Friday, 1 March 2013

Pho Minh and Cafe 86, Cabramatta - Day 11 of Tina's 12 Week Food Tour

The four month post-HSC break is now coming to an end, but it's definitely opening such exciting pathways, especially with this whole O-Week hype that's been happening at my future uni :) I've been MIA mainly venturing my way through this, and guess what soc I joined? :D Food Lover's Society for the win!!  Despite the common cold bug which decided to stay dormant for 4 fun months, and revive its way through my system the day before O-Week started, I still managed to skip jump and hop through the days :) Lots of freebies and awesome activities are defs a great start to uni!

And so without further ado, I proudly announce that the post for day 11 of my food tour has finally come!! :)

(To find out all the place I've visited during my tour, check out the 12 Week Food Tour tab. )
Late last year, I joined a competition run by Cabramatta, A Taste of Asia, and I won a $20 voucher to Pho Minh.  This was definitely a great chance for me to go visit Cabra again with my family, and $20 is enough to pay for 2 bowls of pho!
Not situated on the main Cabra eats street that is John Street, it took a few more minutes to find this store.  With a modest exterior, and a name that implicitly screams "we make great pho here", my family rock up here around 11.30am.

A cosy restaurant, cluttered with many empty tables, that aren't filled up to the brim during early lunch, but people start to come in from around 12pm.  It was quite a warm day, but not sweltering enough to decline a good ol' bowl of pho :)
Having grown up eating pho countless times as made by Grandma and Mum, it was something I've almost taken for granted up until the past few years when I realised how many of my friends tell me how awesome and delicious Viet food is and how much they want to eat it everyday.  

On the large scope of Sydney, there aren't that many Viet food joints around, and I've always lived with the idea that the Viet food at home is the best Viet food I would find around here, unless I go over to Vietnam, and yes, the street food there is amazing!
Complimentary plates of fresh gia aka bean sprout, and a plate of lemons, chillies and rau hung que aka cinnamon mint or basil.
 Grandma, Mum and my sister Ann buy the Phở Bò Tái, $9.50 
It's the classic Pho dish, wherein the thin raw beef slices are thin enough to be cooked by the hot stock.  
Dad got the Phở Đặc Biệt - $11.00. It's basically the same as the first one, but with beef balls.

There's a lot of stock in the bowl, and half of it is the pho noodles, and there is enough beef pieces to satisfy.  They use the same stock for both, and the stock is tasteful with the classic and distinct pho taste of the many herbs and spices used to create this beautiful flavour.  

However, there is none of that beautiful aroma associated with pho that can only be achieved when making pho stock using the cheesecloth-bag way, where you place the special assortment of herbs and spices and let the slow-cooking (or pressure cooker) do its job, infusing the lovely fragrance of star anise and ginger and cinnamon and all that beautiful flavour into the stock.  Pho is meant to be a beautiful multisensory experience, which these Pho bowls did not capture (ie they used Pho stock balls).
For variety (the adventurous eater that I am, opting to try something other than Pho in a restaurant with Pho in its name for the sake of aiming to review a larger portion of the place's menu), I ordered the Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang - $9.50

Generous serving size, but there's a lot of stock and so it wasn't as filling as I thought it would be.  Piping hot, and I'm loving the generous inclusion of chả cá aka Viet 'fish sausage' (it's a processed fish meat that's seasoned with fish sauce and then made into a cylindrical form which can be conveniently cut into slices and eaten in meals such as this dish above), and the spoonfuls of freshly cooked chả thịt (the irregularly shaped pieces of processed meat, which are a different kind of processed meat, and you can buy them from Asian butchers in their plastic containers)

So yes, this place hasn't changed the fact that I still much prefer home-cooked Viet food to Viet restaurants, but I'm definitely still eager to try more Viet restaurants in the future.

This place is great for a quick-fix pho, and the service is very friendly.

So after having eaten a meal that was not quite so filling as expected, Dad took us down to Cafe 86, and it does seem like this place is very known to the locals.  There are heaps of tables and chairs out upon the shopfront, which is hardly a shopfront because it did take up a lot of the space of this wide alleyway.
Complimentary trà đá - iced tea.  Think "iced version of that tea you get at most Yum Cha places" instead of "that flavoured Lipton stuff". 
I order an avocado and durian smoothie - $4.50.  This is a popular Viet favourite, and it's seriously something I recommend you all to try!!  Durian is an iffy Asian fruit because before one can appreciate its creamy awesomeness, one has to get over that apparently strong fragrance.  But the creaminess and sweetness of the durian coupled by that thickness and uber-creaminess of the avocado makes for one big yummy (and very filling, I must add) treat! 
This $4.50 glassful is actually a meal's worth!  But it was soooo delicious, that I finished it in less than 5 minutes!!  
And prepare for this jumbo glass of creamy coconut-milky goodness! It's basically a mix of a whole heap of fruits and jellies and things you'll find in Viet sweet soup desserts, and it's topped with a few bits of preserved orange peel - trái cây dập -  $5.50
Grandma ordered this trà cung đình aka Kingdom tea - $4.50.  
It was such a lovely sweet tea with the beautiful sweet taste of the chrysanthemum tea, and the lovely Asian raisins, it is a great treat, apart from the fact it became overly sweet because of the obvious added sugar.  However, the waitress assured us that they do cater for customers if they ask for less sugar, which would've made this 
It's that really chill Viet cafe vibe that really hits home, and these distinct Viet smoothie flavours are beautiful and creamy and delicious :) 

And trust me, these smoothies are very filling, and $4.50 for a meal? That's like cheaper than Macca's, and soooo much better tasting!

Service is great and friendly, and there were many tables and chairs, and they were all taken up, so it's a pretty popular coffee joint that lives up to its name with great smoothies and teas.  It's casual places like these that do make me want to venture more into the Viet food world outside of home :)
Pho Minh on Urbanspoon Cafe 86 on Urbanspoon


  1. I'm like you Tina, I do prefer pho at home but that's only because we're so used to it. Everybody has their own little ways of making pho!


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