HM Quan has a menu of 15 different congees - thick rice porridge that is a popular food across Asia, from the Philippines to Vietnam. And - get this - every one is $2.99.
But to be honest, the first thing you will notice is not the price - it is the amazingly fabulous fake grass floor! HM Quan is essentially the gateway to Footscray, being right at the very edge of "downtown" as you approach from the east (in the space formerly occupied by Indi Hots). I cannot think of a more delightfully zany welcome mat.
Some other congees around the 'scray are seasoned, but this one was thicker and quite plain, meaning you can dress it up with your topping of choice, plus the seasonings on the table. (Though be careful with the fish sauce - the bottle is just an open mouth, like you'd have for a spice jar, so it's easy to be heavy-handed!)
HM's special bun (rice vermicelli) was very interesting and really good. "Normal" Vietnamese bun has rice vermicelli with julienned cucumber, shredded lettuce, pickled carrots and (if you're lucky) some little buttons of crisp pork fat. (Yes, that is what those little crunchy squares are - I didn't know for years and ate them with gusto, and now I do know - and I'm sorry to say, still eat with gusto.) This was almost like a Korean-Vietnamese hybrid, with delicately cooked bamboo and spinach, plus a big dollop of what I think was gochujang (Korean chilli sauce). Not what I was expecting but really good! And - $7.99!
Oh and PS - do not try to eat both congee and another meal, like I did above. You will not be able to - the congee looks small but it is really filling.
I only found the Vietnamese version of the menu after I ordered when I realised I'd missed my new current obsession - banh trang. They are translated on the English side as "rice paper rolls" which I can usually take or leave, but banh trang are skinnier versions with a curiously crunchy wrapper, and more intense fillings like beef jerky and green papaya. (The above is my fave from Co Thu Quan in Little Saigon.) Banh trang are definitely on the menu the next trip I take to HM Quan!
HM Quan is quite similar to Co Thu Quan (yet definitely different enough to not be a carbon copy). When Kenny and I were at Co Thu Quan, we had a chat to David, the security manager at Little Saigon. In his opinion, CTQ was appealing to a younger Vietnamese-Australian generation who didn't want to just hunch over soup, but wanted a more fun - yet still authentic - experience. HM Quan to me continues in this vein. If this is the evolution of Footscray - and not chain stores like Gloria Jean's or Macca's - BRING IT ON.
HM Quan (Facebook)
Shop 5, 68-82 Hopkins Street, Footscray
Phone: 0432 423 979