This plate of love is called banh cuon and it's amazing. At the bottom are fresh rice flour crepes, filled with minced pork and mushrooms and rolled up. The translucent rolls are topped with stacks of fresh, crunchy bean sprouts and herbs, while a smooth Vietnamese pork sausage (or cha lua) croons back-up harmonies. In the wings is a banh cong, a type of deep-fried glutinous rice flour muffin full of earthy whole mung beans. Drown it all with heaps of seasoned, sweet fish sauce. A refreshing, satisfying breakfast, with golden crunchy muffin, lightly savoury beans, rich pork in slippery rice pancake and a riot of salad crunch on top.
Dinh Son, an unassuming, very traditional cafe at the edge of Little Saigon market, is your purveyor of fine banh cuon. It's not on the menu so you have to know to ask for it (they understand my mangled Vietnamese, so you should be right. I say "banh kwon with everything" which does the job).
On weekends you can sometimes catch the ladies making the crepes on a little stove near the front counter, filling each delicate crepe with pork mixture and teasing it gently from the blackened frypan.
Oh, and did I mention it is EIGHT BUCKS? Yes.
I don't think this bakery in Little Saigon Market is new, but it's had a bit of a revamp. They only seemed to do cakes before (including naturally purple Swiss rolls made with yams) but now have banh mi (Vietnamese rolls). We grabbed two breadsticks, a banh mi Nha Trang (60 cents) and a banh mi Ha Noi (80 cents). The Ha Noi version was particularly good, with a kind of crackle on top.
On the hunt for the elusive single golden pagoda rice wine, which is the only one to buy apparently. You will often see these in the Asian grocers of Footscray - boxed shirts, "luxury goods" sets and even 3D shoes, all made entirely of paper. They're for burning at funerals so that the dead can take their goods to the afterlife.
Really?? A noodle box joint in Footscray (Nicholson Street Mall). Because there is obviously a lack of cheap, good noodles in Footscray. OK...
My favourite place - the Yen Huot Gift Shop on Paisley Street, which a reader once told me they call "the Emporium". Every imaginable thing is for sale here, from toys like the Barbie-esque "Benign Girl" to plastic kids bottles that look ripe for a recall. I swear each time they get a new delivery, they just scatter the new stock on top of the old. I wouldn't be surprised if there was an entire Vietnamese grandma and accompanying shopping cart entombed under a cascade of crappy toys. It's so disorganised but everyone shops there, the proprietors are lovely and there's no better place to buy my gas stove lighters ($1.50) and bobby pins and hair elastics (like, $1, compared to Coles' outrageous $5 or more prices for 10 stingy hair ties).
Quick pit stop at the halal butcher for fresh lamb, $7.50/kg for minced and if I recall correctly, $10 for diced. Other butchers can be double these prices. Which halal butcher? Why, the halal butcher right next to the Club X and "Ram Lounge". Only in Footscray! (Cnr of Irving and Nicholson, if you're not sure.)
What's this? Another new Footscray cafe! This is Konjo Cafe, and the owners have an original restaurant in Collingwood.
The milk wasn't as silky and luscious as it should ideally be, but the underlying flavour of the Djimma blend or variety was sweet, well balanced and delicious.
OOH! That's exciting. Please tell me it's lunch time already?!
A new blog you should add to your reading list is "Krapow" by Andy and Tina, who are very knowledgeable about Thai and Vietnamese food. As well as unearthing some winning "secret" Asian eateries in the CBD, they're extremely passionate about Footscray. For starters check out their wrap of the New Year Festival, Vietnamese snacks in Footscray, and $5 crab from Dinh Son. And at risk of losing my opportunity to win it, also check out their (non-sponsored, non-PR) Meera Freeman cookbook giveaway!
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