Dong Ba, Bankstown: Bun Bo Hue

Rating: 4 out of 5

Dong Ba
296 Chapel Road South, Bankstown 2200

dong ba bun bo hue

When Momofuku’s David Chang came to Sydney for the first time, he was given a list of go-to noodle restaurants curated by Deputy Editor of the AGT, Pat Nourse. Most of them are centred around the CBD but among the few that aren’t is Dong Ba in Bankstown. It doesn’t take a detective to work out that their specialty is Bun Bo Hue, if their windows are anything to go by.

The Bun Bo Hue ($10) is a huge serving of soup noodle goodness. If you’re not shy about animal products like processed meat or offal, this is deliciousness in a bowl. The round, white rice noodles are topped with chunks of tender pork, slices of fish cake, tender beef, and big firm, cubes of jellied pigs’ blood. Chilli flakes and chilli oil float on the golden broth, which is spicy, and fragrant with lemongrass and deep beef and fish flavour.

Enhanced with the fresh, crunchy bean sprouts, torn basil leaves and a squeeze of fresh lemon, you could almost imagine yourself in a busy street side stall in Vietnam. Now you only need to whisk yourself away to Bankstown for a slice of Vietnam.

Dong Ba on Urbanspoon

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

Thuy Huong, Marrickville: Bun thit nuong cha gio

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thuy Huong
304 Illawarra Road, Marrickville 2204

thuy huong bun thit nuong cha gioMarrickville has been a melting pot of immigrant cultures for a long time, but is best known now for the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants and Asian grocery stores.  It’s a vibrant little community, with Sunday markets, cafes, restaurants, and an annual Marrickville Festival.

Along the busy Illawarra Road strip is the popular Thuy Huong restaurant.  It is simply decorated with tiled floors and wooden tables, and is a modest, family-run restaurant.  However simple it may look, it is always filled with diners – couples, families, and friends sitting with tables overflowing with large, steaming bowls of pho.

The bun thit nuong cha gio is a good choice if you can’t decide between the pork or the spring rolls for your rice noodles – why not have both!  It’s a huge portion, and the bowl is brimming with BBQ lemongrass pork, three crisp spring rolls, and loads of fresh salad topping the soft, rice vermicelli noodles.  Pouring over the nuoc cham dressing, I tuck into the refreshing mix of cold noodle and salad contrasting with the hot pork and spring rolls.  The charred and caramelised pork is juicy, and the spring rolls are filled with pork mince, cabbage, black fungus, and carrot, although aren’t as porky as I’d like.

I always love a good bun.  This one ticks the boxes, with a delicious mix of textures and flavours – crunchy fresh cucumber, bean sprouts and carrot having a party in your mouth with soft noodle, meaty pork, and sweet, salty and sour dressing. If you’re in the area, Thuy Huong is definitely a good choice for a satisfying Vietnamese feed.

Thuy Huong Coffee Lounge on Urbanspoon

Hoang Gia, Flemington: Bun cha gio

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pho Hoang Gia
2/98 The Crescent, Flemington 2140

bun cha gio

As much as I love pho whenever I venture out for Vietnamese, sometimes I just really want a lighter meal than a hot, beefy soup.  What these occasions call for is bun cha.  In fact, I think I could easily eat bun cha for the rest of my life.  It has all your food groups in one bowl – vermicelli rice noodles, vegetables and salad, and topped with the protein of your choice.

Amongst all the Vietnamese restaurants in the Flemington strip, this one was recommended by friends in the know.  It is tucked in a lane way behind the main street and is bustling with lunch time diners when I arrive.

My bowl of noodles comes out reasonably quickly, and my eyes excitedly widen at the golden cha gio (or spring rolls) artfully arranged around the edge on the top.  The salad of noodles also comes with crunchy, fresh bean sprouts, shredded lettuce  and carrot, fragrant chopped mint, and crushed peanuts.  I pour over the home made nuoc cham dressing, which brings all the flavours together in a lovely sweet, salty and sour mix.

The noodles are light and refreshing, and I was particularly impressed with the cha gio, where the crisp shell was filled with delicious pork mince, carrot, garlic, black fungus and strands of vermicelli.  Combined with the soft noodles and crunchy, fresh salad, it’s a fun contrast of flavours and textures.

Hoang Gia on Urbanspoon

Pho An, Bankstown: Beef pho

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pho An
27 Greenfield Parade, Bankstown 2200

beef pho an bankstown

When the topic of Sydney’s best pho crops up, Pho An regularly gets a nod from pho enthusiasts.  I was a little skeptical that the best pho could come from somewhere other than Sydney’s Vietnamese heartland of Cabramatta, but in the interests of impartial noodle testing, I was happy to make the trip to Bankstown in the search for good bowl of pho.

Pho An is a large, brightly-lit setting with rows of wipe-down tables and chairs, reminiscent of a Chinatown food court.  As soon as we walked in, we were quickly ushered to a table in the very back corner by our host.  Our bums had no sooner been planted on our seats before our host asked us for our order.  We quickly craned our necks to peer at the large menu board on the wall and concentrated as hard as we could in an attempt to decipher the Vietnamese and Chinese writing before our host finally put us out of our misery and asked whether we’d like to see a menu in English.

We looked over the menu to find that this place isn’t called Pho An for no reason – the only dishes they served were their specialty pho. There is a choice of beef or chicken, with further decisions to be made on the combinations of these animals that you fancied, including rare or cooked beef, cartilage, chicken, heart, liver, and blood jelly.

We couldn’t go past the pho topped with the beef combination of rare and cooked beef, tendon and tripe.  The large serving is a mere $1 more than the small, but it is dauntingly bigger portion.  The pho came topped with juicy pink, rare beef and feathery slices of tripe, and deep within the bowl of fragrant broth were hunks of smooth and buttery soft tendon, and silky noodles.  The broth was wonderfully beefy with strong flavours and aromas of coriander, shallots and ginger, although it had a slight bitter aftertaste which was effectively neutralised by lemon juice and chilli sauce.

If it’s noodles you’re after, this is a no-fuss and slick operation that specialises in decent pho.  Don’t bother with the menu – just go straight for the beef combination pho, and in no time, you will be in beefy bliss.

beef pho an bankstown

pho an bankstown

Pho An on Urbanspoon

Tre Viet, Newtown: Beef pho

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tre Viet
152-154 King Street, Newtown 2042

beef pho

Newtown is a wonderful Inner West suburb of Sydney that has a cultural style of its own.  It has an eclectic mix of university students and arty types, being a hub for live music, theatre, graffiti and street art, and a vibrant gay and lesbian community.  The other good thing about Newtown is its main drag, King Street, being chock full of cheap eats, from Indian diners, Thai restaurants, bustling cafes, and many many pubs.

One of the more popular establishments on King Street is Tre Viet, a restaurant that claims to specialise in pho and traditional Vietnamese dishes.  Pho is a popular street food dish in Vietnam – cheap and very satisfying – and it’s probably the most well known Vietnamese dish alongside rice paper rolls.  It’s one of my favourite noodle dishes, since it’s a light and seemingly simple dish but still has wonderful complex flavours in the broth.

The beef pho at Tre Viet was served with slices of cooked beef but also beautifully juicy slices of raw beef that poach slowly in the wonderful broth.  The broth had a full beefy flavour with a hint of ginger and star anise, and also smelled of sweet coriander and onion.  A basket of Thai basil, bean sprouts and lemon wedges was served alongside, and these added some fresh crunch and more subtle flavours to the dish.  The thin white noodles were on the softer side but still slurpable.

Despite the busyness of the restaurant, we didn’t have to wait too long for our meals, and the service was friendly and polite.  The beef pho was satisfyingly good, with a lovely beefy broth and deliciously sweet tender beef, even if the noodles were slightly too soft, so definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

pho garnishes

Tre Viet on Urbanspoon