In today’s information age we know when things happen almost immediately but so often we don’t know or understand why. (Rear Vision, Radio National)
I was listening to a Rear Vision pod-cast the other day, on my way to work, about the history of asylum seekers in Australia and was reminded that Malcolm Fraser was a far sighted, compassionate and sophisticated leader in relation to this issue. It’s thanks to his governments (non-hysterical, unlike today) policies of accepting tens of thousands Vietnamese refugees into Australia in the 1970s, following the Vietnam war, and then allowing family reunifications that I can now scoot around the corner from home for authentic, aromatic, fresh, meaty but light Pho Bo and come away with change in my pocket from $10.
So, I live in little Vietnam and am much the richer for it. The most obvious and visible sign of our multicultural area is a mecca of Vietanamese restaurants, grocers and cold meat roll hole-in-the-wall places just around the corner from where I live. Hanson Road (how ironic, right?) is the main drag through our suburb and surrounds that is home to at least four Asian grocers, six or seven Vietnamese restaurants and a couple of cold-meat-roll lunch stops. And that doesn’t take account of those tucked into the backstreets or in the suburbs nearby.
The grocers are open every day (Wednesday is dead zone day for the restaurants – there’s some unspoken rule that they are almost all closed on this day) and both grocers and restaurants are open until roughly 7pm although closing times can be a bit idiosyncratic. This might seem a tad early to make it for dinner but it’s perfect for a quick dinner after work (especially if you have a little one to get to bed). We have also often gathered at our favourite restaurant – Pho Ba Ria 2 – as an easy way to catch up for a cheap, delicious, early Sunday evening nosh with a few friends who live nearby.
Take-away from Pho Ba Ria 2 has also become the preferred option for dinner on Monday nights when my parents bring Lola (my little one) back from her day in the Barossa at their place, and I’ve been at work all day. Sometimes I cook for them (if I’ve been organised and cooked ahead) but I’ve realised that they really look forward to the Pho Baria night. Although they are blessed with fine wines and great restaurants in the Barossa Valley there is a serious dearth of good take-away and absolutely no Asian food in about a 60km radius.
The first time we went to Pho Baria 2 the owner/manager/waitress Leiu (not sure I’ve spelled this right even though she’s told me several times!) took us in hand and helped us order, telling us with justifiable pride about her beef stock – cooked for 48 hours with lots of star anise and cinnamon. And it is to die for. If you eat in, you get a little bowl of this stock to sip with most of the dishes and this alone is enough reason to go there.
Pho Bo is their specialty (the beef broth is joined by fresh flat rice noodles; very thinly cooked slices of beef plus raw slices to cook in the broth on serving; and then topped off by the customer at the table with bean sprouts, coriander, basil, sliced birds eye chillies, chilli and hoisin sauce and a wedge of lemon to squeeze over).
Our current favourite Pho Baria 2 dishes go like this:
Elvin – toss up between two dishes. The first is the Broken Rice Combination which is a pork celebration – crumbed pork chop, roast pork belly, pork omelette and pork strip skin topped with a fried egg. A little bowl of sweet/hot dressing is provided to pour over the lot.
Evin’s other fave is the hot and Spicy Pork and Beef Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue) which includes a kind of Vietnamese pork fritz laced with what tastes like fragrant laksa mint, and as the name suggests, is pretty hot and very flavoursome.
Mum (Jeanette) -Stir-fried Beef with Vermicelli Noodles: thin strips of beef marinated in a very tasty spice mix then stir-fried and served with vermicelli noodles, thinly sliced cucumber and shredded lettuce; topped off by pouring over a sweet/sour/hot dressing – possibly a mild nuoc mam?.
Dad (George) - Rice with Chilli Lemongrass (with chicken – you can also have it with beef or seafood). Quite a hot dish and very addictive!
Lola – special fried rice (athough tonight she shared my Pho Bo and really got stuck into the noodles).
Me – all of the above (what can I say, I’m a piggy) but I always come back to the Pho Bo with fresh rice noodles.
It’s shameful that in 10 years of living in the North Western suburbs of Adelaide we’ve only tried about three or four of the other Pho places but this one is so damned good that I can’t tear myself away. I’ve read a number of reviews that say they are all pretty authentic (with varying specialty dishes) so I really should. Perhaps I will now that I’ve written it down.
What’s your favourite ‘go-to’ place for cheap and tasty?
You can vote for Pho Ba Ria 2 on Urbanspoon