Monday, December 13, 2010

Tan Truc Giang's vegetarian selection

There are many great things about being married to an American.  Apart from the fact my husband is just generally awesome, the benefits that spring to mind are home-made, lovingly crafted barbecue sauce and elotes, BBQ'd corn cobs slathered in mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and chilli powder.  But there are some eye-rollingly infuriating, very American parts of my partner's personality that I would love to change, namely his tendency to customise the menu within an inch of its life.  "Can I have the tomato and avocado on toast, but with the Promite on the side, and can you squeeze a lemon over it?  And can you add just one scrambled egg - yes, just one - and a piece of black pudding?  And a macchiato with cold milk, not steamed.  Thank you."  Cue much shrinking-behind-menu-until-level-with-floor on my part.

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Thankfully Tan Truc Giang in Leeds Street are set up so you can have what you want how you want it.  Want only carrots, broccoli and cauliflower out of the stirfry?  No problem.  Want a piece of chicken, a hardboiled egg, plus just one spring roll?  Absolutely.  This is a great place to bring kids to as everything is right there, enticing and colourful.  As Dani Valent writes about yum cha, "You don't have to read out a menu and have every dish description batted back with, 'Yuk, I don't like that,' until you get to ice-cream".

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Tan Truc Giang have loads of interesting dishes which I for one have never seen before.  There's a special prawn-and-egg "cake" plus mackerel dishes, both crispily fried and braised.  They do a fabulous roast pork roll that you have to know to ask for.  They always have southern-style Vietnamese chicken curry which is mild, yellow and coconutty.  A friend just mentioned the other day how much she loved this and had only ever had it at people's houses, when it had usually been made by the grandmother.  She feels it is very much home cooking, and to me that is the style of cooking here at Tan Truc Giang.

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This separate unit is 100% vegetarian (and I assume vegan).  I have been on the hunt for a Vietnamese wheat gluten dish for a reader, veggiegobbler, and here it is, or something like it, I hope!  The dish at the bottom right is wheat gluten with chilli and lemongrass, so I settled down for a plate of that with a few of the other mixed stirfries.

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Mixed vegetarian plate, $8

Yum yum!  The wheat gluten, which I know as seitan, was really good.  It is eerily similar to meat, tasting (and looking) like well-cooked shredded chicken.  Seitan is made by making a dough out of water and flour and then washing it until only the strands of gluten remain.  I remember doing this in Home Ec at school but I cannot recall why or what we did with it - certainly not make seitan, given that most of our Home Ec offerings were anachronisms like roulades or things stuffed in crepe baskets.

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Anyway, the rest of the stirfries were tasty mixtures of soft, juicy tofu and mushrooms and crunchy vegetables.  They use interesting gourd-like Asian vegetables here of which I don't know the name, but they are similar to zucchini or cucumber.  It came with a tangle of sweet, lightly vinegared carrots and bean sprouts.  A great, healthy lunch.  Veggiegobler, I know it's not with cashews or satay as you remembered, but I reckon it is pretty yummy!

Another reader, Matt, highly recommended the goi cuon chay or vegetarian rice paper rolls.  These are made daily and stacked in containers on the counter.  Wow - great call, Matt - they really are the best rice paper rolls I have ever had!  The skins are so tender and soft and the fillings super fresh.  Inside are rice vermicelli noodles, marinated tofu, mushroom, pickled carrot, lettuce and other good things.  I like that they are not wrapped within an inch of their life - the wrapper is still delicate, soft and pliable.

Tra Vinh and Quang Vinh 011
Goi cuon chay (vegetarian rice paper rolls), $5.50 for 4

The dipping sauce is made up fresh with each purchase and is delicious, hoi sin-based, sprinkled with chopped peanuts, chilli and carrot.  Eat them soon after purchase and if you can, purchase them early in the day soon after having been made as the skins become hard and unappealing fast.

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The man in particular who runs Tan Truc Giang is really lovely.  They keep their bain marie spick and span, constantly refilling the trays and plates and ensuring no drips smear the sparkling silver between the various dishes.  The counter is often a few people deep and with Footscray shoppers of all ethnicities.  Everyone is welcome - even finicky Americans.

Tan Truc Giang
36A Leeds St, Footscray (map)
Phone: 9689 9509
Hours:  Mon - Sat 8am - 8pm, closed Sun

PS:  From a reader:  "This is the best Vietnamese place in west. Pork roll is absolutely delicious plus try their diced beef with fried rice (yummmm). I live in North Carlton but visit Truc Giang at least once a month."

Wheelchair Accessibility
Entry:  Step - inaccessible.


  1. that prawn egg thing is called "cha" and I love it.. can be a little sardine-ish though, but i love it

  2. Oooh, I'm filing this away for a future visit! It's rare to find a Vietnamese restaurant who knows their vegetarian food (though they are out there).

  3. What a delicious smorgasbord! I've almost never come across mackeral or seitan here in Canberra, and yet I'd still probably opt for the rice paper rolls if I was in your position. So lovely and summery!

  4. Over the xmas break from work, I'm going to check this place out! The rice paper rolls look really fresh and tasty. Will get over my phobia and tackle the bain marie food too!!

  5. VIETNAMESE VEGETARIAN!? I am so here! I'm vegan, so too often my choices are limited to bun with spring rolls or a plain veggie stirfry, and as much as I love my bun, it will be awesome to get something different. Making a B-line for this place ASAP! Thanks for the heads-up : )

  6. I've been to this place a few times after a big night out! Thier BBQ chicken is good. There always seems to be a mountain's worth of food!

  7. Thang, thanks for the "cha" info and thank you all for stopping by! Georgie, you know there is Bo De Trai too? It's in Hopkins Street and is Vietamese vegetarian. See here for Deb's guest review:

    Part of the thing I like about Tan Truc Giang's vegetarian dishes though is there is such a mix of vegetables - it's not just bok choy and a couple of carrots.

    Adrian, I know right!! No matter how early I go, there is so much food!

  8. Have not been back to this place for awhile... I think a Sunday lunch is in order.

  9. I had a very pleasant lunch there yesterday. Only thing I couldn't work out was whether it was meant to be like a buffet where you could have a number of items on your plate, or if you just chose the one item + rice and token salad items.

  10. Hi Brian, I am glad! No, you can have a bit of this or that like a buffet and somehow they work out the pricing.

  11. Ooh thank you Lauren. Apologies for not catching this post when you wrote it but I'm so glad I finally did. I had no idea seitan was wheat gluten. Yippee!

  12. had lunch there yday. unfortunately, pretty much a miss for me. i had the fish in the picture and 2 vege dishes. the food tasted like they've been sitting there for far too long and were lacking in asian flavours i'm used to.

  13. Ooh sorry anon, bummer. Maybe it's a time of day thing.


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