12 Delicious Reasons Why You Should Visit Cabramatta, Canley Vale & Canley Heights

My connection to postcode 2166 – Cabramatta, Canley Vale and Canley Heights – goes back to 1984, when my family first arrived in Australia and settled in this part of Sydney. I come from a small town in Malaysia where one of its few claims to fame was its beef noodles (Seremban Ngau Lam Fun), so I was skeptical about this competing Vietnamese beef noodle dish called “Pho” in our new ‘hood that everyone was raving about.

Still, it didn’t take long for all of us to fall in love with Pho despite its $5 price tag (it was a lot of money if you’d just arrived from Malaysia) and for it to turn into an occasional weekend indulgence for these new migrants.

I’ve long since moved out of the area, but I do still make a semi-regular trek out to postcode 2166. The pull, you’ve guessed it, is the food – there’s no other place in Sydney where you’ll find this kind of variety and value for money, especially if you’re into Indochinese cuisine.

These are some of the culinary reasons that keep enticing me to return, in no particular order –

    1. Pho – I’ve had pho around the world (wait, that could be the title of my next project) and I can say without a shadow of doubt that you’re unlikely to find pho in this abundance and at this quality and price point anywhere else in Australia. My two regular haunts – Cabramatta’s Pho Tau Bay and Pho Ann.

      Rare Beef Pho in Cabramatta

    2. Vietnamese Pancake (Banh Xeo) – hands-down the best I’ve ever tried is at Ngoc An at 4 Arthur St, Cabramatta. If, like me pre-Ngoc An, you’ve never understood the fuss about Vietnamese pancakes, you need to give this place a try. Their Vietnamese pancake is so good, I’ll stake my reputation on it.

      Ngoc An’s famous Vietnamese Pancake

    3. Vegetarian food – I’m not vegetarian, but I can see how you could design a Cabramatta food tour based around the vegetarian offerings alone, thanks to the proliferation of vegetarian/vegan eateries out that way. Pretty much any Vietnamese or Chinese dish has a vegetarian iteration thanks to Buddhist vegetarianism; one example is An Nhien Restaurant’s Vegetarian Spicy Beef Noodle Soup which uses a broth made from radish, pineapple and just about every flavoursome vegetable you can think of, served with delicious mock meat slices of rolled tofu sheets.
    4. Crispy Seafood Noodles – yes, I know you can get crispy noodles at any Chinese restaurant in Sydney, but Vietnamese-Chinese crispy noodles is different; they’re deep-fried (as opposed to pan-fried) so they’re lighter to the bite, and the accompanying sauce is more flavoursome. Bau Truong does a mean crispy noodle dish, and while you’re there you might also want to check out their Bo La Lot, ie. beef in wild pepper leaves, or their prawn and taro cakes served with vermicelli & salad.Beef in Wild Pepper Leaf Rolls

      Crispy Chicken with Tomato Rice

    5. Banh Hoi – these are delicate vermicelli pieces served with a variety of meat and salad and nuoc mam cham dipping sauce; it is one of Phu Quoc’s specialties. There’s enough non-pork options on this plate to fill me up –

      One train stop away is Canley Vale, where the focus is more towards family banquet dining (read: substantial evening meals)

    6. Beef of 7 Kinds – I’d always wondered why anyone would want to eat a 7-course meal based around beef alone. It only made sense when I finally had the opportunity to try this at Canley Vale’s Bach Dang Restaurant. Their version consists of beef skewers, campfire beef, beef fondue, steamed ground beef with prawn crackers, braised marinated lemon beef, hotplate beef and beef congee. Each dish is unique and delicious, the steamed ground beef being my favourite (who knew; I mean, it didn’t sound particularly compelling). If you’re serious about exploring Indochinese food, beef of 7 kinds needs to be on your “must-try” list.

      Beef of 7 Kinds at Bach Dang

    7. Ca Kho To (stewed fish in claypot) & Canh Chua Bong Lau (sour soup with catfish) – step inside Hai Au Lang Nuong, and its rustic decor instantly transports you back to Vietnam (so I’m told anyway; I’ve never actually been to Vietnam). I tried these along with their mango and fish salad and the food made such an impression I tried to recreate them in subsequent Live Asian Kitchen broadcasts. If you’re not into fish, check out their charcoal chicken in banana leaves, cooked on outdoor grills; I didn’t get to try it but it’s definitely on the list for my next visit.

      Interior of Hai Au Lang Nuong

      Caramelised Fish in Claypot

      Claypot Sweet & Sour Fish Stew

      A short drive up Canley Vale Road will take you to Canley Heights – the hip and trendy member of the three dining precincts that make up Postcode 2166.

    8. Pho Tai Lan (Stir-fried Beef Noodle Soup) – I’m naturally suspicious of strange variations to my beloved pho, but Huong Xua serves a very intriguing version where the rare beef is first stir-fried with butter, chinese celery and garlic before being dished onto the noodles and soup. I’m told by the restaurant owners that this version of pho originates from central Vietnam but don’t quote me on it. It’s another dish that I’ve been dreaming about since I tried it several months ago.If you’re not pork-averse like yours truly, you might want to order Huong Xua’s deep-fried rice paper spring rolls – that’s another one of their signature dishes.

      Stir-fried Rare Beef Pho

      Rice Paper Spring Rolls

    9. Balkan-Mediterranean Street Food – who even knew there was a street food scene in the Balkans? Not me, until I found out about Canley Heights’ Fabrika by Madera. Every one of their dishes – the garlic prawns, the slow-cooked lamb, the grilled corn on the cob – was pitch-perfect. I also love the relaxed vibe and open plan layout of the restaurant, which makes it a great place for meeting friends for drinks and a meal.

      Balkan Garlic Prawns

      Grilled Corn on the Cob with Cheese

      Slow-cooked Lamb in Traditional Balkan Oven

    10. Grilled Lamb Skewers – Canley Heights finally has its own northern Chinese eatery called 11 Lamb Hut, which serves a cuisine that’s influenced by its geographic neighbours Russia and Mongolia. Signature dishes include homemade noodles cooked with chicken and potatoes, and addictive spicy grilled chicken wings and grilled lamb skewers.

      Fried dough crescents from 11 Lamb Hut

      Lamb Skewers seasoned with cumin, salt and chilli flakes

    11. Lao food – I have an unnatural addiction to Lao grilled ox tongue; I silently rejoice everytime I’m obliged to offer some to my dining companions and they knock me back, because it means I don’t have to share the dish. Holy Basil does a fabulous grilled ox tongue, and their whole snapper and mango salad and their desserts are similarly unforgettable. Word of warning – Holy Basil is the crown jewel of the Canley Heights dining scene and it does get quite packed out; get there early if you don’t want to wait for a table.

      Grilled ox tongue and fried whole snapper and mango salad at Holy Basil

      Durian dessert at Holy Basil

    12. Cambodian food – I’ve just returned from my first ever trip to Cambodia, and now my heart skips a beat every time I spy a Cambodian eatery in postcode 2166. I know of at least three in Cabramatta alone; I can’t wait to try their food on future visits.

This is only the tip of the culinary iceberg that is postcode 2166; there’s so much more to explore, and then there’s the grocery shopping which I haven’t yet touched upon. If you’re familiar with the food in Cabramatta, Canley Vale and Canley Heights, let me know your favourites along with any dining or shopping tips I can add to my ever-growing list of reasons to visit this part of Sydney.

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