Let it Pho // Family fun and food in Cabramatta


“Mama, I think I need to go back to Vietnam today because I didn’t have any Pho while I was there!” announces Raffles to anyone who’s listening. In this instance, that is pretty much no one as it is only 6am and sensible people are still snoring! I, on the other hand, have 20 kilos of small child clambering on me and am most definitely awake. 

Mind you he does have a valid point. We didn’t actually get to eat Pho in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Ordinarily this would be something The Eats Worlds would find criminally negligent but, given we were only there for a four-hour stopover, we didn’t really get to eat much of anything at all and I too am gutted by that because our family, from bub up, loves noshing on most noms of the Vietnamese variety. But then I am also gutted that I am awake at 6am.

Mr Eats World and I spent several weeks in Vietnam pre-kids, a country that is as beautiful as it is tasty, and I agree with Raffles it is definitely somewhere we should revisit with our tiny travellers, and for more than a brief stopover, but not today.

Instead little man, since we’re up, we’ll substitute Saigon with Cabramatta and enjoy a little lesson in all things Vietnamese while we’re at it.

Raffles love of Pho is not surprising given his mothers addiction to the fragrant elixir. The sheer quantity of it that was consumed whilst he and his sibling were busy gestating gives me reason to believe that they quite probably have beef broth running through their veins.

If you want Pho that will truly make your heart sing, Cabramatta is the place. Sydney’s Little Saigon is the biggest enclave of Vietnamese ex-pats in the southern hemisphere.

We’ve decided to share our adventure with friends and their similar aged kids on a kind of trans-generational double date. But our pals deliver a caveat – their children are fussy eaters… yikes!

There are no hard and fast rules with Pho. Even in Vietnam broths differ from restaurant to restaurant and town to town, as is the way it is served and consumed.  The one certainty of is that it is always delicious. No matter how you eat it. Or where. Still, everyone has their favourite and mine (and judging by the queue, everybody else’s) is Pho Tau Bay on (though technically just off) Cabramatta’s busy John Street.

There are eight of us crammed around the utilitarian laminated table in the packed diner and we decide the best way to deal with a mixed table of perennial greedy gannets and a couple of small fusspots is to order a table full of food to share. But first things first, we require Pho, stat!

Raffles has conniptions when they bring out the enormous bowl of Pho Tai.

Pho Tai

Given the mix of palates at the table we resist the urge of tossing in wads of bean sprouts, lemon and basil leaves supplied on the side plate. And we certainly give our usual generous glob of chilli a miss. Instead we divvy up the contents into individual bowls to be flavoured to taste. I’m thrilled to discover that the broth is so good that it doesn’t even need accompaniment, but I can’t resist chucking in a handful of basil and a splash of chilli.

Ah Pho, soother of souls, curer of all ills… how I love thee!

We continue our feast with Banh Cuon Cha Chien, parcels of steamed rice noodles with seasoned pork mince and black wood ear fungus, served with Cha Chien (a kind of pork based mystery meat) and a minty crispy salad doused in fried shallots and salty sweet nuoc cham sauce.

banh cuon cha chien

There are pork chops, marinated in lemongrass and fried into crispy loveliness.

fried pork chops at Pho tau BayMi Ga, egg noodle with chicken in a perfectly therapeutic chicken broth.

Chicken noodle soup

This is a particular favourite with Sugarpuff who virtually bathes herself in the broth before eating the noodles by the fistful.

Com Dac Biet, a curious combo of rice with pork chop, minced pork, egg cake and fried rice… and a huge hit with all the kids who practically lick the bowl clean.

Com dac biet

Actually, it’s all a hit with the kids. My friends are slack jawed as they watch their small fussy folk fling food down their throats like it’s their last meal and we are all delighted by the chorus of little voices singing “It’s Delicious!” and pleading for more.

kid-friendly Vietnamese cuisine

I am a great believer that children are nothing if not copycats. If your littlies are loath to try new things simply find a bunch of kids who are and hang out with them at meal times. Time and time again we watch “fussy eaters” (including our own occasionally picky toddler) consume buckets of food and attempt all kinds of new flavours that they’d usually poo poo, just because other kids are doing it! It’s almost like they’re indulging in a round of competitive eating to see who can be the biggest guts! Though I’ll throw down the gauntlet and declare that it’s doubtful there are even adults who could out eat Raffles – the kid is a compactus!

Indeed, as we waddle out of the restaurant post feast, bellies bursting, Raffles declares he’s hungry and wants to know what’s for dessert!

Guess we’ll have to hit the street and find out baby.

22 Comments on Let it Pho // Family fun and food in Cabramatta

  1. Shelley
    February 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm (11 years ago)

    That food looks fantastic!!!! I also didn’t get to eat pho when I visited Vietnam a few years ago – and yes, it IS criminally negligent. I think I need a trip back just to eat! 😉

      February 21, 2013 at 6:08 pm (11 years ago)

      Sounds like a plan… 🙂

  2. Lisa
    February 21, 2013 at 5:28 pm (11 years ago)

    Yum yum yum – pho is my all time favourite food and I am really pleased to say that I did eat pho in Vietnam. And it was especially good in Sa Pa (a meal provided by some lovely young Hmong girls that befriended us while we were there)….

      February 21, 2013 at 6:10 pm (11 years ago)

      When we travelled there before kids I ate it for breakfast, lunch and sometime dinner. It was such a shame missing out when we went with the kids but Cabramatta is pretty good plan B! 🙂

  3. Karen
    February 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm (11 years ago)

    Love the photo of Sugarpuff – the noodles set off her ringlets perfectly 😉

  4. Me
    February 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm (11 years ago)

    Those photos of the food are amazing !!! Ihaven’t tried Vietnamese food before but after seeing those and reading your comments I think it is something I am going to have to try out.
    Have a great weekend !
    #FYBF visitor

      February 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm (11 years ago)

      Vietnamese is one of the cuisines that has something for everyone. Give it a go! x

  5. Modern Nomads With Kids
    February 22, 2013 at 1:30 pm (11 years ago)

    I’m not from Sydney & don’t know the area very well. But one area I do know of Sydney is Cabramatta, heaven on the senses.
    Prue xx

      February 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm (11 years ago)

      Isn’t it? I love the place. Watch this space for more on Cabramatta soon.

  6. Rachel
    February 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm (11 years ago)

    Mmmm I love vietnamese but have never taken my gang of 3 boys out to try it. I think I might need ot recitify this situation now!

      February 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm (11 years ago)

      I’m sure they’ll love it! 🙂

  7. Mixed Gems
    February 23, 2013 at 10:13 am (11 years ago)

    Lovely to meet you via FYBF, Aleney. I wish my almost 4 year old was more adventurous but you are right, they are copycats. Hubby and I would eat a lot more variety before our two kiddies arrived on the scene but that included lashings of chilli and curry which they can’t eat yet. So we went all bland and I miss the awesome flavours of so much cuisine, especially Asian, particularly Singaporean/Malaysian. The meal above looks so delicious though. I think you’ve inspired me for lunch!

      February 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm (11 years ago)

      Glad to have inspired a little. I feel your pain with the bland food. But you’d be surprised at how easy it is to get them on to curries and liven up your own mealtimes. My just turned two year old (who is a little fussier than the 4 year old) is starting to enjoy curry… we started them both on very mild ones and increased the spices and heat incrementally. It seems to work! 🙂

  8. Grace
    February 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm (11 years ago)

    Oh, my mouth is drooling! I do love my Pho! I used to go to this great little hole in the wall restaurant near my work in North Sydney for my Pho fix! I do miss it!

      February 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm (11 years ago)

      You should seek some out, there are little Pho place popping up everywhere lately 🙂

  9. Annaleis from Teapots and Tractors
    February 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm (11 years ago)

    I don’t know that I have ever have Pho not many Vietmanese restaurants out here. But it will definitely be added to the list now!

  10. Emily @ Have a laugh on me
    February 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm (11 years ago)

    Your kids are going to have such amazing and open minds! I hope to get mine more adventurous ! Em

  11. Have a laugh on me
    February 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm (11 years ago)

    Your children are going to have such great open minds 🙂

  12. Winnie @ Bubfriendly
    March 1, 2013 at 9:34 pm (11 years ago)

    I hear you hun!!! I LOVE PHO!!!! It was one of my cravings during pregnancy!!!! Unfortunately had to take a step back when I was diagnosed with GDM 🙁 Have you tried An Pho at Bankstown? I blogged about it here:
    They are renowned for their Pho as that’s the only thing they sell 🙂
    I too have heard of Pho Tau Bay – I think they’ve won some awards or something somewhere but havent had a chance to try it yet. The shop always give me the impression that it is so crammed and too small to service more customers! 😉
    Glad to finally learn the name of those rice rolls – I never knew they were called Banh Cuon Cha Chien – will probably pronounce them wrongly anyway 😉
    LOVE LOVE LOVE that picture of Sugarpuff – she sure loves her noodles and she’s gorgeous!!!!


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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