Vietnamese Iced Coffee (cà phê sữa đá)

No. 24 of my top 100 things I love in Cabra

cà phê sữa đá

I believe on a daily basis Cabramatta churns out as much coffee as any bustling CBD. The difference is the culture of coffee drinking.

It’s thick, sweet, chilled and very very strong.

A Vietnamese iced coffee consists of a good amount of condensed milk, very strong brewed coffee and lots of ice.

I like to think that the ice and tall stirring spoon is a moderator to how extreme you want it. If you enjoy  coffee, then drink asap, otherwise stir and  allow the ice to melt and dilute your concoction.

vietnamese iced coffee cabramattaSold at most cafes, fruit shake /dessert bar and restaurants.

What do you see?

What do you see when you come to Cabramatta?

This is the question I asked Rob who visited Cabramatta yesterday for the first time. Below are his favourite photos taken on the day, which he has kindly shared.

Everyone has their own perspective of this unique little place. I’m interested in finding out what stands out to you, is it the chaos? The food? The dirty dirty pigeons? LOL

I would love to post your favourite pics of Cabramatta if you’ll share them with me…..

"Hurry"  Taken by Rob P 21/04/2014
“Hurry” Taken by Rob P 21/04/2014
 "Lunching with the girls" taken by Rob P 21/04/2014
“Lunching with the girls” taken by Rob P 21/04/2014
"Market runner" taken by Rob P on 21/04/2014
“Market runner” taken by Rob P on 21/04/2014
"Mayfair" taken by Rob P on 21/04/2014
“Mayfair” taken by Rob P on 21/04/2014


My Fav Roast pork

No. 28 of my fav things of Cabra.

Tan Hong Phat BBQ. Locals will know this place for two signature products. BBQ duck and roast pork, but in truth, everything is great and you really can’t  go wrong.

There are numerous BBQ shops in Cabramatta and this is by far my favourite, second only to (Good Luck B.B.Q Shop at International Centre on Hughes St). The quality is top notch, you pay $1 or $2 more per kilo here than other BBQ shops but people still queue up!

I usually request half lean (as opposed to full lean or full fat). Rib bones or no bones?!? Chopped please! Sweet soy sauce is provided for dipping.

The meat is so moist and tender, I have yet been disappointed with it in these years of patronage. It is consistently great! I’ve bought this roast pork for all my family functions, weddings, birthdays and New years celebration.There is a delicate five spice flavour and not overpowering. Saltier towards the rib bones where they rub the marinade in.

Definitely a take home dish to end your food visit to Cabramatta. Other dishes may not survive the trip home as well as roast pork will. I like to reheat it in the oven at 100 degree for 15min, it’s the only way to get the crackling crunchy again.

Best served with steaming hot rice. Any leftovers I use in rolled rice paper rolls the next day (by then everyone’s eaten teh pork crackling). My mum prefers to ‘resurrect’ her leftovers in a fried lemongrass anchovy dish.

Where? Tan Hong Phat B.B.Q Shop, 6/48 Park Rd (Within the laneway made famous by the Cate Blanchett film “Little Fish”. The doorway is small and hidden behind a column. You will see large glass windows looking into the food prep area. A definite ‘must’see’ for the sneaky beak foodies! (though not so exciting for vegans!)

Phone? (02) 9728 7142

Cost? $27 a kilo, choose to have it chopped up or whole

bbq prok
soy duck wings, marinaded giblets, pork intestines, shiny glazed sausages, so much to try! Sold by the kilo (except duck and chickens which are sold whole or half)
roast pork chinese bbq
Yum Yum Yum
Best food to take home from Cabra
Best food to take home from Cabra
Cate Blanchett! nah just a doppleganger
Cate Blanchett! nah just a doppleganger
Look for the yellow signage towards the parking lot end (opposite to the fabric shops on Park Rd)
Look for the yellow signage towards the parking lot end (opposite to the fabric shops on Park Rd)

DIY Rice Paper Rolls

banh hoi cabramatta
Standard DIY plus freshly squeezed orange juice
banh hoi cabramatta
Steamed parcels of thin vermicelli (banh hoi) with grilled pork and spring rolls

No 29 of my fav things of Cabramatta

Do-it-yourself rice paper rolls as opposed to mixing all the ingredients in a bowl is a more social way of eating. I guess it’s akin to opting for the kebab plate vs. kebab roll. I regard this as leisure food whereas the mixed bowl version is convenient and quick (no dirty fingers).

I don’t have a picture of the bowl version here but imagine the grilled meats on top of a bed of loose vermicelli with the salad underneath. The dipping fish sauce is then poured over the noodles as oppsed to dipping.

Ok let’s talk DIY rice paper rolls. It can be intimidating, the good thing about choosing a restaurant that specialises in it, is that you’ll probably have some other patron near by demonstrating how to eat it.

In summary: Make a roll.

1. You will be given dry hard rice paper rolls and a bowl of hot water. Dip (to moisten) the rice paper, be quick or it dissolves!

DIY banh hoi vietnamese
A stack of dried sheets of rice paper roll. They aren’t moistened for you as it will all stick together!
rice paper rolls banh hoi
A bowl of steaming hot water

2. Add a piece of vermicelli square. Note: this is a different version of vermicelli than that used in the mixed bowl version. This is called banh hoi (“bun hoy”) which is finer and thinner. It is steamed with some cornflour to create these rubbery little rectangles. I think its very clever to minimises mess. It also takes a lot more work to prepare (than loose vermicelli), and thus the slightly higher price for DIY dishes.

Creating a rice paper roll
Creating a rice paper roll

Top with salad (bean sprouts, cucumber, mint leaves, herbs) and grilled meat. Featured here is the grilled pork, thit nuong.

3. Fold in the sides and roll it up.

Yes ugly indeed
Yes ugly indeed
Doesn't look any better with side view either
Doesn’t look any better with side view either

4. Ready to eat. Simply dip into fish sauce (small bowl) and bite into your masterpiece (which hopefully looks better than mine!…I was particularly hungry that day and DIY are not meant to be quick work lunches).

Dip roll into the fish sauce and eat!
Dip roll into the fish sauce and eat!

Where? Phu Quoc, Shop 11/ 117 Corner John St and Hill St
P: 02 9724 2188
Phu Quoc on Urbanspoon

Lunar New Year Celebrations (2014)

Yes, I’ve already placed this event as my Top 28 of 100 fav things about Cabramatta so I won’t go too much into it this post.

Just know that it’s on February 1st Sat and 2nd Sun 2014. My fav would be the Blessing of Buddha conducted by the Australian Chinese Buddhist Society on Sun 2nd.

This year we will be welcoming the Year of the Horse. That’s people born 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990 and 2002.

If it’s your year, then lucky you! It’s going to be a great year of love, good fortune and success!

Go to our council’s site for details.

P.s. For those pyromaniacs, there’s a list of all the firecracker locations!

Kung He Fat Chow to you!!!!



Lunar New Year Festival (2013)

No. 28 of my top 100 things I love about Cabra

Lunar New Year is by far the BIGGEST celebration in Cabra. From a local’s point of view, this is our true holiday.  We typically work really hard throughout the year and don’t even stop for public holidays, however Lunar New Year is when we let our hair down.

Think firecrackers, screaming kids, loud drums, lion dancing and lots of FOOD!

This year the Cabramatta festivities will fall on the 16th and 17th February 2013. This weekend was chosen over the true Lunar New Year (10th February) to allow the locals to attend to their families (where we will be eating, playing games, attending temple blessings and gift/money giving).

The local council is well aware of the common belief ,that what you do on Lunar New Year’s Day is a predictor of how you will spend the rest of the year, and so not working is mandatory! (note: avoid visiting cabra on 10th February 2013 as everything will be closed!).

When? Two days, 16/2/13  11am to 3pm & 17/2/13 10:30am to 3pm.

Where? Freedom Plaza (some road closures, avoid John St)

Costs? Free

Highlights? Market stalls, Lion dancing, Children’s amusement ride, Children’s umbrella making workshop & God of Fortune & Lucky Red Envelopes.

Competitions? St George Bank $2000 Flight Centre Gift Card (spend $10), Cabra-Vale Digger’s Children’s Chopstick Challenge, Bun eating &  Prawn peeling & Mekong Panthers Chinese Chess competition (cash prize).

Entertainment Program
(Cultural Stage in Freedom Plaza)

Saturday 16 February

11:00am MC Welcome

11:05am Dong Tam Lion Dancing Association
11:35am Cooking Demo 1 – Allen Lai from Iron Chef Seafood Restaurant 12:00pm Cooking Demo 2 – Tony Inthavong from Holy Basil Restaurant
12:25pm Celebrity Chef Charlie Yan – Fruit Carving Demonstration
12:35pm Johnny and Vanessa Tu
1:05pm Cabra-Vale Diggers Food Competitions – Children’s Chopstick Challenge, Bun Eating and Prawn Peeling
1:40pm Fashion Parade presented by Glamour World Beauty
1:55pm Kookies N Kream
2:25pm TVBA presents Cathy Wong and Mandy Ng
3:00pm Stage Closes

Sunday 17 February

10:30am MC Welcome
10:35am Blessing of Cabramatta, Citizenship Ceremony and Official Opening

1:00pm Mekong Panthers Entertainment

1:50pm Cabra-Vale Diggers Food Competitions – Children’s Chopstick Challenge, Bun Eating and Prawn Peeling
2:25pm Sisca Hunt Indonesian Dancers
3:00pm Stage Closes

lion dancing prepIMG_0939 young lion dancersnake lunar chinese cabramatta

My Seamstress

No. 27 of my top 100 things I love about Cabra

I go to see “Therese” (also known as “Hien”) for all my clothes alterations. Her specialty is in formal and wedding gowns, however more than happy to help me out with minor alterations (eg hemming up pants $10- $12)

Her work is fantastic! Just bring in a photo of your desired dress and get her to measure and quote.

She specialises in:

– Made to measure wedding and formal dresses

– Men’s suits

– Bridesmaids and flower girls

-Traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai

Where? Sydney Bridal (look for neon signage)

Hong Kong Plaza (connects the multistory car park to John St) Level 1, Shop 20 , 101 John St. Ph: 02 923 3512/M: 0403 779 896








Gifts, trinkets and buddhism

No. 26 of my 100 fav things I love about Cabra.

Every visitor to Cabramatta should pass by this little treasure trove.

There’s something for everyone…

Kids love the multitudes of anime paraphernalia:  stickers, stationary, plush toys etc. A quick survey tells me that the current trend is Dragon Ball Z , Pokemon, Hello kitty and Ben 10.

Buddhists come here for statues, joss (incense) sticks and prayer beads.

Chinese families will undoubtedly do a mandatory shop prior to wedding tea ceremonies and Chinese New Year celebrations. The very superstitious will even purchase funeral joss paper to ensure a prosperous afterlife for loved ones.

The older ladies come here to purchase good luck charms, one for every possible occasion you can think of: the knitted rope charms for cars, turtles for longevity , waving cats for business, a big bok choy for fortune and a buddha statue for fertility . If ever in doubt, just ask the shop owner, a talkative lady who is happy to give you a quick lesson on the do’s and dont’s of gift buying.

However, most come simply for the cute souvenirs (I absolutely love the little miniature food key rings!).

Buddhist statuesCabramattacabramatta heartcabramatta

Mini bowls of noodles on key rings
Owner of the shop serving customers
Many styles of tea cups


collecting cards
collecting cards

anime stickers

Who? Good World Gift Shop

Where? Midway down the left hand side small alleyway at 105-107 John Street (look out for Viet Hoa Bakery which is famous for it’s tireless contribution to the community by providing  24hour service of pork roll…some of the best pork rolls in the Cabra! Flaky light croissant like crusty bread…..I digress!).

Entrance to the 105-107 alleyway. Viet Hoa on your left and sugarcane on your right.
Entrance to the 105-107 alleyway. Viet Hoa on your left and sugarcane on your right.

Fresh rice pastry (Banh Uot)

No. 25 of my top 100 things I love in Cabramatta.

This has to be one of my favourite dishes for summer. It’s a comfort food. Some will argue that Pho is the ultimate Vietnamese comfort food, but I know people who actually don’t like pho!

Fresh rice pastry is quite bland on its own (but so is pasta). The rice pastry is the same used to make thick rice noodles….just uncut and steamed. Its very much like choosing to have a dish of lasagne sheets as opposed to fettuccine. There is something luxurious about eating sheets of pastry.
I love the this dish from Phu Quoc and Bau Truong. The plate is so plentiful and varied. No boring bits… guaranteed! Plus you’ll feel great afterwards as its sooo healthy.
Let’s have a closer look….

Rice pastry is ALWAYS fresh – thin sheets (about 2mm thick) shouldn’t break when lifted and has a translucency. Sheets can be peeled away easily and is moist and soft in texture (if you love prawn rice rolls in yum cha then you’ll LOVE this).
Twice cooked Mung bean cakes or “Banh Cong” – they have sliced a whole muffin into 1 cm thick slices THEN fried for a maximum crust. Phu Quoc does it so well, it isn’t oily at all!  Few restaurants will go to all the trouble of taking this extra step. Others (including at home) will only cut the muffin up which subsequently exposes the soft dough to fish sauce and results in a lump of pulp.

Vietnamese ham slices (Cha Lua) –  There is enough given here to completely cover the mound of rice pastry….like a little yurt.

A thick slice of cold cured pork (Nem Chua) – that’s the pink slice with transparent bits (shredded pig skin). An acquired taste but delicious and addictive!

Salad – All thinly sliced, cucumber, thai basil, bean sprout (steamed from the rice pastry on top), iceberg lettuce and Vietnamese perilla leaves.

Fish sauce (add as required)

Topped with spring onion oil, coriander and crispy fried onion.

cabramatta heart
Its a huge serving. Almost as high as it is wide.
cabramatta heart
Second one on the list “Banh Uot Dac Biet”. Special fresh rice pastry (with the lot) $10.50. You may choose to only have one of the toppings (see first on the list), but for roughly the same price, get the special!
cabramatta heart
Fried mung bean and prawn cakes (Banh Cong). Crispy on the outside and chewy soft dough on the inside.
cabramatta heart
Covered with generous slices of thin pork cake which is similar to ham (Chua Lua)
cabramatta heart
A slice of pink cured pork
cabramatta heart
Soft slippery rice pastry
cabramatta heart
Fresh rice pastry is moist, tranlucent in colour and flexible (wont break easily).

cabramatta heart

cabramatta heart
Underneath is a huge mound of bean sprouts, lettuce, thin cucumber slithers, thai basil and assorted herbs. So much texture in this one dish….and healthy!

Where? Phu Quoc, Shop 11, 117 Corner John St and Hill St, (02) 9724 2188. One of the few restaurants that serve dinner in Cabramatta (open til 9pm).

How much? $10.50
Phu Quoc on Urbanspoon

Avocado Shakes

No.24 of my fav 100 things in Cabra

Avocado shakes are probably my MOST favourite fruit shake flavour. I’m still so surprised that with all the hype about fruit frappes, crushies and gym junkie smoothies that no commercial entity has cottoned on to the most unprocessed, super avocado drink!

I have to admit, one of my cheap thrills is watching newb visitors take their first sip of  avocado shake. hehehe…I could make a montage…..yes I could…

cabramatta yummi sweets
First cautious sip
cabramatta yummi sweets
uh oh…..not what he expected
cabramatta yummi sweets
yummi shakes cabramatta
cabramatta yummi shakes
Going in for another taste….
cabramatta yummi shakes
what the hell ‘thumbs up’!!

Err…not the reaction I was expecting. Despite my uncooperative, yet brutally honest friend here, remember: Have an avocado shake next time you visit!

I’ll be honest, I’m not normally a fan of avocados (as I veer more towards stronger flavours), however the combination of ingredients just amplifies the natural flavour of the avocado tenfold! Nothing.comes.close.

So what’s in it?

One whole avocado (in a small and 1 1/2 used in a large), ice, fresh whole milk and syrup – strictly no water (you don’t want to dilute that super thick ice blended creaminess!) This is the Laos/Thai version.

I’ve also seen it made with condensed milk instead of fresh milk and syrup. I do admit that the condensed milk version is extra yum. This is the Vietnamese version.

It’s very filling, so have this as a meal or share it with others (yeah right!)

Creamy and thick

How much? $4.50 for regular and $5 for large.

Where? Almost anywhere……

  • Fruit shake stores and cafes

– eg Yummi Sweets, By far the most popular fruit shake chain stores in Cabra. So far, there are 4 scattered about in a 400metre radius! (Laos version),

– Most well known fruit shake store Kaysone Sweets (Laos version) Shop 4/59-61 Park Road (Freedom Plaza).

Giai Khat (Vietnamese version) juice bar, Shop 18/101-103 John St (Hong Kong Shopping Plaza).

  • Most restaurants ( though I’d resist having it with a meal as it takes up too much stomach space!).
Can’t miss the hot pink signage