Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The best banh cuon and more at Vy Vy

I attended Vy Vy as a guest of the proprietors.  See end of post for full disclosure.

It was just a normal Thursday.  Lazily refreshing my inbox, wading between the Frequent Flyer missives I never read and foreboding overdue library book notices, I found a little gem.  "We have been in business for 20 years and both my parents are the chefs," wrote infectiously chirpy Tiffany of her family's restaurant, Vy Vy in Flemington.  "We have many dishes we would love you to try, such as crispy soft shell crabs in spicy salt, vietnamese steamed rice rolls (banh cuon) freshly made and rolled, our laksas, salty fish chicken fried vermicelli, malaysian curries such as beef rendang, vietnamese curries, etc."


Fast forward two weeks and that's how S and I found ourselves ensconced at Vy Vy one Tuesday night, sipping at cooling homemade longan iced tea and ready for the gastronomic equivalent of a foot spa, massage and deluxe facial - a tummy pampering of epic proportions!


Vy Vy in Racecourse Road just turned 20 years old.  While the area around Racecourse Road is fast turning into Melbourne's Little KL, Vy Vy was actually the first Asian restaurant in the area.


It is and has always been run by Winnie and Peter, now with the assistance of their gorgeous daughter Tiffany who runs Vy Vy's Facebook page.  Winnie in particular is lovely, so hospitable and full of stories!


It's spick and span inside and unashamedly old school - love it!  As we dined, it became clear that many of the steady stream of customers were much-loved regulars, beckoning Winnie out from the kitchen for a chat or placing orders with the ease of reeling off lucky Tattslotto numbers.

Soft shell crabs, $6 each

They may have lucky numbers but I have lucky dishes, and if soft shell crab is so much as hinted at I know I just have to have it.  These crabs are harvested at an opportune time in their life cycle which means their shell is still pliable and can be eaten just as easily as the juicy meat inside.  You are reading the words of the most squeamish offal virgin, so trust me, there is no ick factor - just all flavour!  Vy Vy's were delicious, larger than other specimens, really meaty and with light, non-greasy batter.

Hot and sour soup, $5

Wickedly good hot and sour soup with the perfect combo of pleasant sour tang, chilli heat, soothing glutinous texture and a cast of quality ingredients like silky tofu and tender Chinese mushroom.

Banh cuon, $10

What had really piqued my curiosity in Tiffany's email was Vy Vy's fresh banh cuon.  This is the same homestyle Vietnamese dish that I love for breakfast from Dinh Son at Little Saigon market - impossibly thin rice flour crepes filled with minced meat, rolled and topped with salad.  Fellow banh cuon fiends, Vy Vy's version is awesome.  While Dinh Son do pre-make and reheat them, they're made fresh to order here, and are steamed the proper, old-school way instead of being made in a frypan.  Winnie also reports she makes the batter from scratch and doesn't use any kind of packet mix.  The filling here is minced chicken which gives them a more delicate taste.  Combined with fragrant mint, crunchy bean sprouts and mild Vietnamese sausage, they are a winner!

Vy Vy specials

These have been a much-loved family recipe, and now Tiffany has convinced her mum that everyone else needs to try them too.  Check out the other specials above, including vegetarian rolls in the middle.

Chicken roti chanai, $10

Vy Vy specialise in Chinese, Vietnamese and Malaysian food.  I admit I'm often suspicious when a restaurant offers more than one cuisine, as I worry they're spreading themselves too thin.  In fact, Winnie is originally from Vietnam and her husband Peter from China, and on her long journey to Australia, Winnie spent time in Malaysia where she learnt a lot about the cuisine there.  This is definitely evident in this awesome chicken curry, full of rich, warming spices and shiny green fresh curry leaves.  I was worried at first that it would be too oily but it worked perfectly, especially with plenty of rice and crisp yet pliable roti for mopping up all that wonderful sauce.

Silky tofu and eggplant, $14.50

There are two types of people in the world - one who looks at the above and turns away in horror, and another who needs to step back and stop drooling on the keyboard.  Eggplant and silken tofu are definitely a love 'em or hate 'em kind of deal - and I adore them.  This is a vegan dish and it was fantastic, delicate yet full flavoured with a light, tasty sauce, the tofu melting like snowflakes in the mouth.

Chicken ribs with spicy salt

I do love me a chicken rib, but we were so stuffed we could only manage one or two of these babies.  They were delicious but I think had the skin on, which when battered really gilds the lily.  Still yummy, just extra naughty!

Deep-fried icecream, $5.50

I have no idea how it is possible to deep fry ice cream, where a hot, crispy shell gives way to an icy scoop of vanilla.  Like the best magic tricks, I have no intention of researching it and every intention of just enjoying it.

Banana fritter, $5

Seriously, what is it with the "dessert stomach"?  Somehow we managed to eat all of the above, despite being so full.  Top marks for great banana fritter action.


Tiffany often whips up little freebies for customers, whether they're home-made chocolates or these traditional Vietnamese steamed cakes, made with glutinous rice flour and mung beans and swiped through coconut cream.

Vy Vy specials

I was so pleasantly surprised by our gorgeous, authentic dinner here.  On the surface Vy Vy may look like the suburban restaurants of your childhood, but this ain't your mama's Chinese takeout.  The menu is chockers with delicious traditional fare that's made with love and no cut corners.


One thing to be aware of is that in response to some customers' concerns in the past, Winnie may modify dishes to suit the older Anglo-Australian generation's palate.  Particularly in the case of fried noodles, if (like me) you covet that authentic wok hei charred flavour, you're encouraged to ask for them "authentic Chinese style".

If only every email could lead to such a lovely discovery.  Now, back to those overdue library notices...

Vy Vy on Urbanspoon

Vy Vy (Facebook)
318 Racecourse Road, Flemington
Phone:  9372 1426
Hours: Mon-Fri 11.30am-3pm, 5-10.30pm
Sat 11.30am-3pm, 5-11pm.
Sun noon-3pm, 5-10.30pm (closed Christmas Day)

Disclosure:  I attended Vy Vy as a guest which meant that in exchange for writing a post, a friend and I had a menu chosen for us and we did not pay for our meal.  This offer was conditional on subsequently writing a post on Vy Vy.  Vy Vy has not sought nor been given any editorial control of this post.

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  1. We used to be regulars at Vy Vy for their Bun salads and had no idea they even sold Banh Cuon. I will be getting there as soon as possible to try it out. The photo looks fantastic!

    1. Andy, I pretty much wanted to caption the banh cuon photo, 'ANDY - GET HERE NOW!' Can't wait to hear what you think.

  2. Well...this other Andrew is also mighty fond of Bahn Cuon after trying it on your suggestion at Dinh Son. I always walked past Vy Vy because of the "Vietnamese, Chinese & Malaysian" combo problem you suggested. I love the idea that Winnie makes Bahn Cuon old-school...I will get here ASAP!

    BTW, your call on Racecourse Rd being known as little KL is a good one (just like little India in Barkly Village). Anything to encourage more of the Malaysian food vibe there...

    1. Do it Andrew! I am also eyeing off those caramelised claypots on the specials board. Let me know what you think!

      Yes, it's funny how we can feel about combo businesses. I was suss of Vietnamese/Chinese places for years, assuming that the "Chinese" was tacked on as an appeasement of non-Vietnamese Australians, before I realised that there is a whole ethnic group, if you like, of Chinese in Vietnam who have their own unique Vietnamese/Chinese cooking style.

  3. Daaaaaaaamn, sis! Now I gotta go there today before swinging by your place with niece in tow!

  4. sold! I am coming here!!!!!

    1. NEE! M and I went while were away- the staff are hospitable and food is tasty. We should do dinner here some day.

    2. Hey Lauren! I went there on Saturday with my mum. My mum loved it! She could tell that the crepes/banh cuon were freshly made, not oily like the store bought ones.
      We ordered the stuffed bean curd, banh cuon viet style, banh cuon prawns chinese style and then Winnie told us about the noodles so we ordered that too! She told us to order it next time cos we had already eaten alot but we really wanted to eat more so she agreed and Peter cooked it and brought it to our table. It was a very enjoyable lunch and we will definitely be back!

    3. Fantastic! I'm so glad you guys enjoyed it :-)

  5. We used to be their regulars 3-4 years back…. Their laksa was great and the grilled pork vermicelli salads just perfect, but months after months the prices where incising and the quality of dishes dramatically decreasing ( fresh herbs which made the salad were replaced with… pickled carrots, no more seafood in seafood laksa etc….. very disspointing :(
    We switched to Laksa King and still loving it!

    1. Fair enough MJ :-) I do like Laksa King laksa, so warm and snuggly - had it recently and even though I know a lot of people say it's not authentic, gosh darn it was tasty.

  6. I popped in for a snack (just a couple of curry puffs) when out and a few weeks ago and met Winnie, who was so sweet and friendly. Will definitely be back to check out more on the menu!

  7. I used to go there a lot a while ago as well… I hope they got back on track ( dishes you had look good/ different from few years ago)

    1. Ooh interesting. From MJ below, it does seem like the menu has had an overhaul.

  8. Vy Vy has always been my favourite... I love their Curry Laksa and their specialised dishes such as fried noodles (lots of wok hei). Their Vietnamese dishes are also delicious (banh cuon, rice paper rolls and pancakes) yum...

    Thanks for the blog, they well deserve the great compliments. Well done Winnie and Peter for bringing us taste of the difference

  9. We did go back thre last week ( after a long, long break) and we loved it! New menu is fantastic! Welcome back Vy- Vy! MJ

  10. Hi Lauren, thanks for a great blog!

    We went to Vy Vy last night following your post and we LOVED it! I just followed your lead and ordered hot & sour soup, soft shell crab and banh cuon and my fiance had the king prawn hot pot. We had fried icecream for dessert and were given some sesame red bean balls as a treat.

    The banh cuon was incredible. I love Vietnam and Vietnamese food especially (one of the reasons we moved to Footscray)

    The staff were gorgeous and we talked about your blog! As a fellow blogger ( it makes me so happy to know that blogs make such positive impacts and reach out to communities. So much nicer than regular advertising.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for bringing Vy Vy to us - we will make it a regular 'date night' stop!


    1. Maddy, thank you so much for your lovely comment! I'm so glad you enjoyed Vy Vy. I've been both pleased and relieved at the reaction to this post. This is only my second "invited guest" type of post (first was Reading Room) and I have been worried people might freak out, call me a sell-out and switch off in disgust. I am delighted that it appears that people are satisfied with the disclosure and/or trust me enough that they want to give Vy Vy a try despite the visit being a freebie, and so far the reaction has been on the same wavelength as my thoroughly enjoyable visit above.

      Apart from the fact that I am a blogger, I do think this kind of sponsored post is a very good way for a small business to raise its profile. Tiffany has commented that they were so busy the Friday after the post went up, and that a large portion of new customers have been ordering the same dishes I was offered, which shows that people are reading and absorbing. I really enjoyed the fact that the restaurant could choose their signature dishes - I know when I was working in hospitality, people would order things that I knew weren't the restaurant's best and I would be wishing inside, "Please don't order that!" I also really enjoyed being able to chat to the owners and get the full story behind them and their dishes.

      Anyway, so glad that you enjoyed it and will be regulars! It's a lovely spot. Yes, and ditto about Vietnamese food. Whenever we have that "desert island" conversation - "If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?" I always answer Vietnamese.

  11. Hi Lauren, since moving to Melbourne about a year ago, I have read and heard about the food scene in the inner West, esp Footscray. But, have only been there twice. Now there is a reason to go back there again to try Vy Vy. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Victor

    1. Hi Victor, thanks for stopping by and please do come check us out again! Lauren :-)


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