Spring rolls for which to die



Xuan Banh Cuon, 232 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone: 0422 810 075

Regular Consider The Sauce readers may be familiar already with Xuan Banh Cuon.

The restaurant’s signature dish, pork and prawn banh cuon, was chosen as one of the inaugural winners of the Westies: Dishes Of Distinction, the exciting western suburbs food awards initiated by Consider The Sauce and Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog.

See Westies stories here, here and here, and Lauren’s review here.

Since then, we’ve become regulars.

It’s fair to say Xuan Banh Cuon is our go-to Vietnamese joint in Sunshine and perhaps the entire west.

We love the points of difference, the friendly welcome, the freshness and diversity of the food – and its healthiness.

I’ve eaten a good deal of banh cuon there by now, and really enjoyed some of the other dishes, too.

I’ve loved the red specialty noodles with prawn, pork and homemade fishcake.

And the bun thit nuong (vermicelli with chargrilled pork) is a sinful delight.


There’s still plenty of scope for CTS to explore here, but on the occasion of our first actual review of this splendid establishment, I’d like to rave about the spring rolls.

More specifically, the northern-style spring rolls with vermicelli (top photo).

These rolls are quite different from the familiar spring rolls served in Vietnamese places all over the West.

We’ve all had plenty of them – and enjoyed them.

But the contrast with these beauties is stark indeed, so great are they in terms of textural and flavour delight.

In order to nail the details, Carson, Nathan and other members of the Xuan Banh Cuon extended family who happen to be present gather around me for a round-table discussion.

The casings are made of rice and called banh trang. We settle on “rice glass” as an acceptable English variation.

They’re delicate and slightly crunchy.

Inside the rolls are bean shoots, mushroom, glass noodle, carrot, pork and prawn.

Sounds so simple, nothing too flash, eh?

The eating tells a very different story.

Especially when the rolls are mixed in with the chilli dressing/sauce and the gathered herbage.

If you order pho at Xuan Banh Cuon – and you can – you will get the usual and familiar accessories.

Order spring rolls, banh cuon or thit nuong, though, and you’ll get a much more lively and diverse mix – including lots of mint and coriander.






The Westies winners



Photograph: MIKE REED

Through stories on two blogs, several newspaper articles, much social media action and speechifying at The Westies reveal, one important aspect of our inaugural award winners escaped mention.

Namely, that all our three chosen dishes clocked in at under $15.

One costs $13, another $10 and another $5.

How good is that?

Such may not be the case in future years … but still, it’s rather remarkable and worthy of celebratory comment.


Chicken and rice “Regular” from Safari, 159 Union Rd, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9372 7175

This is a dream of a meal at a wonderful Somalian joint in Ascot Vale.

A long, cool drink – sometimes cordial, sometimes freshly squeezed orange juice.

A bowl of fabulous lamb broth – tangy and with a spicy kick, with some onion or carrot pieces hiding in its depths and maybe even some lamb.

Heaps of the most perfect rice – cooked in stock, with some onion making an appearance and, on our most recent visit, also cardamoms.

Some real nice salad.

Beautifully pan-fried onion, carrot and capsicum.

And, finally, delightful marinated chicken with strong lemon and garlic flavours.

(You can have an equally wonderful Regular with lamb or fish, and there are myriad other ways to enjoy the Safari experience in larger groups.)

As Lauren and I were locking in our final list of Westies winners, we ventured to Safari for lunch … just to make sure.

She asked me: “Is it always like this – always the same, always this good?”

The answer on all counts is: “Yes!”

See earlier stories about Safari here and here, and Footscray Food Blog’s outing here.


Pork and prawn banh cuon from Xuan Banh Cuon, 232 Hampshire Road, Sunshine (near the buses). Phone:  9364 8992

In terms of longevity and consistency, our other two winners have heaps of runs on board.

Xuan Banh Cuon, by contrast, is a newish restaurant.

So what gives?

Well, while this may be a the first restaurant venture for Xuan (mum), Yung (dad) and their family, for that very reason everything they are serving up is from the family’s superb stock of tried and tested home recipes.


Again while locking in our winners, Lauren gleefully took me to Xuan Banh Cuon and sat back as she watched me get to grips with her latest love interest.

It was perfect!

What’s more, every time I have been in the place, almost every customer has been eating this same dish.

The welcome and warmth offered by this new Sunshine hot spot makes it very special indeed.

See the Footscray Food Blog story here.


Macedonian cheese burek from Nada’s Take Away in the food court of Footscray Market

Lauren has been inhaling this treat for her whole life as she’s been living it in the west, so I confess to being a bit late on the scene.

As I have discovered, it’s unreal – home-style nirvana made with love.

And as I’m sure almost all readers of both our blogs will appreciate, it gives us a real zing to award a Westie to such a wonderful treat to be had only from the food court of Footscray Market.

Nada and her hubby, Cane, have been making and selling their bureks for almost 30 years.

Nada makes the pastry at their home while the bureks are finished in the over at their market stall.

They make spinach-and-cheese and meat versions, but we love the simple joy of the buttery pastry and ricotta mix.

Whole bureks can be purchased, already frozen if you so desire, for $20.

The Westies: Dishes of Distinction are a combined initiative of Consider The Sauce and Footscray Food Blog.

We’ve had a fine time bringing them into the world for the first time and are already working on a bigger and better 2014 version – so stay tuned!

Thanks once again to Footscray Life for their generous financial support towards the design and production of our trophies.

Thanks to Lauren’s dad, Mike Reed, who took fantastic photos, and her sister, Liz Reed, who designed the plates.

The Westies reveal!




The inaugural Westies: Dishes of Distinction reveal

The Footscray Food Blog/Consider The Sauce Spring Picnic

As with all outdoor events, we were hostage to the Weather Gods – and they smiled upon us.

Bennie and I got antsy at home so drove to Yarraville Gardens quite early.

After our best ever father-and-son frisbee session, in still breezy conditions, the sun came out when people started arriving in numbers and the Westies action got underway.

It was thrilling for us to enjoy the company of so many friends, followers, extended family and more – and to have a nice crowd on hand to generate some well-deserved applause when the Westies recipients were finally announced.

Maribyrnong mayor Grant Miles offered some introductory words before Lauren and I took over.

I reckon we did a pretty good job, even though I’m guessing she was as nervous as me and our words were very much off the cuff.

And the winners are (in no particular order) …

* Pork and prawn banh cuon from Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine.

* Macedonian cheese burek from Nada’s Take Away in the food court of Footscray Market.

* Chicken and rice “Regular” from Safari in Ascot Vale.


We were additionally thrilled to have almost the entire extended family from Xuan Banh Cuon on hand, as well as Mohamed and Fatima from Safari.

The Xuan Banh Cuon crew brought along a family meal that doesn’t even feature on their restaurant’s menu – yet!

There was enough of the papaya salad with Viet-style beef jerky for just about everyone to enjoy a sublime, delicious taste.

Not that there was a shortage of food options …

Thanks to Mr Burger, Bennie enjoyed what looked like a real beauty – and certainly a burger more toothsome than I one I wrote about here.

Remi and his team from Happy Camper Pizza were busy, too.

I managed to grab a couple of courtesy slices of a very fine cheesy number adorned with figs, while Bennie and his mum Deb also enjoyed their selections.


Gloriously, Lauren’s splendid campaign to find us a coffee truck bore terrific fruit on the day before the picnic.

Christine and Kat from Wild Horse Cafe ensured us a duo of vintage caravans, and the ladies’ smiles were wide and their natures gregarious.

Kat’s a Tullamarine lass so we laughed together in mutual appreciation of the lovely neighbourhood Sri Lanakan tucker of Spicy Corner and the industrial estate wonders of Pasta Al Dente and Eiffel Tower.

Their coffee was fantastic and much appreciated.


After the ceremonial aspects of our happy jamboree were dispensed with, the Xuan Banh Cuon family in turn presented Lauren and I with gorgeous, hand-made “diplomas of appreciation”.

This was quite overwhelming and we both teared up in the sheer happiness of the moment.

I plan on being buried with mine!

Some time in the coming week, I’ll do a story about the three dishes and what I know of their back stories.

In the meantime, read Lauren’s lovely wrap in The Age.

A big “thank you” to Footscray Life for covering our costs in getting the awards produced and to Lauren’s sister, Liz, for the beautiful artwork.

And a special thanks to Nat Stockley for taking over the photographic duties with aplomb when I was otherwise occupied!














Happy Campers for the Westies



Happy Camper Pizza is the brainchild of Footscray couple Remi and Sonia.

Their operation is delivered in an outrageously gorgeous vintage Airstream caravan that Remi tells me was customised by US specialists before it was shipped to Australia.

Their official launch was at Post Industrial Design, very soon to be home of  Pod, as part of Big West opening night event.

Look, I know we recently stated that our enthusiasm for food truck had become more restrained.

But with the Happy Camper I’m prepared to be keener.

For starters, they’re the only truck doing vehicular pizzas in the west.

As you can see from a perusal of their website here, they’re preparing Italian-style pizzas at a cost that is actually below or at least comparable to what you’d pay in a restaurant or cafe.

And AFAIK they are the only food truck operating in the west that actually lives in the west.

I didn’t get to try their goodies on their opening night.

But I’m looking forward to trying them very soon – as we’re very excited to announce that the Happy Camper crew will be joining the celebration that will be the Footscray Food Blog/Consider The Sauce Spring Picnic and announcement and presentation of the inaugural Westies: Dishes Of Distinction awards.

They will be joined by the fine folks from Mr Burger.

And there may well be other trucks in attendance, as the picnic site is directly adjacent to what has become Yarraville’s “food truck strip”.

But of course, this IS a picnic, so you’re all very welcome to BYO.

Footscray Food Blog/Consider The Sauce Spring Picnic,

Yarraville Gardens, Somerville Road.

Saturday, November 30, from 11am.

The Westies: Dishes of Distinction winners announced at noon.

Announcing … The Westies!



After more than three years and more than 600 posts, Consider The Sauce is just as excited as ever about the food of Melbourne’s western suburbs.

If anything, in fact, we’re even more amazed by our food riches and inspired by the people who produce them.

All that is true, too, for Lauren at Footscray Food Blog.

We’d like to think we’ve both played a role in helping to enhance the reputation of western suburbs food and the sense of community surrounding it.

But now we reckon it’s time to step things up a notch or two.

So in partnership with Footscray Food Blog, Consider The Sauce is excited to announce The Westies – the first food awards dedicated to Melbourne’s western suburbs.

The winners of the 2013 “Westies – Dishes of Distinction” will be announced at the annual Footscray Food Blog/Consider The Sauce Spring Picnic.

See you there!

We hope The Westies become a regular, yearly celebration of western suburbs food.

To further that aim, the awards will celebrate three dishes a year chosen by us as excellent representatives of westie food rather than the awards going to the eateries themselves.

The selection process will take into account taste, consistency, pricing, and a sense of uniqueness or tradition.  This year’s winners will be decided after countless emails, Facebook messages, dining-out sojourns and an epic knock-down bar-room brawl.

Eateries responsible for producing Westies winners will be ineligible for similar honours for the following three years.

Footscray Food Blog/Consider The Sauce Spring Picnic,

Yarraville Gardens, Somerville Road.

Saturday, November 30, from 11am.

The Westies – Dishes of Distinction winners announced at noon.