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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Cabramatta Allsorts Barbecue - Crave Sydney International Food Festival

Cabramatta. Always a hive of activity.

Last Saturday, locals woke to find Freedom Plaza overtaken by a stage, massive white tent and food stalls, as the Cabramatta Allsorts Barbecue swung into gear for the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.

Simon Marnie broadcasting live for 702ABC Sydney

702 Weekends was broadcasting live from Cabramatta, and I'd been asked to come down to be interviewed for a segment with Sydney food bloggers. Host Simon Marnie was either on stage or roaming the streets looking for people to interview. It never ceases to amaze me how calm he is despite the chaos around him.

Thang Ngo being interviewed by Simon Marnie

I arrived just in time to see Thang from Noodlies being interviewed by Simon about where to find the best pho in Sydney.

Suckling pig

But I found myself gravitating toward the suckling pig which was a vision of crackling splendour. The pig was cooked by local Chinese restaurant Iron Chef, and two chefs soon set about slicing the skin.

The sound of the cleaver splitting the crackling into neat little tiles was music to my ears. You could hear the crisp snap as the blade broke through the surface of the thin even toffee-tinted crackling. Simon pulled me on air for an impromptu interview which would have flummoxed me, except that talking about the delights of pig comes surprisingly easily to me, as I soon found out.

Reassembling the crackling back onto the pig

In a demonstration of their carving prowess, the crackling was reassembled back onto the pig, as if to tempt our tastebuds even further with crackling so close and yet so far away.

Suckling pig

Crackling goodness

I did have a chance to sample the crackling, a mouthful of porcine crunchy perfection served on a wheatflour pancake with hoisin sauce.

Alvin Quah with Simon Marnie

MasterChef season 2 finalist Alvin Quah was interviewed prior to his cooking demonstration to an appreciative crowd. He was lovely in person and equally pork-obsessed as me. There was no shortage of MasterChef fans eager for a photo with him, although he reckoned that when he walked around Cabramatta with Luke Nguyen earlier on, he was nothing but second fiddle!

Andrew Rose, 702 Food Blogger with Simon Marnie

Our initial segment aired at about 10.15am as Simon Marnie introduced Andrew Rose, the winner of the 702 Food Blogger competition. Andrew will be covering a number of festival events for 702. Simon then had a brief chat with Trina from The Gourmet Forager, Simon from Simon Food Favourites and myself, before handing us each twenty dollars (straight from his wallet!) and instructing us to hit the streets and bring back the tastiest dishes we could find in Cabramatta.

What did we buy?

Simon's choice: Crispy skin chicken with dry egg noodle from Tan Viet

Simon in stereo (Simon and Simon)

It was quite funny being interviewed by Simon as we each tried to describe our dishes. I immediately noticed Simon Marnie's efforts to include detailed visual descriptions for the benefit of listeners at home.

We had Simon's choice of crispy skin chicken later and it was delicious. Tan Viet is famous for their crispy skin chicken which is succulent beneath its layer of golden fried skin - it's also a bonus when you can crunch down half the rib cage with ease (guilty, Your Honor).

Trina's choice: Thit Heo Huong pork chops with rice and egg

Trina chose pork chops over pho mainly for practicality issues, but thit heo huong is always a favourite of mine - the sticky caramelised pork chops tender and flavoursome with lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic and sugar.

Trina chatting live on air with Simon

Trina posing with her dish

Clockwise from top left: Durian shake, avocado shake, sugar cane juice,
custard puffs and a nem nuong bread roll

I came back with five things to try. As I said to Simon, $20 is a lot of money in Cabramatta.

We started with the nem nuong bread roll, skewers of sweet grilled pork mince that are served in a crusty baguette with grated carrot, onion, cucumber, shallots and coriander.

Simon hit the drinks next. Sugar cane juice -- slightly citrusy with the addition of cumquat -- has always been his favourite, but it was his first time trying avocado shakes which he admitted he actually quite liked. There was a smile in my voice as I introduced the king of fruits, the durian shake, but this too, was deemed to be reasonably mild compared to the fruit on its own.

And a bag of custard puffs (7 for $2) can't be beaten either. Soft sponge cake with a hot eggy custard are the ideal pocket-sized treat.

This was the third time I've been interviewed by Simon for 702 and I was a lot more relaxed, although I think that being around food was partly the reason! Simon's calm and chatty demeanour (and that smooth radio voice) always helps too.

The Allsorts Barbecue tasting stall

I wandered the streets of Cabramatta for an hour afterwards and couldn't resist snapping a few photos. There's such a great atmosphere about the place - a bustling community where the streets are busy, and people still do their shopping at family-owned businesses.

Every weekend you'll find Vietnamese grandmas with makeshift stalls on the footpath, selling homegrown vegetables, boxes of grated fresh lemongrass or homemade rice dumplings wrapped in banana leaves. Everything is cheap and cheerful and I love the myriad of arcades that you can easily get lost in, only to emerge on the other side of the block, blinking in the harsh sunlight.

Tropical fruits, tubs of fresh seafood, a maze of grocery aisles with plenty of new things to pick up and ponder, and always a street food stall waiting with snacks to propel you through another hour or two of happy carefree browsing.

Sugarcane juicer

Street stalls

Selling homegrown vegetables and potted plants

Vietnamese takeaway desserts

Prawn fritters

Toffee-coated fritters

Old-fashioned watch repairer in a tiny cubicle down an arcade

Banana leaves

Pork floss bread rolls

Fried bread sticks

Custard tarts


Vietnamese grocery store

Live abalone


Thai eggplant

Purple sweet potato

Banana blossoms

Green vegetables



Yam bean

The 702 Weekends outside broadcast took place on Saturday October 2, 2010 in Freedom Plaza, Cabramatta. I'm not sure that a podcast of the broadcast will be available, but ABC images from the day can be found here.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
SIFF 2010 - Cabramatta Allsorts Barbecue
SIFF 2010 - Fishing for a Difference at Etch, Sydney
SIFF 2010 - Malaysian Food Festival, Grace Hotel
19 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/05/2010 02:59:00 am


  • At 10/05/2010 8:23 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Wow that is a very geometrically sliced pig! Well done you Helen on being brave enough to go on radio. Good work

  • At 10/05/2010 8:25 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    Ack! The broadcast still isn't available? Sadness.

    Love the Vietnamese grocery store photo with the hanging bananas! So much depth to the image.

    Great write up of the days events and congrats on making it to the airwaves once again :)

  • At 10/05/2010 9:13 am, Blogger Shanks said…

    I too am gulity of munching on rib cage, wing tips and any other crispy bits of fried chicken :) Have yet to try/still fear the king of fruits!!

  • At 10/05/2010 9:39 am, Anonymous Tina said…

    Awesome post and pics!!! Love Cabra.

    For a moment I thought the piggy had two heads... Silly me, distracted by the crackling.

  • At 10/05/2010 9:46 am, Anonymous A said…

    I was trying to spot some of my relatives in your photos

    I love the crispy chicken at tan viet. yummo!

  • At 10/05/2010 9:52 am, Anonymous thinkingmedia.tv said…

    So sorry I missed the Cabramatta Allsort Barbecue but I made it to Pyrmont BBQ Madness.

    John Fink @ Crave Sydney International Food Festival BBQ Madness here http://bit.ly/9YU82o

  • At 10/05/2010 10:48 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Totally agree on the whole getting lost in Cabra and emerging at the other end with tropical fruit, food and other sorts in your hands. It takes a few rounds to resist the gastronomic temptations of the place a.k.a RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!!

    I love how you've captured the place Helen! Even though I go there pretty much every second weekend, I always have to look twice when I see the place immortalised so wonderfully in photos =]

  • At 10/05/2010 12:39 pm, Anonymous Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Gorgeous photos Helen! I wish I could have gone down to Cabra on Saturday!! I love that you went and bought 4 things! $20 can go really far in Cabra!! Love it.

  • At 10/05/2010 12:40 pm, Blogger Sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    That suckling pig is just to die for. I really don't get to Cabramatta as often as I should, it just seems so far away :(

  • At 10/05/2010 1:36 pm, Anonymous Chris said…

    I was sitting in the car, almost crying with hunger while listening to the sounds of you and the other bloggers, as well as a closeup mic of the pig being cut...each passing minute bringing me further away from Cabramatta....such sweet cruelty....

  • At 10/05/2010 2:09 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    You know me: not so much into the roast pig, but sighing with yearning over the custard puffs and avodaco shake ;)

  • At 10/05/2010 3:21 pm, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    So much food that I am craving.. Lucky Sydneysiders!!

  • At 10/05/2010 8:32 pm, Anonymous thang @ noodlies said…

    such a fun day, despite the elements. your post captured the colour perfectly, Helen.

    and thanks for taking the pics!

  • At 10/05/2010 9:18 pm, Anonymous Gummi Baby said…

    Wonderful, evocative photos and I too was listening to you all on the radio envying the suckling pig and now I've seen the photos. If I'd been carving that pig, it would never have been re-assembled, there would have been bits missing! He he!

  • At 10/05/2010 9:51 pm, Anonymous Gianna said…

    Hi Helen

    that suckling pig looks to die for.. i wonder if they serve it at iron chef regularly.

    well done also on your $20 dollar selection.. cabra is great for cheap eats, although i get too overwhelmed and end up eating too much when i visit, i can never get enough of viet sweets!

    My favorite photo of the day is the vietnamese grocery store with all the bananas hanging overhead. beautiful!

  • At 10/06/2010 1:47 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    'album of gastronomic memories'! i recorded on my phone heh heh and oh look cendol..

  • At 10/06/2010 8:34 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Heehee you are so right, $20 goes a really long way in Cabramatta! You pretty much got everything I would have bought, minus some pandan waffles ;) Love it! Amazing photos

  • At 10/08/2010 10:08 am, Anonymous Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said…

    What no chips? But they were so popular ;) Great post & photos Helen!

  • At 10/11/2010 1:27 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Gourmet Chick - Aww thanks. Radio is do-able. TV is not! lol

    Hi Simon - Thanks. I always love the sight of hands of bananas hanging in grocery stores. They made the perfect frame!

    Hi Shanks - Durian is delicious. Start on durian-flavoured things and work your way up :)

    Hi Tina - lol. Crackling will do that to you.

    Hi A - lol. Did you find any? haha

    Hi Margaret - Aww thanks. Cabra is awesome. So many beautiful moments to capture on photo.

    Hi Betty - I know, $20 is a fortune!

    Hi Sara - Consider it a day trip, or a really convenient and fast hop to Vietnam without the jet leg :)

    Hi chocolatesuze - Did you really? lol

    Hi Forager - lol. No words can describe it... and it was great spending the day on air with you :)


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