REVIEW: Que Huong, Cabramatta

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Everyone’s got a dark little secret. Something embarrassing from their past that they’re not quick to admit around new people, out of fear of being mocked. But not all people are afraid of revealing dorky glimpses into their past. Some of us are even comfortable doing it just to begin a restaurant review in an mildly amusing way.

Five years ago I went on a holiday to Vietnam just because of a five minute clip from an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I didn’t even have to see the full episode before I was throwing my money at a Flight Centre clerk. The clip was of Bourdain in Ho Chi Minh City, being taken out to breakfast for a dish I’d never heard of – banh xeo.

It was a big yellow crepe filled with prawns and pork that cracked gloriously when struck with a spoon. Broken into pieces, Bourdain then scooped the crepe bits into lettuce and herbs, dipped it in sauce and shovelled it into his mouth, muttering some classic Bourdain-ism about heroin or something.

Three months and three thousand dollars later I was at that same spot, shovelling crepes and making heroin jokes. It (and the subsequent Vietnamese holiday that followed my crepe breakfast) was worth every penny, but upon returning to Sydney I learnt that I could’ve saved a few grand by going to Cabramatta instead, where Que Huong serves a banh xeo that’s almost as good as Bourdain’s breakfast spot.

Banh xeo pops up on a few Vietnamese restaurant menus around Sydney, and too often it’s a soggy mess. Que Huong keeps things crunchy, even after a prolonged swim in the spicy fish sauce. Make sure you get a plate of banh khot, cute little deep fried cakes with a school prawn sitting proudly on top. Like banh xeo, the cakes are eaten with herbs and lettuce, but their insides are gooey and coconutty!

Pull up a seat out the front of Que Huong and ponder why the inside of the restaurant is filled with Cabra locals eating steak and chips. Then watch the most recent episode of Vietnam’s So You Think You Can Dance as it blares out of the TV at the bootleg DVD store across the road. Then say something profound about heroin.

16/70 John St, Cabramatta

Mon-Sat, 11am-8pm

How much
Banh xeo $15
Banh khot $11

The best meal in Cabramatta

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

OK, I realise that this article is subjective, and really, it should be called ‘My favourite meal in Cabramatta’. But in this world of attention grabbing clickbait, you’re lucky this isn’t a top ten list of Cabramatta related hashtags and GIFs that will inspire and shock you.

Cabramatta is one of my favourite places to visit in Sydney. It’s the first place I’ll try to take visitors to, and some friends who have come with me multiple times will groan when they get there because they know that I refuse to sit down for just one meal. I can’t do it. Every visit to Cabramatta is like a strange three hour long holiday where I need to walk up and down John St, stopping to eat, drink and shop along the way.

Over the next four weeks I’ll be highlighting some of the spots that I eat at almost every time I’m in Cabramatta. There will be some obvious picks (Tan Viet is coming up) and others less so, but I thought I’d kick this off by writing about three small spots that collectively contribute to my favourite meal in Cabramatta.

Let’s call this the Cabramatta Happy Meal – consisting of roast chicken banh mi from KK Bakery, a large fries from Red Lea Chicken and a sugarcane juice from Thu Phung N. If you want the complete package you can buy a cheap knockoff toy from one of the variety stores nearby.

The heart of this Happy Meal is the banh mi. I’ve eaten rolls from all of the banh mi joints in Cabra, and most of Sydney. In my banh mi adventures thus far, I’m yet to find a pork roll better than the one you find at Marrickville Pork Roll, but my overall favourite banh mi in Sydney is the roast chicken banh mi from KK Bakery. KK Bakery is hiding inside one of the many arcades that stem off John St. Each of these arcades houses a fruit market, a fish monger, a butcher and fabric store, but only one has a bakery!

What makes the roast chicken banh mi at KK special is the meat. Usually a chicken banh mi means dry chicken breast that’s been sitting in the fridge all day – at KK they only use marylands, roasted in a masterstock and then kept warm. They shred the super soft chicken to order and stuff it inside a fresh bread roll, with a huge spear of pickled daikon, carrots, pate, mayo, chilli, coriander and maggi seasoning. It’s a bold combo that burns its way through its flimsy paper bag faster than you can eat it, and will only cost you $4.

Next, walk over to Freedom Plaza where you’ll find Red Lea Chicken, the Cabramatta outlet of a franchise mostly found out west. You’re not here for the fried chicken though, you’re here for the best box of chips in Sydney. I was first recommended these chips by Dan Hong, who grew up smashing boxes of them after school, on his way to Thanh Binh, the restaurant his mother opened down the road. The crunchy Red Lea chips are covered in a bright red seasoning that’s a little spicy, very salty and will stain your fingers. How much can I write about a box of chips? They’re crucial to the Happy Meal and an easy inclusion at just $5 for a large.

Completing the Happy Meal is our drink, which can be acquired about 100 metres down Park Rd at Thu Phung N. There are a lot of places offering sugarcane juice in Cabramatta, but Thu Phung N does it best. The long sticks of sugarcane are juiced as soon as you order, flowing into a pit of ice and cumquats, which give the juice an awesome citrus kick. Cold, creamy and insanely refreshing, Thu Phung N’s sugarcane juice is also the cheapest, with a regular setting you back only $3.

Take your sandwich, fries and drink to a bench near the Friendship Arch (if you didn’t bring friends to share lunch with you’ll be at the best place to make some new ones) and enjoy your Happy Meal in the sun. It’s a great introduction to the incredible (and cheap) Vietnamese food on offer in Cabramatta. If you go get it within seven days, you can spare some room for the other essential meals from Cabramatta I’ll be writing about next week. See ya then.

Al Kalyk

KK Bakery, 2/85 John St, Cabramatta
Red Lea Chicken, 57 John Street, Cabramatta
Thu Phung N, 49 Park Road, Cabramatta

Mon-Sun, 8am-7pm

How much
Roast chicken banh mi, $4
Large fries, $5
Regular sugarcane juice, $3
Happiness = $12