Monday, December 2, 2013

Co Thu Quan, Little Saigon

Photo by Mike Reed

Wanna know how singleminded I have been about The Westies the last few weeks? So much so that my phone now autocorrects a "the" in the middle of the sentence to "The". About seventy amazing folks came and joined Kenny and me in Yarraville Gardens to celebrate how good we've got it in the west. A full picnic and awards wrap is to come on FFB, but you can get the scoop on the winners in this piece I penned for The Age, and also feast your eyes on some more gorgeous picnic pics over at Consider the Sauce.


So the Westies might be done for 2013, but the amazing food never stops. I am so excited about this new opening in Little Saigon market - Co Thu Quan. This little cubbyhole serves Vietnamese street food, including many dishes I've never seen anywhere in Melbourne.


Firstly, the decor. Isn't it gorgeous? Conical hats gently undulating from the ceiling, and gorgeous, graceful artwork on the walls. Don't quote me as more research is needed, but I'm pretty sure it's by Vietnamese artist named Duy Thai, who you can learn more about here.


Sick of the same old spring rolls and wonton soups? Your eyes will start bulging as soon as you start scanning Co Thu Quan's small menu. The signature dish is bun dau mam tom, which looks like a kind of sample plate of goodies (vermicelli, herbs, pork belly and tofu) around intense mam tom sauce, which is made with fermented shrimp paste.


I will definitely try the bun dau mam tom soon, but this time I was all about the banh trang dishes.  Banh trang are rice paper wrappers, but they are prepared a bit differently here than on the rice paper rolls you're probably more familiar with.  This is banh trang cuon - a rice paper wrapper filled with green mango, flaky, intense beef jerky, and other random goodies.  It was amazing - so fresh, juicy in some places and crisp in others.  I reckon these are steep at $6 a pop, but seriously, you have to try one.


Another related dish is this banh trang tron ($6).  For take away at least, it comes in a bag just like it would be in Vietnam - according to the lovely server, this is a favourite of young gals who work in offices who grab it for a healthy, easy lunch or dinner.  This is definitely on the to-eat list next time.


Check out all that amazing herbage and greenery!


This is bap xao or fried corn ($5).  It was delicious, served warm with a little butter, shallots and Sriracha-style chilli sauce.  Other good lookin' dishes here include a sticky rice with Chinese sausage number, and (if you dare) beef offal with kalamansi lime sauce.


Lastly, a cool, creamy drink made from five different toasted beans ($4).  I definitely tasted black sesame.  Apparently it's good for your skin - not that I need an excuse to have it again!


Co Thu Quan is a gem.  The staff are also very friendly and keen to help you understand the menu.  Worth The - I mean, the - trip.

Co Thu Quan
Little Saigon market, cnr Leeds and Byron Streets, Footscray

UPDATE!  I found their Facebook page - here!


  1. Ooh I've been waiting for something different like this to come along!!! It all looks amazing. Also wanted to say that we really enjoyed the picnic the other day!! Me and M aren't really the best "joiners" but it was nice to feel part of a community even if it was just for an afternoon. And I love how you said that you were a food writer, actually!!

    1. I was so delighted to see you guys!! Ha, I didn't mean it to come out the way it did - I thought I sounded like a bit of a dick, but oh well! ;-) Anyway, do try Co Thu Quan - I know you guys will love it.

  2. This place looks amazeballs! I love the decor (I can't really imagine how it fits with the rest of Little Saigon, which is probably the best thing about it!) and especially the signage. So much of that script in Viet Nam.

    Did you talk to Ms Thu (I'm assuming the name mean's Ms Thu's restaurant)? Would be interesting to see which part of Viet Nam she hails from. If she's from the north, see if she can put xoi cuc Ha Noi on the menu. (Sticky rice with Chrysanthemum petals.)

    1. Well hello there stranger! I hope you are tearing it up in Cabramatta regularly. Yes, it's a bit different from the rest of Saigon but it works really well IMO. Yes, I believe the name means "Aunty Thu's Restaurant" (according to their Facebook page). I'll introduce myself next time I'm down. Xoi cuc Ha Noi, oh yeah!

  3. How cute are those little bags full of yummy goodies?! I think that's enough of an excuse to pay a visit one day :) Thanks as always for sharing these gems with us readers!

    1. It is my pleasure, Sylvia, and thank you for the positive feedback! :-)

  4. Finally went here yesterday and enjoyed it so much. I ate things which tasted nothing like anything I'd ever eaten before. It's ace!

    1. Awesome, Jane! Did you try the crazy dish with the mini crunchy whole crabs? So cool!

  5. those. Haven't been in a while and they've expanded the menu. Aside from the crablettes, I had an awesome papaya/pigs ear salad. Could be my favourite dish in Footscray. A big statement I know


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