Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bankstown Bites Food Festival

Saigon Place
Lorenza and I lived in Bankstown before we were married (wow – seems like yesterday). When we heard about “Bankstown Bites” the Bankstown City Council’s food festival we thought we would take a look and see what has changed.

When we moved from Bankstown being adventurous with food in western Sydney was a beef and black bean dish at the local Chinese. Things sure have changed in 20 years or so.

Wide range of foods

The food festival itself was in a small park not far from the station. There was a number of interesting food stalls, with offerings ranging from Middle Eastern to South East Asian cuisines. The Bankstown Arts Centre was also open and you could see demonstrations by local artists and take part in workshops. They also had examples of their work on sale.

When we first arrived we were starving so we headed direct to the gourmet gozleme stall. This was a great starter.

Loved her Pad Thai

Green Papaya, Crab & Sticky Rice

Then we saw the lady at the Thai food stall making green papaya salad - we just had to have some! She put together a spicy, sweet and sour salad for us, plus added some tiny crabs to the mix as well. We also ordered sticky rice with banana from the same stall.

We shared a small table in the park with a friendly Vietnamese guy and his young daughter. She was devouring a great looking Pad Thai and only paused for introductions and a cute smile. He told us his life story while we had our salad.

making our papaya salad
The papaya salad was great. The tiny little crabs were so salty they really added a lot to the dish. You quickly suck the tiny bit of flesh from them, get a zap of salt and discard the shells.

 A Short Stroll to Saigon

One of the highlights of the festival was the short food tours run by the council. The themed tours included the “Fresh Food & Spice Extravaganza”, “Cocktail of Delights”, “Tasty Treats from the Middle East” and a “Taste of Asia”. Plus, the tour we managed to get tickets for a “Short Stroll to Saigon”. The tours were very popular, we called and booked a few days in advance and they had almost booked out.

Our three stops on the tour were:

Pho Vietnamese Cuisine – a restaurant specialising in North Vietnamese dishes (funny it is now in Bankstown’s little “Saigon”). They served up some great examples of traditional food from the north – deep fried spring rolls, fresh beef rice paper rolls (these were fantastic) and crispy chicken. The owners were very friendly and explained which sauces went with what dish, etc.

Pho Vietnamese Cusine
Very tasty dishes and because it is from the north of Vietnam the flavours of the sauces are just a bit different from the southern Vietnamese food we are used to when we visit Cabramatta.

Very friendly people and great food - find them at Shop 15/256 Chapel Rd, Bankstown Ph: 9708 6661.

Banh Mi Bo Ko
Phat Dat Restaurant – specialise in fresh noodle soup, ranging from seafood to spicy beef. They claim to have the best Vietnamese fish sauce in town. The owner greeted us and we soon found he has a great personality for the front of house. At first we thought the owners name was Dat but he did not look too Phat (sorry bad joke).

The place has only been open five months and from what we sampled we hope it lives up to its name which we found translates to “good fortune”.

They served us samples (and they were huge samples) of Pho with pork balls, crispy chicken, spring rolls and then a bonus beef stew which was absolutely delicious. The stew was called “Banh Mi Bo Ko” – it is number 7 on the menu board and well worth a try.

The service was fast and friendly, the prices looked great and the flavours were too. You can find Phat Dat at 303 Chapel Rd, Bankstown Ph: 9790 6401.

Nature Care & Acupuncture Centre – was the last stop on our tour. They sell an endless array of Chinese herbs, tonics, teas and balms. They gave us samples of some teas – some promised to improve our eyesight and sexual function, others to help the flow of Qi and limit belching, while others were claimed to be able to improve thinking and the resistance to infections. They also have an acupuncture clinic.

Herbal shop
I must admit that I have often peeked inside stores like this but felt a bit too daunted to enter because of the huge array of herbs and things that I have no idea about. The owner helped us understand the many uses of the herbs and teas. They were also very happy to do some quick consultations about what would best help relieve various symptoms of our fellow tour participants.

On the owner’s recommendation Lorenza bought some dried chrysanthemum and dried roses to make tea with, which he said would settle her stomach and aid digestion. Interestingly, the English brand name of the dried roses is “Rural Amorous Feelings” so I must take Lorenza for a country drive soon I think.

We spotted a big jar containing …. Mmmm something? And found out it was sea cucumbers – I grilled the owners wife on what they are used for but did not fully understand the answer.

Rural Amorous Feelings?


$5 - what can you get for $5?

The tour went for about 1 hour was cost $5 – yes $5 – what can you get for $5 dollars these days? Some great food and an interesting walk in Bankstown that’s what! Thanks to Bankstown Council and the restaurant owners and herbal shop for helping us enjoy ourselves so much. Our other tour participants were also very happy and friendly making it a lot of fun.

Frank & Tomoko cooking classes soon

Japanese cooking classes

One of our intrepid fellow tourists, Tomoko told us she is planning some Japanese cooking classes in the near future in Balmain so stay tuned for some info on that. She already runs Japanese caligraphy classes so why not some cooking as well!



Sweets & Coffee

To finish our day we had a coffee and some sweets at Chehade El Bahsa & Sons Sweets shop at 288 Chapel Road South. Great coffee and an amazing array of biscuits, pastries and sweets. We have been told that next time we should try the sweet, soft cheese.

Checkers in the park

From the sweet shop we walked to the other side of the rail line, on our way we came across a few groups of Vietnamese folks playing cards and a kind of checkers in a small park. The concentration on the games was intense and I have a feeling there was a lot riding on some of the card games. Looked like fun to me!

See you there next year!

a box of Slivovice anyone?

In 22 years Bankstown has changed a lot – the best it used to offer was Chinese or the roast at the local RSL, now it is like a trip around the world with no passport or visa required.

One thing that has not changed is that Bankstown Cellars are still in the same spot and for a small shop they offer a really interesting range of Greek, Croatian, Russian and a myriad other offerings of wines and spirits from around the globe. We stopped there just before leaving and grabbed a jar of Marrons in liquor for a future dessert.


  1. Hey nice meeting you on Saturday. Was well worth the $5. Sharon Philippa

  2. Hi Rob
    We met Saturday. We were the couple from New Zealand who sat at the first restaurant with you. Really like your blog. not just the food stuff but the other as well. Your work with Tong is wonderful.
    Keep writing.
    Perhaps we can have Lao food sometime.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Good idea lets meet for Lao food!!!