I gave this post a lot of thought…I realise I may be in the minority thinking that Bankstown is an interesting destination, but hear me out! It actually is! This western Sydney suburb is a 30-45 minute drive from the CBD, but is well worth the drive. What makes ‘Banksy’ special is the Vietnamese population, and the Lebanese population, and how they’ve transformed this suburb into a cross section of life back home.
So on the first day of winter, my friend Lin, daughter Kinga and I jumped into the car, and headed off to ‘Saigon Place’ which is the south end of Chapel Road, a half a kilometre strip which may as well be in Vietnam! All the shop fronts are in Vietnamese; butchers, chemists, green grocers brimming with tropical fruits and herbs and other specialty stores. A few continental deli’s and butchers add to this mix. All around me I hear conversations, not in English, but in Vietnamese!
We’re on a mission, in search of a bowl of warming soup. Not the ubiquitous Pho (beef or chicken noodle soup) but the less famous, yet equally delicious Hu Tieu, a super savoury pork based broth with tapioca noodles, heavily garnished with celery herb leaf. Lin went for the original version, a combination of seafood and shaved pork, I went for straight up seafood. Kinga struggles a bit with the noodles, so she opted for a gingery, chicken congee. Washed down with hot tea, and Vietnamese lemonade; soda water, lemon juice and a heaped tablespoon of sugar that settles at the bottom and needs to be stirred between sips. Heaven.
We were spoilt for choice when it came to desert…there is the option of seasonal fresh fruit, (rambutans, dragon fruit, persimmon and pomelo, all of which the green grocers are happy to peel and chop up for you) or pandan waffles, green and coco-nutty hot off the waffles press, or a hot, strong, sweet Vietnamese coffee (though the coffee shop seemed to be the domain largely of older, smoking men!). We opted for pandan waffles, and enjoyed them sitting in the sun, watching the locals go about their business. Waffles scoffed, we had one last stop before heading home; the famous Lebanese El Bahsa Pastry shop. A bag of sugar almonds for Kinga, a kilo of mixed biscuits for Lin, and a slab of ashta for me. The ashta was a bit of a revelation, it’s milk that is boiled until it becomes thick like cream, crusted with semolina for crunch and texture, garnished with rose water syrup and pistachios…served warm, it’s comforting and very moreish!
A return trip is necessary, to further explore the Lebanese side of Bankstown…who would have thought that it warranted two trips, let alone one!
Do you have a secret food suburb? Please share!
We ate at:
Hu Tieu Thanh Van (for Hu Tieu soup)
327 Chapel Street
El Bahsa & Sons Sweets (for Lebanese pastries)
288 Chapel Road South
Huong Viet (for pandan waffles & sugar cane juice)
43 Bankstown City Plaza