Posts Tagged ‘western sydney’

On tour: Canley Vale Progressive Lunch – part two

To recap, my friend M had invited me on a trial tour of Canley Vale, run by taste tours and the benevolent society. This is part two.

Waddling down the road, we then stopped at…
Henry Steamed Buns

We tasted some of the custard buns….

Henry Steam Buns custard

Amazing, bright yellow filling and very very egg-y in flavour. I have made these in the past, and I did cheat slightly with the addition of custard powder. My ones were lacking the fluffiness of the bun, because I tried to spread it across two many buns – they were more dumpling than bun.

Henry Steam Buns times two

We each got a packet of two buns, a giant one, and a smaller one. We were too full from lunch to sample our packs immediately.

The larger bun was a very tasty vegie bun. I saw water chestnut, corn, cabbage, peas and carrots. Very pleased to see the variety of veges in there – vego ones can sometimes be really disappointing.

I thought that the second one was supposed to be a pork bun and was initially disappointed when I opened it up and it looked like it was a red bean bun! I heated up the bun and was very surprised to find that it was actually pork!! The sauce was so red and the meat was so tightly packed in that it looked like red bean mixture. Amazing. I loved that there was lots of meat rather than too much gravy. The vege bun was pretty tasty as well.

This place was a little gem. Just make sure that if you are after a BBQ pork bun, you specify this.

Everyone else had wandered a bit further down the road, and we found them at the Passion Cafe.
Binh gave use a run down on how the green pandan flavoured ‘worms’ are made in the three colour drink.
Three colour drink

The tall glasses were then returned to the kitchen, to be divided up into smaller sample containers. We had, after all, finished lunch a mere 15 minutes beforehand.

Drinks at the Passion Cafe

A sampler of ‘tamarind iced drink’ was also distributed (on the right, above). This was indeed an interesting drink. Icy cold with sour tamarind, sweet palm sugar, roast peanuts and little pieces of crystalline ginger. Very refreshing.

I saw that little vietnamese coffee drippers were available, so before departing on my way, I ordered one to go. You take one sip, and it’s like: BLAM! The punch of serious caffeine, sugar and ice just whacks you about the head. Lucky I hadn’t yet had any coffee that day, or else I would have had trouble sleeping.

I might have to make a return visit to try their other options!

Before leaving the area, we went a little further up the road to visit Canley Heights. This place was buzzing with people, and we popped into a small grocery store off the main road to see what we could find.

I first spotted the greens, and some of which we had been discussing that day in the restaurant.

Canley Heights greens

From left to right we have: kang kong (ong choy, tong choy, water spinach or Ipomoea aquatica), Vietnamese Mint (Vietnamese Coriander, hot mint, or Persicaria_odorata), Rice Paddy Herb (or Limnophila aromatica). The first one I ate, the latter two I didn’t quite get around to eating the entire bunch, but I did strike some cuttings in a pot, and they are taking over. I asked the shop assistant what the vietnamese name for rice paddy herb was – she said that it was very long, but that it was used to make Tom Yum soup.

The dry goods that I found:

Canley Heights booty 1

A ginger tea in a bag that doesn’t contain any sugar, tamarind paste (seeds included), and roast rice powder – to save me from dry roasting and then hand grinding in a mortar and pestle when I want to make the thai salad dish larb. I really liked the tea to add a bit more oomph to a standard lemon and ginger tea, when I don’t have access to fresh ginger.

I enjoyed myself so much here, that I came back again a few days later to buy some more pork rolls.

Henry steam buns
Shop 3/17 canley vale road

Passion cafe
15 Canley Vale road
0700-2200, daily

On Tour: Canley Vale Progressive Lunch – Part One

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.

Tien Hau templeThis 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.

Tien Ha temple, canley vale

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.

Canley Vale bakery

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)
-Spring Rolls
-Bean Curd with butter and garlic
-Veg pancakes
-Campfire beef

Spring rolls:

Bach Dang: spring rolls

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.

Bach dang - veg pancake

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:
Bach Dang - 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:
Bach dang - 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:
Bach dang - butter and garlic bean curd

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:
Bach Dang - 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.

Caramel Fish:
Bach dang - caramel fish

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
Sat-Sun: 1000-2200
46 canley vale road, Canley Vale NSW 2166

M & J Thai Cuisine, Parramatta

Parramatta’s Woolpack was one of the first ten hotels licensed in Australia by Governor Phillip, in May 1796.

That makes it Sydney’s longest continuously licensed pub. There are other pubs which possibly have been upstarting longer, but perhaps they weren’t licensed. It started off as the Freemason’s arms in. M&J Thai operates the restaurant inside the pub.

After an event at the new music venue: the Lennox Theatre inside the Riverside Theatre, we decided to try some Thai food.

I was super excited to discover they had traditional beef noodle soup, or boat noodle soup. I have yet to work out how to make this dish.

Beef noodle soup ($10.90):

Beef Noodle Soup

Served with rapidly disintegrating pieces of pork crackling. This had a strong cinnamon and star anise flavour, and a sweet/sour after taste. It had a little hit of chilli and was good to the last drop.

Duck noodle soup ($13.90):

Duck Noodle Soup

Very similar to the beef noodle soup, I’m sure that they use the same stock base. This had shredded pieces of roast duck instead of the beef. I had this dish on a different night, and so I think the stock base had been prepared differently to the beef soup base. This one seemed less complex and I found it a bit to sweet and same-y towards the end of the bowl.

Fried rice with crab meat ($10.90):

Fried rice
Gut sticker dish. I had trouble finding evidence of crab, but perhaps my dining partner had scarfed it before I got to the dish.

I like this place. You can get a whole range of beer or cider with your meal, and they have boat noodle soup. There is also a roti pancake on the desert menu which I’ll have to come back for.

M & J Thai Cuisine
Wool Pack Hotel
street: 19 George Street, Parramatta NSW 2150
phone: +61-2-9633-9394
Mon-Sat: 1200-1500, 1700-2100
Closed Sundays and Public Holidays.

Pho Pasteur, Blacktown

pho pasteur by A Sydney Foodie
pho pasteur, a photo by A Sydney Foodie on Flickr.

Pho Pasteur in Chinatown, Sydney is well known. It is where local Vietnamese go to eat in order to feel at home because what is on the menu is, and the decor is plastic, the food is cheap and the staff are rude and abrupt.

Personally, I prefer Gia Hoi which is next door. There seems to be a lot more variety, it appears cleaner and the staff are friendlier.

The local paper indicated that Pho Pasteur had opened up a branch in Blacktown near the cinemas, within the shopping complex. It’s funny, because they moved into a shop recently vacated by another Vietnamese restaurant who had moved onto street level.

There was a text menu and a photographic menu; good in theory, but when the photos are the size of a 20c piece, it doesn’t help much. The prices were higher than in town, and higher than expected for suburbia.

We ordered beef noodle soup (pho), hot and spicy beef and pork soup, and steamed gai lan (Chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce.

There appeared to be a few teething troubles. One table ordered spring rolls. None of the waiting staff had explained to them that you use your lettuce leaf as your ‘plate’, and wrap it around the spring roll to eat. They had felt confused by the lack of personal plates, and so were using their teacups as tiny bowls. Another table had trouble attracting the attention of the waiting staff. Instead of the kitchen saying: “This dish is for table 6.”, the servers were wandering around until they found a docket which had a similiar item on it, and plonking it down. That’s how our broccoli ended up in the table next to us, and they didn’t know any better, so they ate it. This is a shame for the restaurant because that represents lost income.

Our noodle soup arrives. Traditionally, hot and spicy noodle soup arrives with a giant plate of shredded cabbage and purple banana leaf, or purple cabbage if banana is not in season. Not this time. I have no cabbage, lettuce or mint. I have to scavenge my greens from the bean sprouts and mint intended for the beef pho.

The broth of both soups is good, but there is a severe lacking of noodles. We had ordered the regular size, since that normally satisfies. It appears that because they offer both extra noodles ($1) and a large bowl size, the hank that went into our bowls was 1/3 the normal size. There were not many noodles that I could hunt down to eat.

We left the restaurant feeling strangely unsatisfied. The manager behind the till tut-tutted when we told her about the missing vegetables and went to check with the kitchen and waitstaff. Hopefully the difficulties we had we our meal are just initial teething troubles.

Pho Pasteur

Shop 4001A

Westpoint Shopping Centre “on four”

Level 4, Patrick Street Blacktown

open daily “till late”

(02) 9622 1621

Castle Hill Markets

Castle Hill Markets by A Sydney Foodie
Castle Hill Markets, a photo by A Sydney Foodie on Flickr.

I love farmers markets. I’m used to running into town to visit the Eveleigh markets at Redfern or Orange Grove markets at Rozelle, but it was such an effort to get to. So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard about markets going on at Rouse Hill, and then how disappointed I was when they were cancelled.
So, I finally got off my butt and went to the Castle Hill market after getting a recommendation from a colleague.
I’m glad I went! There was cheese from Willowbrae, La Tartine bread (nom nom nom), Sweetness the patisserie, hunter valley pasta, Saltbush lamb, and organics from Nashdale NSW.
The markets on the second Saturday have a few more producers than the fourth Saturday, but the ones listed above are regulars.
One week, we met up with Russell and Mary from Vanilla Australia who were on a six week promotional tour, and living in a tent the whole time. I bought a bottle of their organic vanilla essence, which has been delicious in cookies, without that fake aftertaste you get from supermarket vanilla essence.
Hawkesbury Harvest Farmers Market
Castle Hill Showground
Harvey Lowe Pavilion
Doran Drive, Castle Hill
2nd & 4th Sat, 8am-12noon

Review: Pho 76, Green Valley

Apparently this place is quite famous for students of the local high schools. We were just looking for a place to host our Christmas lunch, so we came to Pho 76 to sample the menu.

Pho 76 is a little Chinese & Vietnamese resturant as part of the Green Valley Plaza. They also have a sister store as part of the Wetherill Park shopping centre, but I am informed that the original is the best.

The place is decked out with a red feature wall and chandeliers. There are
booths along one side of the wall, which is where we are seated.

We order:
Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) $9.00
Bun Cha Gio (Spring roll vermicelli with Beef) $10.00
Muc Xao ot/Ran Muoi (Salt and Pepper Squid) $12.50
Mi Xao Don Thap Cam (Combination Crispy Noodles) $10.50

I get the spring roll vermicelli, even though it isn’t on the menu (it is at
Wetherill Park Store). The noodles are fat rice noodles instead of skinny
mung bean vermicelli rehydrated with hot water. The sauce is a weakened sweet chilli sauce which gets thick, sweet and cloying so that by the end of my dish it gets too much and I can’t finish it.

The salt & pepper squid is springy in texture, the batter having become slightly soggy whilst cooling down. It is served on a bed of crispy noodles, the only vegetables are the shallots which have also been deep fried.

The combination crispy noodles offer a good mix of flavours, and my colleague enjoys it immensely.

It turns out that I have been flavouring Vietnamese Beef soup incorrectly all these years! Instead of tasting the broth, then adding fresh lemon juice, fresh chilli, mung bean shoots and herbs to taste; You are supposed to get a sauce dish, and mix half hoi-sin sauce and half chilli sauce. You then proceed to add some to your soup, and then dip your beef into this sauce mixture before consuming. By the end of the pho, you’ve run out of sauce! I tasted some of the broth before this mixture was added, and it was flavourful and complex.

Tasty and cheap. Recommended.
Pho 76 Chinese and Vietnamese Restaurant

Shop 18a, Green Valley Plaza
178-193 Wilson Road
Green Valley 2168
(02) 9826 7676.
10.30am-9.30pm, 7days

Review: Lone Pine Tavern, Rooty Hill

I have been to the  Lone Pine Tavern (and Bistro) quite a few times, even before the Feros Group took over, remodelled it, and turned into a generic blonde pub with wood floors and fancy light fittings and noisy atmosphere. On Saturday nights, it’s quite a popular spot for the locals and their families.

The food is pretty good, but has alas suffered a price rise as a result of the new owners and the renovations. Unfortunately, the gourmet beer selection is lacking – no James Squires or Coopers, which really are the most mainstream offerings of the alternative beers. There is even XXXX on tap, but I think that particular tipple is only suited whilst sitting on the balcony of a Queenslander whilst baiting a crocodile for entertainment.

The Chicken Parmigiana

At $18, it is a bit expensive, but look at the size of the thing! Not only
that, it is delicious. With this dish, I have to share, otherwise I can only
finish the chicken and the salad.

The pizzas are good value , I was a fan of the Spanish prawn pizza (also $18), not so much of the chicken tandoori – mor because of the sameyness of tandoori than the actual pizza. I haven’t yet managed to finish one pizza in one sitting, however the kitchen is pretty good in supplying lengths of foil to wrap up your leftovers.

I have also tried the Moroccan Lamb with cous-cous, which was pretty tasty. But really, it was chargrilled lamb, with Morroccan-style cous cous. I wish there was a bit more of the very-liquid mint yoghurt sauce to finish up with.

The Seafood basket is all deep fried: doesn’t really float my boat, but has been popular on occasion with some of my friends, and the chicken casserole came with an amazing eight chicken drumsticks – one dish to share!

I would advise steering clear of the ‘thai’ salads. Unfortunately, tipping sweet chilli sauce over something does not make it “thai style”.

The Lone Pine offers good value and hearty gourmet pub fare, and is one of the better options in the Western sydney suburbs.

Lone Pine Tavern and Bistro
15 Rooty Hill Rd South Rooty Hill NSW 2766
Bistro hours 12-3pm lunch, 6-9pm dinner, 7 days
Phone (02) 9625-8475