The outer western suburbs of Sydney such as Cabramatta and Canley Vale are not places I visit too often unfortunately. Where I went to school, live and work are all nowhere near there so it was always a bit out of the way. However, a few of my friends that live there have always proclaimed that some of the best food can be found there. So they decided to take me there on a food day trip – lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and dessert all in one day!
We begin the day at Vinh Phat Chinese Restaurant for Yum Cha lunch. One of the first things I notice when sitting down is that there are no trolleys – food is brought out on trays which is unlike the Yum Cha in the city. Another thing that I noticed is that tea is free. Yes, FREE! Such a rare occurrence since I’ve always paid for tea, but it’s nice to know that free water and tea leaves exist somewhere.
Now it’s time for some dim sims! We devour plates and plates of dishes. Each one is brought out hot and fresh, ranging from fried to steamed dishes and each one is very delicious. First up is a fried seafood roll which consists of a seafood stick and prawns wrapped in a deep fried batter served with mayonnaise. Following this is a serve of steamed prawn rice paper rolls, pork dim sim (siu mai), fried prawn roll served with a delicious sweet plum sauce, chicken feet, prawn and vegetable dumpling, crab claws, eggplant and fish-cake, seafood dim sim (similar to ‘pork siu mai’ but with a scallop on top and prawn inside instead of pork), tripe, prawn and chive dumplings.
And the total bill? $13 per person. What value for money (did I mention the FREE tea?!?!?!). I’m definitely coming back to Cabramatta for Yum Cha again.
Red Lea chips served with chicken salt and paprika – $3
After this, we went for a little walk and one of my friends told me about the deliciousness that is Red Lea chips. She was shocked when I asked what Red Lea was, so we went to buy a serving. Red Lea is a chicken shop, selling both raw and cooked chicken, but the main attraction is the salt which accompanies the chips that they serve. The chips are served hot and crunchy with “red salt”. My view is that it makes it taste exactly like Burgerman chips (remember those?). Amazing!
Large Avocado Shake – $5
All that salt got us quite thirsty so we went to grab some avocado shakes from Giai Khat. I had only ever had this once before, but the concept of drinking avocado still leaves me mind-blown as traditionally, I view avocado as something that is served savoury, not sweet. The drink is thick and tastes exactly like avocado – I can’t taste any of the condensed milk which has been added in so it isn’t sweet at all. I’m told it’s meant to taste like this, but it’s not my thing. I couldn’t stop thinking of turkey slices and bread as I drank this.
Green Tea Sundae / Macadamia Sundae – $5
By this time, I was stuffed full. I mean…lunch, a snack and then a shake. But then a hidden crepe shop in an alleyway caught our eye, so we continued our journey to food heaven. Noticeable by only the chairs placed outside, this small shop sells a variety of crepes and desserts. We order two crepe sundaes between our party – one green tea and one macadamia. Both contain the same ingredients; ice cream, marshmallows, wafer sticks, chocolate sauce, corn flakes and chocolate raisins. The crepe is very crispy and breaks off like a wafer. The green tea was the better tasting one as the macadamia was also drizzled with honey, leaving it a bit too sweet with all the other sweet components.
Following this we took a well deserved break at my friend’s house, watching videos and chatting for several hours. Eventually we digested enough to continue to our night meal, dinner. Our first plan was to check out the original Holy Basil but since we had tried the city branch before, we decided to try something new. So we were introduced to 12 spices, a medium-sized Laos/Thai restaurant hidden in surburban Canley Vale. Given its hidden location, it is surprisingly busy and packed full. The wait staff were busy tending to patrons and the many takeaway customers – a sign of good patronage surely signals great food!
Ox Tongue, grilled and marinated with Nam Jim – $9.90
We start off the night with ox tongue served with a spicy sauce which has been grilled to perfection. Soft and succulent, ox tongue has always been a favourite of mine.
Laos Sausages, pork with herbs and spices served with Nam Jim – $9.90
Next are some Laos sausages, served yet again with the same spicy sauce. There is a lot of lemongrass flavour infused into the sausage giving it a nice kick of flavour.
Yum Pu Nim (soft shell crab with green apple and green mango salad topped with cashew nuts) – $19.90
We are then served a big plate of soft shell crab. Crispy, golden and oily, it is so wonderfully unhealthy that I almost feel guilty for indulging in it. Thankfully, there is a salad that comes with this dish which is nice and cool thanks to the mango and it offsets the crunchiness of the crab.
Crispy quail (6) served with salt, pepper and lemon sauce – $9.90
Next up is a plate of crispy quail. I wasn’t too familiar with what quail tasted like prior to this and imagined something similar to duck. Instead, it tastes a lot like chicken, which is small yet meaty, with a lot of juices which ooze out of the meat. The skin of the quail is also fried which adds some crunch to the meat and the zesty lemon which we squeeze on top balances the salt and pepper flavours beautifully.
Lao Papaya Salad (Tum Mak Hoong), green papaya salad with lime green juice, crab paste, cherry tomatoes and chilli topped with dry shrimp – $10.90
This next dish which they served up took me by surprise. It looks a bit salty or sour, but instead it is extremely spicy and set my mouth on fire. It was also quite a let down and I found that it was quite boring. It is served with small crabs which you couldn’t really eat as they are still in the shell. I tried biting into one as I wasn’t sure if the shell could be eaten and in return I was served with a strong fishy taste. Not a very good dish as I couldn’t really eat it or enjoy it.
Chicken green curry – $11.90
Our last dinner dish was a chicken green curry. A classic Thai dish, this curry was smooth and creamy with tender bits of chicken. My only criticism was that there wasn’t enough chicken! But otherwise, the flavours were all spot on.
Following this, we decided to have another round of dessert since after every savoury meal it must have a sweet happy ending. Once again, we wanted to visit Holy Basil for its fried ice cream but opted to try the same dish at V Lounge instead along with some crepes.
Hand made deep fried ice cream cigar with chocolate sauce, coconut dust & hazelnuts – $12
After a short wait, our fried ice cream comes out. It is served looking like a little log of ice cream covered in coconut shavings, chocolate (or caramel/strawberry) sauce and a strawberry. The outer skin is nowhere near as good as Holy Basil, but the dish does fare pretty well. The coconut is particularly delicious with the inner vanilla ice cream, but I think I would still rather return to Holy Basil, king of the fried ice creams.
Crepes with mascarpone cream, spicy caramelised bananas, berries & hazelnuts – $8
Crepes with nutella, walnuts, strawberries, crushed biscuits & grated coconuts – $8
Some of my friends order some crepes which I do not try, but they look promising and my friends quickly leave the plate spotless. I take that as a good sign of a great tasting dessert.
Overall, my food trip to Cabramatta and Canley Vale did not disappoint. The food here is plentiful and delicious with many Asian flavours such as Vietnamese, Thai and Laotian. In addition to this, it has some of the most value-for-money dishes that you could possibly find (did I mention that Yum Cha has FREE tea?!?!?!). I know I will definitely be back to try some other places.
Special thanks to my good friend HT for organising a wonderful food day out in her hood with our uni crew
Vinh Phat Chinese restaurant
Shop 8/7, 40 Park Rd
Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9726 2720
Red Lea Chicken
57 John Street
Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9726 3017
Shop 18/101-103 John St
Cabramatta, NSW 2166
3/98 John St
Cabramatta, NSW 2166
197 St Johns Rd
Canley Heights, NSW
(02) 9609 6212
Lunch 11-3, dinner 5-10, closed tuesday
3/239 Canley Vale Road,
Canley Heights NSW
(02) 9723 3492