As an avid traveller, the act of exploring and stepping into unfamiliar environments comes second nature to me, however last Sunday I was confronted with the truth that I don't live this ethos in my home city. Within Sydney, I ashamedly live in a bubble.
Thang Ngo, owner of the hugely successful blog Noodlies
, opened my eyes and invited myself and five other passionate food bloggers to uncover the Vietnamese flavours within the growing suburb of Canley Heights. Thang named the event #CanelyCrawl, however in retrospect it was more like #CanleyWhirlwind. Within three hours, we visited six restaurants and tried over twenty dishes and drinks. If at any point in the day there was a crawl, it was on my way home, full and content.
Thang cleverly chose Vy Vy Cafe as our starting point, fuelling us with traditional drip filtered coffee. I remember trying this on the streets of Ho Chi Minh several years ago and experiencing a rocket 'lift off' type feeling. The Vietnamese tend to drink their coffee SUPER strong and sickly sweet with the use of condensed milk. This time I was more prepared, opting for a slightly watered down version served over ice.
Feeling invincible, we stepped out onto the street, cameras in hand, ready for the adventure ahead.
This is serious business!
Diem Hen, which means meeting point
, is a long standing favourite amongst locals. Famous for its traditional fare, no wonder it's a popular choice for family gatherings. It's as authentic as you get, with its big round tables and iconic dishes like sweet and sour soup and caramelised fish in clay pot on the menu.
Within minutes of sitting down, the show-stopping sweet and sour fish soup was placed in the middle of our table. The gas burner quickly fired up, slowing poaching the end cuts of perch and gently cooking through the crisp asian vegetables. The unique combination of key ingredients like fresh white fish, tamarind, pineapple, elephant ears (what the?
), okra and bean sprouts makes this soup broth sing.
The 'nose to tail' type cooking here is admirable. Within the sweet and sour soup, the perch head and tail is used to flavour the broth, leaving the fleshy fillets to be enjoyed in the sticky caramelised fish in clay pot recipe.
Thang Ngo introducing us to Diem Hen in Canley Heights
The traditional fare continued at Huong Xua's kitchen. The most anticipated dish of the day was up, Pho. Huong Xua takes it Pho seriously, so seriously that it has created its own Pho Challenge. 500g of beef, 500g of noodles and a similar volume of broth. If you can finish the GIANT bowl within 11 minutes, you get it for free.
Expect to taste more Northern Vietnam flavours at Huong Xua. On the day we shared parcels of minced beef and pork wrapped in crispy betel leaves, fluffy spring rolls filled with crab and pork meat, pieces of poached chicken served with either a lemon or ginger sauce or salt and pepper dust and of course, the Pho.
Three restaurants down, three to go…...
celebrates some of the establishments managed by second generation Australian Vietnamese who are pushing boundaries in taste and interior styling (Chi & Co, Holy Basil and Bau Truong).
Vy Vy Cafe -
226 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Heights, NSW (02) 8764 8223
- 205 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Heights, NSW (02) 9724 9800
Huong Xua -
4/219 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Heights, NSW (02) 8764 4117
The five other passionate bloggers are: Milkteaxx, Insatiable Munchies
, Cooking Crusade
* foodies agenda visited each restaurant as a guest of Fairfield City Council