I reckon Sunshine rocks. Heaps of parking, lots of interesting restaurants and bargains galore in the various fresh food centres around. Sunday was quiet, at least until we worked out where everyone was - at Pho Hien.
Miss J had not only tipped me off about Pho Hien's Sunday special, banh xeo or Vietnamese pancake, but set a date for us to go there. Perfect! It took some wrangling to organise a table to fit us all but we were persistent. Behind us, the entranceway filled up with hungry would-be customers gazing balefully at others' bowls.
Banh xeo, $12
We had come for one thing - banh xeo or Vietnamese pancake, a huge crepe made with eggs, coconut milk and rice flour. It comes with a very impressive jungle of greens, from classic iceberg to bitey mustard leaves, European mint to "fish mint" which actually smells exactly like stinky fish.
Inside is so much textural and flavour variation, from soft cooked pork and white radish to slightly crunchy, shell-on baby prawns; the contrast of long, crisp mung bean sprouts and sweet, mashy cooked mung beans themselves. Take a lettuce leave, section a piece of pancake, roll it up and dip in seasoned fish sauce. Delicious! Now Luke Nguyen has been telling me for years not personally although I wish :p---- that you can eat the prawns with their shell on. Honestly, they are pretty good like this! The shell is not over-the-top hard or crunchy but gives textural variation to the soft meat inside.
Grilled chicken, $9.50
People ask, "How do you get your kids to eat in those restaurants?" Behold my secret, ye olde grilled chicken on rice complete with token vegetables. This chicken was yummo, very juicy, great drizzled with more seasoned fish sauce.
Sliced beef pho, $6.50 (baby size)
Persistence will pay off, though, and now my eldest loves "beef soup". The broth here is really sweet and mellow with perfect al dente noodles of irregular width. The beef is top quality, nice round slices. Each table has sweet pickled onions on it in a little jar - be sure to add some!
Spring rolls, $7.50
I read on a blog somewhere once that pho is just meant to go with spring rolls while bun bo hue with rice paper rolls. That is all the excuse I need, really. These were very good, almost rectangular in shape and ticking all the boxes for crispy, generously-filled and above all, tasty.
As we ate I saw people going out with huge silver roasting trays containing a banh xeo, along with a bag full of greens. I love that it's their Sunday special only - it makes me think they've put a lot of care into it.
Kenny highly recommends the bun noodle salads at Pho Hien too.
3/284 Hampshire Rd, Sunshine (map)
Phone: 9311 9532
Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 10am-8pm