Tan Thanh Loi is a sweet little restaurant near Little Saigon market. It had never caught my eye until one day, when my father and I strolled past and saw a mini production line of plates of Com Tam being crowned with delectable pork chops.
For the longest time, I eschewed Com Tam as it seemed too boring. I was having a serious love affair with Bun - warm rice vermicelli noodle salads, with shredded vegies and all manner of grilled meats. Who wants a pork chop and a boring old egg, and what is "broken rice" anyway?
Com Tam Bi Suon Cha Trung, $9.00
More the fool me. This particular Com Tam was divine. The bi (shredded pork skin) was so fresh, garlicky and pleasantly chewy. The chop, redolent with lemongrass, was perfect - tender and bursting with flavour. It came with an interesting eggy prawn meatloaf and a fried egg. The accompanying seasoned fish sauce was not required, so tasty was each individual component.
A bowl of perfectly clear chicken broth is a Zen moment for me. Like a perfect bonsai or a Japanese stone garden, it makes me pause and reflect, no matter how busy I am. This comes with your Com Tam.
I totally dig the pictures, and Tan Thanh Loi have been kind enough to mark which meals contain which particular common allergens, such as gluten, peanuts, and egg. I want to try Banh Cuon Cha Lua (steamed rice rolls with pork loaf) and Bo Luc Lac (fried beef, so-called for the way you shake the wok when you cook it).
I'm glad I have finally discovered Com Tam. Sometimes in our quest for the new and exciting, we forget that simple is often best.
Tan Thanh Loi
73 Nicholson St, Footscray (map)
Hours: Mon - Sat 9.00am - 7.00pm (Fri til 9.00pm), Sun 9.00pm - 5.00pm