Ever since the Vietnam War came to an end with the fall of Saigon, the influx of Vietnamese refugees in Australia had spiked and the immigration rates had risen steadily between the 80s and the 90s.
Then, what started out as small-scale cooking operations to preserve cultural ties in immigration hubs (Canley Vale, Cabramatta, and Canley Heights in Sydney; Footscray, Richmond, and Springvale in Melbourne) eventually expanded from the epicenters. And now, almost every suburb in Australia’s major cities has a few Vietnamese restaurants to brag about.
As a matter of fact, the cuisine of Vietnam has saturated the Australian food market to the many where most of the citizens can’t go on without a steaming bowl of pho, goi cuon (rice paper rolls), or a crusty banh mi for long. And where would we be without Vietnamese-Australian Luke Nguyen’s beautiful contribution to society, i.e. our stomachs?
All of this is why we always give thanks to Vietnam.
Here’s a sample of some of the first Vietnamese dishes that have graced the palettes of every Aussie there is:
The first on our divine list of Vietnamese cuisine is a hearty, intoxicating but not-too-heavy soup that consists of slippery rice noodles, bone broth, protein (which is chicken or beef) and just enough spices and herbs to fend off the common cold for an entire winter. It’s fair to say that for most Australians, pho doesn’t need any introduction. That’s because of this heavenly recipe of probably the most famous and popular symbol of Vietnamese cuisine in Australia (Luke Nguyen sold over 1 million bowls of pho at his Sydney restaurant, Fat Noodle, indicating that there’s a strong market for it). Pho also happens to be affordable and exceptional in value at restaurants, and easy to make at homes.
In fact, Nguyen himself says that you really can’t go wrong with pho.
He says to take a simple dish like spag bol and imagine the various different ways to make it. It would be as of we were preparing a dish of pho – that easy to make. This is irrespective of how we make it and how our family likes it. Luke remarks how he dislikes it when people say ‘that’s not a proper pho’ because there’s no such thing.
With the warmer months edging in closer, Australians will exchange their hot bowls of pho for a refreshing vermicelli noodle salad topped with marinated, grilled meat and plenty of herbs. This tantalizing dish is known as bun thit nuong, and it’s a staple in Vietnamese restaurants all over the country.
Buncha apparently seems to fit right in with Australia’s dining profile: it’s light, full of enjoyable textures and is perfectly customizable. If you don’t like meat, then you can load it up with vegetarian spring rolls or tofu instead. And if you prefer extra chili or nuoc cham dressing, go right ahead. Nobody should stop you from enjoying the dish however you like.
Melbourne was once regarded as the banh mi capital of the world according to Instagram data from 2016: seriously, there were more photos of the sandwich tagged in the city than anywhere else. But this French-inspired, handheld meal isn’t just limited to Victoria. A quick Google search reveals many have an opinion on where they can find great banh mi in every city in Australia. After all, this ain’t your average peanut butter sanga.
Usually, in Sydney, banh mi is often served as a tasty, affordable lunch (occasionally below $5) for those on the go in Cabramatta and Marrickville, as such is seen as a ‘gateway meal’ to Vietnamese cuisine. But this delicate sandwich is not to be underestimated; between the roast pork, pungent coriander, pork pate, and crunchy spring onion lies a storied history of migration and entrepreneurial acumen.
This slightly sweet and slightly salty sauce is found in just about every table in Vietnam. Hence why Aussies with a penchant for Vietnamese food have also followed suit.
We love smothering it with salad, asking for extra whenever we’re out and using it as a dipping sauce for virtually every fish – goi cuon, mouthfuls of banh xeo and fried street snacks.
These sunshine yellow “sizzling pancakes” that are part crispy taco, part French crepe are rapidly rising in the ranks of Vietnam’s hero dishes in cities like Sydney, thanks in large part to restaurants such as Roseberry’s Banh Xeo Bar.
Whether pho, buncha, banh mi, nuoc cham or banh xeo, the Vietnamese cuisine is made for life among the Australian populous. What’s more is that each recipe serves to give your entire body’s metabolism a good healthy upgrade. For instance, if you’ve got a nasty case of the flu then pho’s bone broth-like properties will do just the trick to fend it off. Or if you prefer something that you have more control over in what to put in the dish, then the Buncha is more to your liking.
If you’re visiting Toowoomba in your next trip, then we suggest you have help yourself with as much of this sublime Asian cooking as you can. We guarantee you that you’ll only get nothing but the best Vietnam food in Toowoomba.
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