Park Road, Tel: +61 (02) 9755 0727
Bankstown - shop 2, 296 Chapel Road South, Tel: +61 (02) 9708 0327

Red Lea Chicken
57 John Street, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9726 3017

Kaysone Sweets
Shop 4, 59-61 Park Road, Cabramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9755 5759

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Cabramatta food tour
Cabramatta food tour with Luke Nguyen
16 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/29/2010 03:31:00 am


  • At 9/29/2010 8:51 am, Blogger the dainty baker said…

    Hahaha you've just summed up all my childhood loves in one post!! LOVE Red Lea fried Chicken esp after school (oh the good ol' days), love Dong Ba's Bong Bo Hue and LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! them pandan waffles! Cabra is the best ever!

  • At 9/29/2010 9:14 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    BAHAHA not round!

  • At 9/29/2010 9:42 am, Anonymous A said…

    great post!
    was pretty weird seeing you do a post in 'my hood' :)
    love the eggy soda, yum!

  • At 9/29/2010 10:42 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Teehee, a blog friend of mine was recently weirded out by the fact that a nobake slice of mine had an egg in it. Somehow I think she'd freak at the idea of having a whole raw egg yolk in a drink!

    Personally, I just want that pandan waffle. Oh, Helen...

  • At 9/29/2010 10:48 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I see they've got rid of their blue tables! Love the bun bo hue at Dong Ba, can't go wrong with a cheap eat there !

  • At 9/29/2010 10:56 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Hahahah I almost forgot your fascination with the "not-round" rice paper! It was so awesome to meet you three after stalking your blogs for so long - thanks so much for coming out =]

    Mmm.. pandan goodness - AND CHEEKEEEEEN. We still have to go back for Suze's 4kg tub of lychee jelly! Round 2 of Cabra eatings, yes/yes?

  • At 9/29/2010 11:01 am, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Mmmmm egg soda.. Love it! Hehehe I'm fascinated by the square rice paper too, a first for me, it's so cool!

  • At 9/29/2010 11:03 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    I am impressed you can find a decent Bun Bo Hue in Cabra! Even the Bun Bo Hue in Ho chi Minh city is not as good those from Hue.

    Oh Cabra, why you are so far away.... I wanna goooo.

    Congrats Helen, I shall tune in this Sat. Work the microphone Helen! :)

  • At 9/29/2010 2:20 pm, Anonymous linda said…

    oh man.. the red lea chicken is the best ever. Did you have some of their chips as well? You topped the day off with some fruit shake, sounds like a great way to spend a warm summers day.

  • At 9/29/2010 4:33 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    Gotta love Cabra eats! I've yet to try the bun bo hue there but it's on the list for the next time I visit Cabra!

  • At 9/29/2010 5:26 pm, Anonymous Julia @ Vinyl Design said…

    I love Cabramatta, it's like taking a mini holiday to Vietnam!
    If you know of any vietnamise cooking classes there let me know!

  • At 9/29/2010 7:27 pm, Anonymous thang @ noodlies said…

    yum, bun bo hue is great esp on cold days and it's one of the best here.

  • At 9/30/2010 10:33 pm, Anonymous Vivian said…

    I'm from Singapore but I've been following your blog since forever! I love love love all your posts and they make me wanna fly over to Sydney right away to try out all your recs.

    Keep up the good work. ;)

  • At 10/02/2010 1:50 am, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    I'm jealous! There's a lot of Vietnamese immigrants and restaurants in Leipzig, but somehow the food isn't up to Sydney standards. The pho here doesn't come with the veggies and sprouts, so your lunch with side dishes looks fit for a king! I'm not sure about a custard soda, but the coconutty pandan waffle sounds great.

  • At 10/02/2010 11:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen, it was great to see the best BBQ meats of Cabramatta being promoted today (: Were you wearing a hungry caterpillar shirt? Think i saw you from a distance but I didn't get to stay for long. I hope more food events will be held here in the future!

  • At 10/03/2010 11:11 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Thanks for your comments everyone!

    Dainty Baker - I think it's hilarious the Red Lea have a discount for school kids in uniform - not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing!

    A - Ha, I've done a few Cabra posts, although I'm yet to be a committed fan of the egg soda.

    Hannah - lol. Raw egg does throw me a bit in drinks but oh, pandan waffle, I wonder how that would send in the post!

    Margaret - It was great to finally meet you too. Thanks for lunch. We must do it again soon!

    Phuoc - Heh, glad I'm not the only one.

    Linda - We didn't have chips that day (we'd only just had lunch) but yes, they're pretty tasty. I like the paprika touch too. It was a perfect way to soak up the afternoon sun.

    Julia - I'm not aware of any, but if any crop up, I'll let you know.

    Vivian - Wow, I'm impressed that you read Grab Your Fork from Singapore. As for me, I'm envious of all the tasty kaya toast and hawker food you get to have!

    Anon - Yes that was me :) You should've come over and said hello! And yes, it was much fun in Cabra - the suckling pig was amazing!


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