CTS Feast No.13: Xuan Banh Cuon



Ang, Xuan and Carson.


To book for this event, click here.

Xuan Bang Cuon is a fabulous eatery.

Now look, I’m guessing a bit here – but I reckon it must rank among the top handful of Vietnamese restaurants in the southern hemisphere.

I have no way of knowing for sure, of course, as I don’t plan on trying them ALL!

But still … it’s high time Xuan Banh Cuon and CTS got together for a feast.

And so it shall be!

It’s not just about the food, as terrific and distinctive as it is, with a strong north Vietnamese bent.

(Yes, you can order pho here but …)

It’s also about Xuan and her family and the joy they derive from serving Vietnamese food their way come what may.

Here are the details:

CTS Feast No.23: Xuan Banh Cuon,
232 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone: 0422 810 075
Tuesday, December 8, from 7pm

Cost: $25


Appestiser sampler plate for each guest consisting of:
Pho cuon thit bo – sautee beef wrap in fresh pho noodle
Banh goi – Vietnamese puff
Cha mrc hai phong – northern squid cake

A choice of ONE of the following for each guest:
Bun rieu cua ca – slightly tangy vermicelli soup with tofu, crab paste and fish cakes
Banh da do tom thi cha – prawn, pork and homemade fish cake soup noodles
Goi du du kho ba – papaya salad
Banh cuon nhan (co cha) – pork and prawn steamed rice paper roll

Rhach dua rau cau – homemade coconut jelly

To book for this event, click here.

Hot croc in St Albans

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Phi Phi has become a firm favourite of ours. Here’s a take on it by CTS contributor Erika Jonsson from the point of view of a family lunch and a belated Fathers Day celebration.

Phi Phi Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant, 28 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 5686

My husband is a proud carnivore.

He’s happy to try the most exotic meat on the menu, the things that I would never be brave enough to order myself but am happy to try if they’re his meals rather than mine.

So I knew what he was going to order the second I saw crocodile on the menu at Phi Phi in St Albans.

We were having a belated Fathers Day lunch with our two sons and I’d given him carte blanche to order what he wanted rather than what the boys would be most likely to share.

We’d already ordered some predictable favourites for them so our mains might actually be for us.




Joe wanted chicken on a stick (satay skewers) and spring rolls, while Hugh was happy munching on prawn crackers and little else.

The chicken was fried in an egg white wash, which made an interesting and pleasant change to the more common grilled skewers.

The spring rolls were run of the mill but certainly tasty enough.

Hubby ordered the crocodile with coconut and curry, while I went with something safe as a contrast – salt and pepper squid.

I should’ve been bolder.




The squid was cooked really nicely but lacked oomph.

The fried chilli, onion, garlic and noodle topping was tasty but I really would have loved a fresh chilli sauce to pour over the top.

Our waitress brought some sweet chilli sauce without prompting and that certainly helped but the zing of something fresh would have made a big difference.

My husband was a man far happier with his decision.

I’m told crocodile can be quite oily or fatty but this was far from it – lean, white meat that seemed perfectly cooked to all of us.

“More croc please, more croc please,” Joe chanted as we ate, helping himself to tasty morsels at will.

Eggplant, okra and vermicelli noodles all worked well with the coconut sauce and the dish was flavoursome withou being overly spicy – no doubt that helped the kids’ enjoyment.

The service was excellent and it was a really great atmosphere for family dining.

I love the fact that kids are not just accepted but welcomed and loved at Vietnamese restaurants.

A high chair made life easy and our meal cost around $55 for three and a half very satiated eaters.

We left almost our whole serve of rice as we just didn’t need it with the mains we had ordered so we’ll learn from that.

We enjoyed our meal but next time I’ll either be more adventurous or trust that my boys will enjoy whatever it is I really want rather than what I think they’ll share.

As it was, neither was interested in the squid and I would have been much happier with a plate of chicken with lemongrass and chilli or a bowl of hot and sour soup.

We’ll definitely return to try some more dishes on the extensive and reasonably priced menu.

See earlier story here.

Vietnamese delights

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Saigon Square, Highpoint.

Consider The Sauce has been curious, intrigued and finally delighted by the degree of style and quality of food we’ve found at the new-look food areas at two of the west’s major shopping centres – Highpoint and Pacific Wreribee.

See Highpoint stories here and here and the Pacific Werribee story here.

This trend may have been apparent earlier in other parts of the city and country but the very idea that these institutions are worthy of a food journey – and not merely eating in when circumstances dictate – is one we wholeheartedly embrace.




As ever, I posted links to all three stories on my personal and Facebook pages, Twitter and a few other places.

But – always wanting our stories to be seen and hopefully read by as many as people as possible – I tried my luck with Highpoint and Pacific Werribee.

Would they be nice enough to post links on their Facebook pages?

From Highpoint I received cordial replies and a suggestion links would be forthcoming in a few weeks’ time.

It hasn’t happened yet and I’m not holding my breath.

From Pacific Werrribee, I received an equally cordial response but one that nevertheless equated to a blunt “no”.

Oh well …

I can’t say I blame them for keeping tight control of access to the eyeballs of their hard-won Facebook followers – almost 70,000 in the case of Highpoint, almost 14,000 in the case of Pacific Werribee.

If I was them, I’d do precisely the same.

Still, it’s always worth remembering that not all social media is equal.

And that for big and bigger business, we are all customers – or potential customers – no matter what sentiments are expressed on a day to day basis.

In the meantime, CTS will continue to post on our Facebook page links to the work of other bloggers, newspaper stories and whatever else we think our readers may find interesting and/or useful.




In the meantime, too, we are not done with Highpoint yet – we’re happy to bowl up to try the last of the centre’s new food area outlets to open, Saigon Square.

In this case, the assessment criteria are somewhat different.

Because of the quality and quantity of Vietnamese food in nearby Sunshine, Footscray and St Albans.

And because while we tried to look on the bright side of our last tango with Vietnamese at Highpoint, it was in hindsight very average.

As it turns out, there has been no need to keep high hopes in check, as the food we are served at Saigon Square is good (in one case) and brilliant (in another).

The menu (see below) is tightly chosen list of Vietnamese staples including pho, vermicelli, broken rice and banh mi, with prices on a par with what we all pay at the west’s Vietnamese neighbourhoods.




Bennie’s fried pork chop with veggies, fried egg and egg meat loaf ($12) – Vietnamese bacon and eggs is what we call it – is fine but seems to be lacking some of the embellishments we might find elsewhere.

Although a bowl of chicken broth is part of the deal.

I ask him: “So it’s not as good as you’d get in Footscray but better than you’d normally expect in a shopping centre – is that about right?”

His reply: “Yes!”




My bun bo hue (large $13, regular $12) is on a whole ‘nuther level.

This is the best meal it’s ever been my pleasure to enjoy in a shopping centre setting.

It’s only mildly spiced, which is only to be expected.

But the quality of every component is fine and fresh.

The accompanying sprouts and herbs are joined by shredded cabbage.

The sliced beef is very good.

And the brisket is thickly sliced, tender and absolutely marvellous – and a significant cut above what I’m routinely provided elsewhere.


The chop sticks are of the disposable, wooden variety but – as with the other outlets we’ve tried at the new Highpoint food area – all the other cutlery and crockery is the real deal. 



Tropical garden in Braybrook

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Blue Bamboo, 156 Churchill Avenue, Braybrook. Phone: 8394 2617

The Churchill Avenue shopping strip opposite Braybrook Community Centre has a perpetual rundown look.

We’ve noticed a few shops come and go over the years at a strip we presume caters to a strictly local clientele in a low-key way.

As for eats, Consider The Sauce has had little reason to stop as we cruise to or from Sunshine or beyond.

Until now …

Blue Bamboo is a three-week-old Vietnamese restaurant that’s set out in orthodox Viet style up front, with a lovely outdoor “tropical garden” area out back with gold fish.

It’s still too cold for that but it’ll be a sweet spot once spring kicks in.




The staff tell me business has been slowly growing.

It’s the sort of place where, until now, paleskin customers have been rare so chop sticks are not routinely provided.

When I ask for a pair, a minor language contretemps sees me almost handed the tooth pick dispenser.

Much laughter ensues!

Bennie and I pass by the further reaches of the menu (see below) – the hot pots, clay pots and sizzling plates – and go strictly for the familiar.




Chicken spring rolls ($8) are regulation and fine – hot, ungreasy and a little bit peppery.




Bennie’s had a thing lately for “shaking beef” ($10.50), so I’m happy for him to have it here – with the requested tomato rice.

All is good, though the serve seems not overly generous to me.

He prefers a drier interpretation of this dish but is only a little bit disappointed.




No such problems with my pho of sliced beef and brisket ($9.50).

I had endeavoured to keep expectations in check, as I generally adhere to the notion that pho ordered away from Vietnamese centres such Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans can often be mediocre or worse.

But this is a winner – as attests the first slurp of broth, high in flavour and not too sweet.

The sliced beef is of excellent quality and the brisket, only a little bit fatty, provides a fine contrast.





Tomato rice in Footscray

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Thien An, 32 Irving Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 0398

Bennie’s dining desires are frequently over-ridden by more pressing imperatives in terms of Consider The Sauce.

He always takes this with good grace and a sense of adventure.

This Saturday, however, with his chores satisfactorily and even cheerfully done, I agree to humour his oft-stated plea: “I want tomato rice!”

Off we go, navigating the twists and turns that take us to the top of the Footscray market building.

We take in the amazing views and then head to Thien An.

In its previous carnation, across the road in much smaller premises in a row of now-demolished shopfronts, we once were regulars.

I ask Bennie if remembers those visits.


There’s two kinds of tomato rice, we discover – the regular and one on the “Chef Recommended” list (see below).




He goes for the latter ($11), which is a bit of twist on the usual, featuring beef ribs instead of cubed beef.

It’s a very good example of his heart’s desire.

The meat comes away from the bones easily and is a little bit more chewy than the typical melt-in-your-mouth beef served with tomato rice.

The rice is fine, there’s seasoned salt and those yummy, lightly pickled vegetables such as cabbage and carrot.

It’s a winner.




My own rice vermicelli with grilled pork northern style ($13) is good, too, though not as explosively so as a similar dish served at Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine.

This one has no dipping sauce accompanying and the mix of pork slices and meatballs are bathing in a sort of broth/soup.

Still, with the assistance of much greenery – including regular mint – it does go down a treat.

Thien An is, it appears, still a good, reliable in Footscray institution – and certainly has one of one of the lovelier dining rooms around here when it comes to Vietnamese eateries.




Altona pho

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Window Cafe, 25 Borrack Square, Altona North. Phone: 9399 2442

Fresh red chilli slices.

There are none.

What kind of pho joint doesn’t have fresh red chilli slices?

Ahhh, the kind that does have raisin toast and ham and cheese croissants and does coffee.

But, heck, I don’t mind – because the pho I am served is very good.

Pho can be had in Altona-by-the-bay.

But Altona is a big suburb, so if you live away from the bay, for pho Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans beckon.

So if we lived hereabouts and had Window Cafe nearby, we’d still go often to Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans – naturally – but maybe a little less often.




This is a simple, small place serving a tight range of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes.

As well as pho you can get the expected rice dishes, mee goreng and char kway teow (see menu below).

As far as pho goes, there’s only one size – big! – as is usual in non-pho specialist places away from the main Viet precincts.




I go straight sliced beef – and am delighted with said meat’s quality and quantity.

Most of it is nicely lean and rare but there is also some good brisket of a slightly more fatty variety.

The broth is mildly flavoured but fine.




Meal of the week No.4: Xuan Banh Cuon

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Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine is a firm favourite of CTS, one we wish were able to visit more often.

So it’s nice to be greeted with smiles all round when we do.

Today – and while Bennie is making happy with his usual chargrilled pork with vermicelli – I get to play with two new additions to the menu.

Actually, we have tried the green papaya salad with beef jerky before – in a picnic setting.

Here, in the restaurant itself, it’s every bit as good – crunchy AND chewy, tangy and completely awesome.

It’s a lot wetter (i.e. more profoundly dressed) than the above photograph indicates.

Even better, this small serve ($6) is ample enough for Bennie to get a good taste as well.

Remarkable bargain!

And who doesn’t love it when roasted peanuts crown such a dish?

(The large size costs $10.)




And how about this – banh goi or Vietnamese puff ($2)?

I could describe this as a Vietnamese version of your regular curry puff – but that would be doing it an injustice and would not be particularly truthful, either.

The deep-fried outer is crisped to a tee and delicate.

The loosely-packed innards consist of prawn, pork, vermicelli, mushroom, carrot and daikon.

And a lot of amazing.

See earlier story here.