37 Leeds St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 1470
Expert assessment of my Saturday shopping list suggests Footscray Market is the best bet for ease and pricing.
I may struggle with the hambone, ham hock or bacon bones for the next day’s red beans and rice, and a visit to the market’s supermarket just for milk is probably unwarranted – but other than that it should be a sweet experience.
So it is I head up the ramps for the extremely cheap market parking, ending up – for the first time ever – on the roof. Great views!
First things first, though – never shop, especially in a cool market, on an empty stomach.
I’ve been a visitor to Hien Vuong 1 a few times previous, though with little or no recollection of taste sensations. Maybe pretty good pho and bo kho (beef casserole).
Nevertheless, after a nerve-jangling week I find the tiled floor, chromed furniture and Viet pop enormously comforting. This, today, right now, is where I belong.
It’s a hardcore pho joint that offers a little more variety than most.
Thus it is that I order the special chicken rice with chicken (com ga hai nam).
This is a gamble, no doubt. As the Vietnamese title denotes, this is a Viet twist on hainanese chicken rice of Malaysian derivation.
My strike rate at ordering this dish at non-Malay places is pretty much zero – ranging from utterly lame to the outright bizarre (the otherwise exemplary Carlton Chinese Noodle Cafe in Rathdowne St, review forthcoming).
I need not have worried, as my lunch is beaut.
There’s no soup, but all the other bells and whistles – so important for this dish – are present.
The chilli/carrot/fish sauce concoction on the side gets into the spirit of the occasion by coming with mashed ginger.
The rice is OK, but has no discernible chicken flavour. It’s studded with egg, slivers of fried onion and little crunchy grenades of crackly pork.
There’s three cucumber slices, two of tomato, a handful of elongated pickled carrot, and more similarly pickled carrot that is shredded and part of jumble with lettuce and mint.
The chicken is well-cooked, tender and – yes! – easily removed from the bone.
Best of all, all these components are in exactly the right proportions, with the last of each of them disappearing with the last mouthful. This is something that rates really highly with me.
Well-satisfied, I head into the market on my grocery mission just as the music situation takes a surreal turn with a cheesy cocktail bar Viet version of House Of The Rising Sun.
A tip for semi-regular users of Footscray Market, as we are: The market has instituted a pay-station method of paying for parking. There is no pay station on the roof, so I make more use of the market’s lumbering elevators than anticipated.
Ms Baklover at Footscray Food Blog was in a particularly meditative mood when she had pho here.