Quan An Bau Truong
70 John St
Cabramatta, NSW 2166, Australia
+61 2 9727 4492
After a long day cavorting about Sydney, it was an absolute relief to head out to the suburbs, our temporary home. But seeing how it was Winter in Australia, my friends and I needed something warm and satisfying before calling it a night. And of course, nothing beats good old Vietnamese comfort food – particularly something flavorful, hot and soupy for those cold winter nights. So, thank goodness that Australia is home to the second largest Vietnamese population outside of The Motherland.
Right off the Cabramatta CityRail station and just down the street, Quan An Bau Truong attracts a diverse crowd at all times of the day (and night). The locals love it (thank you Viet for the recommendation), and even a San Jose-Vietnamese spoiled resident like myself loved it. Walking into the restaurant, the setup is clean and uncluttered. There is a green aura surrounding the restaurant from the many plants and lighting. A constant buzz from the conversations and a slight breeze from the brisk waiters as they pass you by – essentially, a sign of a well-loved and customer-favored restaurant. Once seated, my friend, Annie, Nhi (baby sister) and I, dove into a thick menu highlighting the very best of Vietnamese dishes – pho, bun (vermicelli), mi (noodles), chao (rice congee) , com tam (broken rice), and just a plethora of other authentic dishes.
Anh’s Natural Postulate of Hunger: Empty Stomach + Huge, Delicious Menu = A PROBLEM. Too many dishes, which leads to indecision!!! Everything sounded sooo good! And unlike cows that have 4 stomachs, I only have one. So, what to do?! To make the most of the menu, the three of us each order a completely different item.
Annie’s Bun Rieu is a vermicelli noodle drowned in a delicious beef-based broth. The stock is usually made by simmering cow bones for hours, then throwing in tomatoes and the Vietnamese version of meatballs – a mixture of ground beef, crab meat, shrimp paste, and even dried shrimp. There are also typically pieces of tofu, and Bau Truong even included pieces of cha (the Vietnamese equivalent of ham) and cubes of coagulated pigs blood (huyet). This may sound disgusting, and Annie and Nhi had a hard time swallowing those, but the texture and taste are surprisingly pleasant – if you can get over the fact that you are eating blood. Being from San Jose, I have extraordinarily high standards for Vietnamese food, particularly Bun Rieu which is my favorite Vietnamese noodle dish. Bau Truong surpassed anything I have ever had before. Can you believe it?! The clear broth was perfectly savory and well-flavored – not too strong mam tom (shrimp paste), but still tasteful. There were piles of meatballs and tons of noodles. Presentation was beautiful, especially topped with fresh green scallion and cilantro.
Nhi ordered a dish called Bun Bo Hue, a dish that is quintessentially mien Trung, or from Central Vietnam. A beef based broth that is served with thick rice noodles, large oxtail bones and pork knuckles (with fat still in tact!), and sometimes even coagulated pig blood. Bau Truong’s take on this dish was also fantastic – traditional and so delicious! The broth was slightly spicy (as expected) and well-seasoned; the noodles tender but not soft; the pork chewy but fell right off the bone. Again, the shrimp paste did not overwhelm the palate, and I can’t appreciate that enough.
As much as I was pining for a soupy dish, I actually got something completely dry – bun thit nuong, or BBQ pork and vermicelli noodle. Vietnamese foods are high in flavor, and this is the epitome of flavor and texture fusion. Boiled vermicelli noodle is topped with hot off the grill BBQ meat that is dressed in mo hanh (cilantro/oil mixture) and topped with crunchy, toasted peanuts. In addition, the dish is eaten with an array of veggies and greens, and no Vietnamese dish is complete without a generous serving of nuoc mam (fish sauce) and pickled carrots/daikon (do chua). It’s honestly a party in your mouth – the tangy pickled veggies, the sweetness from the nuoc mam sauce, the crisp lettuce, the sweet-and-salty BBQ meat, and the pliant noodles. If you haven’t had this yet, you have to try it – even if you have to make it yourself. It’s that good and soo worth the effort. But like I said, thank goodness that Bau Truong could instantly gratify my tummy.
The final verdict: The locals agree, I agree – Bau Truong for the win!!! If I am ever in Sydney again, I am determined to take the hour long rail ride, and brave the somewhat dodgy streets of Cabramatta by night again, just to get a taste of Bau Truong again. This entry is already bringing back the fragrant mint leaves, the steamy noodle soup, the salty broth. Ah, to Viet, Truc and Mary – I envy you for living so close to this place. There are some 13,000 miles between Bau Truong and I – but who knows – perhaps I’ll visit again.
But until then, g’day mate!