My friend M had emailed me a deal I couldn’t refuse: A foodie tour of Canley Vale in the Fairfield council area for the bargain price of $30 instead of RRP $55.
Trackwork on the train line meant that I, who normally would need to change trains got to catch a direct one there: whilst other friends had to change trains twice.
There were two reasons why this particular tour was so cheap:
1) it was being run as a trial with the aim of developing a full tour of the area
2) it was being sponsored by the council.
Hurray. After meeting our brightly t-shirted taste volunteers at the station we went across the road to the N.S.W Tien Hau Temple.
This temple has been built in 1995 by Vietnamese refugees in the area as a tribute to the goddess Tien Hau (天后, Lim Mak Ngeo), who they felt had guaranteed then safe passage through the South China Seas. Our guide, Binh, remembers being one hungry small child in one of those boats, and how the first meal she had on land was the best tasting meal she’s ever had. Really a very sobering thought.
Binh also told us about the fortune telling/divining rituals, and how the temple was staffed entirely by volunteers – no full time monk here.
Next up: Canley Vale hot bread shop.
So I’ve been to a few of those places seeking the varieties of the banh mi – pork roll. Normally you get a choice of pork, chicken, salad.
Here the choices were: pork, BBQ pork, pork meatballs, fish cake, egg, omelet, tuna, plus almost any combination of the above. Binh described the process of making the mayonnaise, the pate and the hot pink pork sliced sausage. If you were keen, you could also buy your own 1kg tub of either mayo or pate at a very respectable $14/$16. The fish cake roll – with the tastebud scorching chilli was very delicious. If I didn’t know that I had lunch coming up, I would’ve bought another roll.
Each taster also got a can of grass jelly drink. I’m afraid I missed the spiel, I just remember that the grass jelly was a relative of the mint family. I have had this drink before. I like it when the grass jelly are big cubes of wobbliness, rather than tiny hard squares as in this can.
Bach Dang Vietnamese Restaurant
Whilst walking from parking her car to our meet up location, my friend M had wandered past a restaurant with the most amazing aroma wafting out from the kitchen. This place was a little bit fancier, what with padded chairs and carpet and all.
On the menu:
-Caramel Fish and soup (two dishes)
-Bean Curd with butter and garlic
The spring rolls were flavoursome and tasty, and not your usual fare. I think I picked up taro, vermicelli noodles, black wood ear fungus in the mix. How unlike the standard chinese ‘spring roll’ contents of not much!
I was super excited when the vietnamese pancake banh xeo turned up.
Clap my hands happy. Clap. Clap. ‘Banh’ means cake, ‘Xeo’ means sizzling. This is one of my favourite dishes to order whenever I see it on the menu. This is the first time I have seen a vegetarian version – filled with lovely fat slices of tofu, mushrooms, bean sprouts. Utterly delicious.
Campfire beef before:
This is the dish just after it got brought to the table, and the methylated spirits was set alight. You then needed to ‘stir’ the dish (two soup spoons worked best), so that the onions and beef cooked throughout. We had two dishes of this on the table, and one worked, and one was a bit raw.
Campfire beef after:
As you can see, it makes a right royal mess of the cooking bowl. You can kind of see why this is a special occasion dish, rather than an everyday one.
Butter and garlic tofu:
I don’t know why this stuff was bright yellow, but the batter on the tofu was very thick, almost biscuit like. I cut the tougher sides off mine before eating the silken tofu insides. The crispy garlic and spring onion mix was very moreish. Like salt and pepper tofu, but extra yum.
Sour fish soup:
This is a traditional Vietnamese dish – an every day food. First, a silver perch is seared, and then poached in tamarind broth. This is flavoured with rice paddy herb and elephant ear stem. Normally it has pork added, but this one didn’t.
The soup was very sour! The rice paddy herb added citrus/cumin flavours, and the elephant ear stem added a spongy texture – but like tofu, it doesn’t have any flavour itself. I also picked up flavours of garlic, okra and tomato.
By contrast, the caramel fish was very sweet, and you are supposed to eat this mixed through your rice. I ate this caramel fish first, and it tasted really sour. After a tasting of the sour soup, the caramel fish tasted really sweet!
Tien Hau Temple
124-128 Railway Parade, Canley Vale NSW 2166
Canley Vale Bakery
4/32-34 Canley Vale Road, Canley Vale NSW 2166
Bach Dang Vietnamese restaurant
Tue-fri: 1000-1430, 1700-2200
46 canley vale road, Canley Vale NSW 2166