Friday, August 20, 2010

Guest Post - Bo De Trai

I have just come back from a weekend in Rhode Island, Baltimore, and NYC, in which I think I have eaten nothing but meat, cheese, and white flour.  Vietnamese Buddhist vegetarian cuisine could not be a better counterpoint to my "street meat" weekend!  Thank you so much to Deb from Bear Head Soup for coming to my rescue again while I am overseas and sending in another Footscray review for your enjoyment.

I’ve walked past Bo De Trai several times and have often wondered about what a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant might be like. There isn’t always a lot of people in there so that made me a little hesitant too. How wrong I was.

Imitation Claypot Lamb (Tu Buu Tay Cam) $14

I chose the imitation claypot lam (sic) or tu buu tay cam as suggested in a review, on the wall at Bo De Trai, by John Weldon in The Age from 2003.

My meal was a luxurious dish of carrots, cubes of white radish, cloud ear mushrooms, lily buds, dried tofu sticks, bok choy and faux meat (TVP type product) in a rich broth, made more flavourful with the addition of julienned ginger.

It was absolutely delicious and I could easily have returned the next day and had the same thing. In his review of Bo De Trai, John Weldon says of the imitation claypot lamb, “gentle on the spice and heavy on the comfort side,” and I completely agree.

Bun Hue, $8

A couple of days later I returned to have a different meal, just to make sure that the fabness of the first dish wasn’t a fluke.

This was a lovely spicy soup with the thicker rice noodles, as you would find in the traditional bun bo hue. It was topped by TVP type sausage slice and some sliced fried tofu. I think the beef was replicated by fried gluten. There also some shitake mushrooms in the soup and some other vegetable or mushroom, I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. The dish came with a plate of mung bean sprouts and mint and a dish with fresh chilli and a wedge of lemon. It was a delicious soup, perfect with its spice for a cold Melbourne day.

Bo De Trai is owned by the Quang Minh Buddhist Temple in Braybrook and is staffed by volunteers. Some of the volunteers have little English, but I was lucky and was able to speak to someone on my first visit. It was a Friday night and she had worked all day and then came to Bo De Trai to work there as a volunteer and was able to tell me a little about the place.

The d├ęcor is basic but the food more than makes up for it and I am really looking forward to a return visit to try some more dishes.

Thank you Deb!  This has been on my "to-try" list for some time.  I really want to try Bun Bo Hue but as I am a gutless offal avoider, this might be my chance to sample the chilli and the spices, at least.

This is the last stop in the west... next stop, the Midwest!  I have lots of artery-clogging American goodness coming up next, but if you want any more Melbourne-based reviews for the next 6 weeks, you are going to have to help me out!  You could write a review of a restaurant or a food store, or even a recipe with an interesting, locally-obtainable ingredient.  Email

Bo de Trai on Urbanspoon

Bo De Trai
94 Hopkins Street, Footscray (map)
Phone: 9689 9909
Hours: 10am to 7pm (to 8pm Fri and Sat nights)


  1. I can recommend the bun bo hue at Hung Vuong. I ordered it without the blood jelly and it was delicious. Nice and spicey. The pork meat sausage was really tasty in it to. Another winner from Hung Vuong!

  2. Consider this added to my wishlist. It reminds me of a place I visited in Newtown when I was up in Syd - thought a vegetarian Viet eatery sounded curious and deliciously so:

    But now that I know there's a similar such place in F'scray I don't have to head interstate for a fix! Woo hoo!

  3. Deb, I should do that - just ask for no offal. I sometimes get the congee at Footscray Market off the menu - just plain, no offal toppings, for $1 less.

    Gem, I think there is a similar place in Victoria St, West Melbourne, called the White Lotus. There is also a place in Barkly St, over Geelong Rd, called "Vincent Vegetarian Food" that is known for their Asian vego products.

  4. Another good one is the vermicelli tomato reminded me of a noodle soup I used to eat in China for breakfast. But I don't think they use egg but something that looks just like egg in it. Also, try the lemongrass tofu, it tastes amazing, comes out dry with no vegetables so you are best off getting some greens with it. Love this blog!

    1. Yay! I just wish Bo De Trai did not shut so darn early!


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