While there are many Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney, the suburb of Cabramatta is their heartland. Come here for authentic, delicious Vietnamese food.
But that’s not all. Local supermarkets stock every ingredient you need to cook these meals at home. And Cabramatta is widely known for its chock-a-block and keenly priced fabric shops if you like to sew. If that’s not you, then find bargains aplenty in readymades.
Cabramatta is about 30 kms south-west of Sydney centre. About an hour away by train. Organised tours from the city to Cabramatta are mainly food and shopping related. They’re fun, with specialist know-how taking you into some of the less known nooks and crannies.
But you can also go it alone and have an equally great experience. Take advantage of Cabramatta’s relatively small area. Much of it is pedestrian malls, it’s easy to walk around and it is hard to go wrong no matter which restaurant or take away food stall you frequent.
Vietnamese Restaurants in Sydney
We were there for brunch, as you’ll guess from the top photo. So we opted for a traditional Vietnamese pancake, which came with super fresh bean sprouts, greens and herbs on the side.
Congee, of course – a choice of fish, seafood, chicken or duck. We decided on fish. If you’re unfamiliar with congee it’s a rice-based porridge eaten throughout south-east Asia. It’s delicious all by itself and there’s always lovely little bits you can add to personalise it. So if you prefer hot, or sour, or sweet or salty it’s there for you to add in.
And it’s hard to go to any of the Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney without at least one bowl of pho coming to the table. So there we were, happy eaters.
We’d been thinking about a pork roll down the track, but just couldn’t fit it in. We did manage a Vietnamese coffee each – that’s the one with condensed milk. If you know those kopiko sweets, you’ll get a sense of how it tastes.
Cabramatta has an interesting history. As you walk around the streets you’ll come across a wall which tells its story.
Long before Europeans arrived, the Cabramatta area was the home of the Cabrogal people of the Darug nation. White settlement began relatively early after the arrival of the first fleet in 1788 and by 1814 the small village of Cabramatta served the surrounding agricultural district. In the 20th century, the building of a migrant hostel in Cabramatta meant that many of post-war European immigrants who came through the hostel later settled in the surrounding area.
In connection with the Vietnam war, a second wave of migration in the 1960s and 1970s transformed Cabramatta into a thriving Asian community. Along with Vietnamese, many Chinese and Thai people settled in the area. While migration from these areas has now declined, the south-east Asian culture has been maintained and the the town remains known as having the best place number and quality of Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney.
Gough Whitlam and Cabramatta
Australia’s 21st prime minister, Gough Whitlam, served for 26 years as the member for Werriwa, which includes Cabramatta within its boundaries. In 1957 he moved his young family to Cabramatta to live in the electorate. Both he and his wife, Margaret, were very active in the community. Many of Gough’s community contributions are remembered on the wall.
Food, of course, food on every street and alleyway. Prepared, eat-in, take away, raw ingredients, exotic and mundane.
But also jewellery – gold and jade, especially, feature in many a shop window.
And then there’s fabric. Miles and miles of it. Spilling out of shop doorways and into the streets.
Bargain basement? Tick. Bridal? Tick. Knits? Of course. Natural fabrics? Naturally. Specials? Everywhere.
For those that don’t sew, or don’t have a dressmaker, lots of ready-to-wear of the sort you’d find in Asian markets. Most of it fun, colourful and cheap. Lots for children as well as adults.
Beauty isn’t neglected either. Not as prevalent as clothing, but not insignificant.
Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Sydney
So what are Cabramatta’s best Vietnamese restaurants?
My advice to you is not to get too hung up on this idea of ‘best’. Sydney’s dining-out community is notoriously fickle and what’s in and out changes with lightning speed. That said, competition in Cabramatta is fierce and sub-standard offerings won’t last.
One tried and tested strategy is checking to see who has a queue outside. Join it. It will almost certainly move quickly.
Another is to get a sense of who’s eating inside. Do they look like locals? Family groups perhaps, or friends meeting over a bite or a drink? Good. Go in. Large European groups and not much else? Avoid.
Or go to more than one restaurant. Have a moveable feast. You won’t be the only ones doing it.
Order a small selection, go wander around for a while, try another restaurant for another small selection. Keep doing that until you’ve had enough. It’s a great way of tasting different approaches, it’s fun and it’s very low risk. And you’ll certainly find plenty to discuss as you compare your impressions.
Vietnamese Restaurants in Sydney Centre
If you can’t make it to Cabramatta, but still want Vietnamese food, you could go to Spice Alley for a selection of hawker-style stalls that include Vietnamese.