Friday, 24 January 2014

Flavours of My Vietnam: Thy Restaurant, Bankstown

These holidays have seen me revisiting my Vietnamese roots, and this time, taking it to the world outside my home.  I've always had the belief (and so do the rest of my family) that home-cooked Vietnamese food tastes better than the Vietnamese food at restaurants (except for the fast-food dishes like the Vietnamese bánh mì thịt pork roll).  And this belief of mine has proved to be true most of the time, but some of the experiences that Vietnamese restaurants out there create are definitely memorable, unique and homely.  Today, I invite you to come along with me to one of them - a casual, cosy, and modest restaurant, housing two of Vietnam's loveliest and simplest dishes - bánh xèo and bánh cuốn.
Having been opened since around mid-last year, next door to the Vietnamese grocery arcade that my family and I do our grocery shopping at every week, I was always curious to try the dishes here.  The large crimson outdoor sign catches my attention every time we walk past, and this cosy restaurant with seating just enough for around 40 people 
Bánh cuốn and Bánh xèo
Around the restaurant are enlarged photos of Nha Trang, enclosing a very cosy restaurant with tables and seats spaced very closely, but the simple and modest design provides a different atmosphere to the typical interior of many Vietnamese restaurants - those that are enamoured with large rectangular mirror slabs, or one with cardboard posters with handwritten menu specials taped onto the walls.   
The typical complimentary tea, and tray of condiments and utensils
Bánh xèo literally translates to 'sizzling cake', and it is a thin and crispy Vietnamese savoury crepe, typically made with rice flour, water, turmeric powder (for that yellow colour), coconut milk, and the classic filling is small pork belly slices and prawns, with diced green onion and a generous serving of bean sprouts.  It is a great dish for a summer's day, and is eaten by taking a bit of bánh xèo, wrapping it in fresh vegetables and Vietnamese aromatic leafy greens, and dipped into a diluted fish sauce.  Here's an SBS recipe that's a modified version of the original recipe:

The bánh xèo ($10) was humongous!! The length of it equalled the length of from my finger to my elbow, and the batter was oh-so light and thin and crispy!
Filled with lots and lots of steamed bean sprouts, steamed pork belly slices and prawns, and look at those crispy thin edges of the bánh xèo!

The accompanying serving of large leafy greens to wrap the morsels of bánh xèo in, and then dipping it in fish sauce, was just right, and the bánh xèo was not soggy and mushy; it was fresh, light and very tasty!  Beware, this is a very messy dish, be prepared with a tissuebox nearby, because your hands will be frequently wet from wrapping with the fresh vegies!
Bánh cuốn is steamed rice wrapper rolls - the consistency is like a softer version of rice noodles, and the way it is made is similar to how one would make crepes.  It is basically a soft sheet made of rice flour and other ingredients, and finely chopped wood ear mushrooms and ground pork mince are wrapped inside, as well as ground shallots.   It's garnished with small pieces of fried onion, and accompanied by cha lua Vietnamese ham, steamed beansprouts, cucumbers, and eaten with fish sauce as well.  It is a northern Vietnamese dish, and it is eaten a lot as a sort of "fast food" dish, similar to bánh mì thịt.  There's homes in the Vietnamese-populated suburbs that are known for making bánh cuốn daily; every few weeks, my family would opt for this fast-food dish, and we'd order a batch of bánh cuốn and bánh ướt (literally translating to "wet cakes", bánh ướt is a the version of bánh cuốn without the fillings) from a local home that makes lovely bánh cuốn.

The bánh cuốn ($11) here took up most of the plate, and because I'm used to having smaller portions of bánh cuốn, and much larger portions of salad and Vietnamese ham, as well as having bánh cóng prawn cakes on the side with my bánh cuốn, the serving size of the sides at Thy seemed meagre in comparison.  However, the generously served bánh cuốn was definitely fresh and soft, and at only $10 a serving, this was definitely a bargain for restaurant food!
At every Vietnamese restaurant I go to these days, I always opt for a cafe sữa đá - just to see how different places make theirs - do they go for the strong powerful hit with the slightly creamy push of the condensed milk, or do they go for iced coffee mix from the shops?  

The cafe sữa đá ($3.50) at Thy is one of the best I've tried.  I like a good cafe sữa đá with either the full-on strength of black coffee plus a thin and sufficient level of sweetness from the condensed milk, or if the strong black coffee is just slightly overpowered by the sweetness of the condensed milk (and one can always dilute the strength of the black coffee by waiting for the ice to melt a bit).  If it's full and creamy-powdery-tasting, you know it's not the real deal.  And yes I've had places that have served me bad cafe sữa đá, so I'm really happy about this one that I bought here.
And my friend loves a good young coconut juice ($3.50), and this one is definitely delicious! The ones from the actual coconut usually have quite a bland coconut water/juice, but this one was just the right amount of sweetness; refreshing drink but not overly sweet as to keep craving for more sugary drinks.

$28 for 2, fast and attentive service, delicious food.  Apparently the service was quite appalling according to Lamstock's blogpost, but the service I had was very commendable, I guess since they've been in the business for a while.

So if you're in the Bankstown area and feeling like an adventure to streetfood Vietnam, then look no further than Thy Restaurant :)

Thy Vietnamese Eatery on Urbanspoon


  1. so many places in bankstown i dont know where to head each time!

  2. There are so many impressive attractions to visit in Bankstown. foods there are also great. Hope you explored that Amy Zhong. Anyway try to fly in Kiama Australia.


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