Pho Tau Bay, Cabramatta: Special beef pho

Rating: 5 out of 5

Pho Tau Bay
12/117 John Street, Cabramatta 2166

pho tau bay beef pho

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that one can find some of Sydney’s best pho in Cabramatta. This suburb in south-west Sydney is a hub for Vietnamese and Chinese, and is packed with restaurants, Asian grocery stores, and fresh juice bars.

Pho Tau Bay is situated at the start of John Street, the main drag of Cabramatta, tucked around the corner on a side street. Every pho fan in Sydney knows about this place, so don’t be surprised to find yourself queuing for a table, or sharing a table with other noodlers.

After a short wait, I was seated at a shared table and ordered the special beef pho (small $9, medium $10, large $11). Even my small serving was a sizeable portion, and had me feeling rather relieved that I hadn’t ordered a medium or large bowl of pho! The special pho was full of delicious beefiness, with slices of pink, rare beef, beef balls, tripe, tendon, and brisket, served with a side plate of fresh basil, wedges of lemon, and bean sprouts.

The broth is the star here, and it’s a gorgeous, dark, full-flavoured broth with hints of star anise and ginger. It is so comforting and warming that it was almost like receiving a big hug. The noodles are soft but still springy. The rare beef is a tender and juicy highlight, and the beef balls are bouncy with a nice, firm bite. Even the regular beef slices are spot on, full of beefy flavour when those of many other places are rather bland, like the flavour has been poached out.

If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a fair trek for me to get out to Cabramatta, this place would be a weekly habit. On second thoughts, however, it would be a pretty worthwhile habit to keep. Much more satisfying and healthier for you than a packet of ciggies or watching Beauty and the Geek!

Pho Tau Bay on Urbanspoon

Hakata-Maru Ramen, Haymarket: Black tonkotsu ramen

Rating: 5 out 5

Hakata-Maru Ramen
Level 3, Market City, 9-13 Hay Street, Haymarket 2000

hakata maru ramen

If you thought that the Sydney ramen scene was already pretty crowded, we have welcomed some new joints in recent months. There has been a flurry of openings that raise the bar for a cheap and cheerful Japanese noodle, with Ramen Ikkyu‘s rich broth and thin noodles sending Sydney’s ramen fans into a drooling mess, followed by this new outlet, Hakata-Maru Ramen.

Hakata-Maru has opened in the food court of Chinatown shopping outlet hub, Market City.  It proudly serves Hakata-style ramen, which is known for its milky, white broth made from pork bones, and thin, straight, firm noodles.  The new outlet has been fitted out to look a bit like a traditional Japanese ramen shop, and from the counter, you can peer into the open kitchen.  Huge pots of tonkotsu broth sit on enormous burners, a ramen assistant cooks each batch of noodle and flings the baskets up and down to get rid of excess water, and the ramen master carefully assembles each bowl of delicious noodle.

The menu board shouts out the three main ramen offerings – a white, red or black tonkotsu ramen.  The white tonkotsu ramen is the base for each variety, with the red tonkotsu enhanced by a dollop of red miso paste, and the black tonkotsu by a slick of black garlic oil and garlic flakes.  Being a garlic enthusiast, it was impossible for me to go past the black option.  Hakata-Maru also offers extras for your order, as well as typical Hakata-style toppings for free, such as sesame seeds, benishoga or pickled red ginger strips, and karashi takana or spicy pickled mustard greens.

On my tray, alongside my glistening bowl of noodles, is a colourful cheat sheet, What is Hakata Ramen?, imparting some interesting information on what makes the Hakata-style noodle unique, as well as a guide for maximum noodle enjoyment.

Initially, I thought ramen serving was small, but I was thankful for this after discovering the richness of the tonkotsu broth.  The broth itself had a smooth, creaminess that didn’t leave that collagenic feel on the lips, and had a deep, flavoursome porkiness.  Stirring the garlic oil through white tonkotsu broth turned it into an almost squid ink black liquid, and added a further delicious, garlicky flavour dimension.  The crunch of fried garlic flakes, silkiness of the seasoned egg with wobbly yolk, and tender pork complemented the firmer, “al dente” style of straight ramen noodle, which have a nice bite and good level of springiness.

This place is going to be another Sydney ramen institution.  At a mere $7.80 for the basic, but still more than satisfying, white tonkotsu ramen, and $8.80 for the red or black tonkotsu (and $1 kaedama), Hakata-Maru delivers everything that you could ask for in a food court meal, and more.

hakata maru black tonkotsu ramen

Hakata-Maru Ramen on Urbanspoon

Ramen Ikkyu, Haymarket: Ikkyu miso ramen

Rating: 5 out of 5

Ramen Ikkyu
Shop F1A, Sussex Centre Food Court, 401 Sussex Street, Haymarket 2000

ramen ikkyu

Sydney’s ramen fans undoubtedly squealed like teen One Direction fans at the news that Haru Inukai, formerly head chef of Blancharu in the city’s east, finally opened his own little ramen bar.  Hidden amongst the bright and shiny outlets of the Sussex Centre food court, Ramen Ikkyu is a sleek looking outlet with a photo board of only eight noodle dishes.

Ordering your meal is done via the two tablet screens, with the helpful assistance of the friendly lady behind the counter, although whether this system is faster than the manual method is debatable.  Although I had decided on the Ikkyu miso ramen before approaching the tablet, once I started tapping away, I was tempted to change my mind after getting a close-up look at all the other options.  In addition to choosing from the Ikkyu or Tokyo ramens in shio, shoyu or miso flavours, you can also opt for extra ramen toppings, including half a soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoots, and sweet corn, or if you feeling like spoiling yourself, a hefty side of pork rib.

After only a short wait, my Ikkyu miso ramen came out with thinly sliced carrot, caramelised onion, half a boiled egg, sweet kernels of corn, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and tender pieces of roasted pork.  The broth was a thick and full-flavoured, porky affair, which struck me at first with its saltiness.  Submerged under the broth and colourful toppings was the fresh, thin style ramen noodle, which was soft and held onto the flavoursome broth as I picked it up in my chopsticks and put it hungrily in my mouth.  The shredded roast pork actually outshone the broth with its sweet, smokey flavour, and I regretted not ordering more of this soft and tender meat as a side.

Ramen Ikkyu is already attracting the eager noodle crowds to the Sussex Centre, which is definitely one of the nicest Chinatown food courts.  Haru Inukai has created an elegant and simple ramen bar that is sure to be a hit with the ramen fans of Sydney.    I’m already making plans to come back here to try the Ikkyu shio ramen.  Anybody want to be my noodle companion?

ikkyu miso ramen

Ramen Ikkyu on Urbanspoon

Temasek, Parramatta: Chicken and prawn laksa

Rating: 5 out of 5

Temasek
71 George Street, Parramatta 2150

temasek laksa

I love laksa.  It’s a perfect meal in winter, when it’s cold outside and the creamy chili soup warms you up from the inside out.  And it’s also fantastic in summer, when the creamy chili soup makes you sweat and cools you down from the outside in.  I defy anyone to try a laksa and to hate it when it’s the ultimate in comfort food for a noodle lover.

Temasek is one of Sydney’s “go to” places for lovers of Singaporean and Malaysian food, and people will trek out to the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta for a taste of their famous Hainanese chicken rice, along with the usual favourites such as char kway teow, beef rendang, nasi goreng, and LAKSA!

The service was quick and efficient, and our meals arrived very soon after our waitress took our order.

Our chicken and prawn laksa was laden with big fresh juicy king prawns and lots of juicy tender chicken breast (I normally don’t dig chicken breast due to the high likelihood of it being served on the dry side, but this definitely was not the case at Temasek!), along with a generous serving of both hokkien noodles and rice vermicelli.  There were also some fresh bean sprouts for crunchy texture, chunks of fried tofu that soaks up all the delicious laksa soup like a sponge, and a liberal sprinkling of fried onions on top.  The soup was deliciously thick, creamy and rich, with warm heat of the added chili and a fragrant herby and shrimpy flavour.  My boyfriend said that he would have preferred a thinner style soup, but hey, horses for courses.  Pleasingly, the soup was not too oily either, which can be a common complaint with laksas.

This was a faultess laksa in my opinion, and I would happily drive across town for it.  Although some may snipe at the brusque service, well, it’s an Asian restaurant, not fine dining.

temasek laksa

Temasek on Urbanspoon

Temasek, Parramatta: Char kway teow

Rating: 5 out of 5

Temasek
71 George Street, Parramatta 2150

temasek char kway teow

For me, it’s hard to go past char kway teow on a menu.  Ho fun, or the flat rice noodle, is my favourite type of noodle of all time, and this dish just celebrates it so well.  Eating char kway teow makes me feel like I’m sitting in a hawker stall in Singapore or Malaysia.

Temasek is a Sydney institution for lovers of Singaporean and Malaysian food.  Situated in the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta, the restaurant attracts diners from all over Sydney, a mostly Asian crowd that know and love this cuisine.  It’s almost always bursting with eager crowds, so we were surprised when we easily snagged a table at 12:30pm on a Saturday.

The service was quick and efficient, and our meals arrived only a mere 5 minutes or so after our waitress took our order.  Seeing other tables laden with succulent Hainanese chicken rice and creamy laksa, our appetites were definitely thankful for the short wait!

The char kway teow was a glorious combination of soft, elastic ho fun, stir fried with fresh bean sprouts for crunch, big juicy king prawns, sweet Chinese sausage lap cheong, and was flecked with chopped red chilis for some heat and fire (the chilis are optional, but we couldn’t resist!).  There was a slight sweetness to the delicious salty soy sauce flavour and pleasingly, there was no heavy oily feeling in the mouth.  The smokiness of the well seasoned wok can also be tasted in this dish.

Temasek is hands down my nomination for the best char kway teow in Sydney, and on its own, is undoubtedly worth the trek out to Parramatta. Get to it!

Temasek on Urbanspoon

Ippudo, Sydney: Tonkotsu ramen

Rating: 5 out of 5

Ippudo
Westfield Sydney, Pitt St, Sydney 2000

tonkotsu ramen Ippudo

I’m sure that ramen fans rejoiced when they heard that Ippudo was finally arriving on our shores.  The excitement levels were probably the food equivalent to Zara and Topshop opening their doors in Sydney. And for good reason, as I found out.

The Ippudo chain has branched out its roots from Japan to famous cities such as New York, Seoul and Taipei, and finally arrived in Sydney in December 2012.  Their signature is their tonkotsu broth, made by simmering pork bones for many, many hours, so it would have been rude of me not to try their famous tonkotsu-based ramen.  The restaurant here is known to be quite busy during peak lunch and dinner services, however we arrived here at around 3:00pm for a late lunch and there were quite a few tables available.  The tables are arranged in a communal setting, so you will more often than not be sharing a table with other ramen fans (maybe not ideal for a first date then!). The lighting is dim, but pleasant and a little atmospheric and theatrical, especially as you can get a glimpse of the ramen chefs on one side of the dining room preparing your meal.

A big bowl of steaming ramen is one of my favourite comfort foods, and the tonkotsu broth here does not disappoint.  It is deliciously creamy and wonderfully porky, yet light in colour and mouthfeel, which doesn’t coat it with fattiness.  The noodles aren’t your instant noodle curly type noodle, but a thin style, elastic noodle that is manufactured with Australian flour.  The Akamaru ramen that I ordered also came with a dollop of miso paste and a flavoured egg, and together with the lovely broth, I was in pork heaven.  If I hadn’t already slurped all the tasty soup, I could have ordered a second helping of noodles, but I wanted to leave with the satisfied and contented feeling the tonkotsu ramen had given me without completely overdoing it.

Ippudo has set a new benchmark for me for Sydney ramen, slightly nudging out the old favourite Ryo’s.  Ippudo’s website mentions an expansion from its signature tonkotsu broth to other flavoured broths, which only gives me more reasons to go back!

ippudo

Ippudō on Urbanspoon