Yen’s Vietnamese Restaurant

This is the culmination of two dinners with the girls from work. The venue was a small, local restaurant at Redfern a short stroll from the train station. Its street frontage was a bit run down and uninviting, and almost blink and you miss it because it’s not an entrance which would make you stop and pay attention. But looks are so deceptive! Although the interior was also slightly down-trodden, this unassuming gateway is the open sesame to clean, wholesome food with a home-cooked feel at a very reasonable price.

We were led here by one of my colleagues, who is a regular and says sometimes they have to line up to get a seat. On both occasions, although we did not have to queue, I noticed there was a continuous stream of people coming and going, whether they were eating in or taking away.

We missed this the first time we came, and almost forgot to order this the second time round too. So I think I’d better put this at the fore of my post: they sell fresh coconut water (in the actual coconut) here! I don’t recall seeing it on the menu, but it’s in the fridge at the back of the restaurant, near the counter. I love the drinking the water straight out of the kernel and scrapping the sides for the meat – it’s like nature’s bubble tea and it’s super healthy too!

The offering here is actually quite typical for a Vietnamese restaurant. They do a bit of everything, from pho, vermicelli salad, stir noodles, stir fries, rice etc. Coming from our personal experiences, they are happy to accommodate for your personal likes and dislikes. Being a bunch of weight-conscious girls, this meant a lot of orders caveated with “less noodles, more vegetables”.

We ordered entrees to share and mains to ourselves.

Goi cuon - chicken and prawn rice paper rolls
Goi cuon – chicken and prawn rice paper rolls – were very fresh and minty
Banh khot - mini chicken and prawn cakes
Banh khot – mini chicken and prawn cakes
These were good. These were a revelation! The ‘cake’ part at the bottom has a creamy, almost custard-like texture. Freshly out of the frying pan, they taste extra good wrapped up in lettuce and mint leaves and dipped in nouc cham (the omnipresent Viet dipping sauce). The contrast of the temperatures and textures and flavours create an ultimate combination.
Banh Xeo  Pork mince, prawns and bean sprouts wrapped inside a thin pancake that is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Served with the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce, it's an explosion of flavours and textures. Note: Although listed under entree, it's half the size of my face and could serve as a main.
Banh Xeo
Pork mince, prawns and bean sprouts wrapped inside a thin pancake that is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Served with nouc cham, it’s an explosion of flavours and textures.
Note: Although listed under entree, it’s half the size of my face and could serve as a main.
Thit Heo Kho (Traditional Pork Claypot) Thit heo kho is pork stewed in soy sauce, fish sauce, coconut water and sugar. Based on my understanding, I expected it to be quite similar to a Chinese red braise and I was quite excited to taste the Viet version.  Although the flavour was quite good and I enjoyed my dish, I also feel that it could be made better and more sophisticated. Firstly it was sizzling when it was brought out, Akin to those sizzling plates at Chinese takeaways. Secondly, they used sliced pork belly, rather than cubes/chunks of pork belly. This changed the texture of the dish, and I'm not sure if it's the right decision,. because coupled with the presentation, it's difficult to differentiate and elevate itself from the sizzling sweet and sour pork available at any food court.
Thit Heo Kho (Traditional Pork Claypot)
Thit heo kho is pork stewed in soy sauce, fish sauce, coconut water and sugar. Based on my understanding, I expected it to be quite similar to a Chinese red braise and I was quite excited to taste the Viet version.
Let me say first that I enjoyed this dish immensely. But I do feel that it could be made better and more sophisticated.
Firstly it was sizzling when it was brought out, Akin to those sizzling plates at Chinese takeaways. Secondly, they used sliced pork belly, rather than cubes/chunks of pork belly. This changed the texture of the dish, and I’m not sure if it’s the right decision,. because coupled with the presentation, it’s difficult to differentiate and elevate itself from the sizzling sweet and sour pork available at any food court.
Pho Rau Tofu - vegetable and tofu soup (it should come with rice noodles)
Pho Rau Tofu – vegetable and tofu soup (it should come with rice noodles)
Pho
Pho
I had a taste of the soup – although it was tasty, I felt it was a bit too unami for a real beef broth.
Bun Ga Nuong - lemongrass chicken with vermicelli This was my dish. I loved it! One of the better vermicelli salads I've had. I liked that it came with LOTS of peanuts, that meat was in plentiful supply and came with clean, fresh looking salad.
Bun Ga Nuong – lemongrass chicken with vermicelli
This was my dish. I loved it! One of the better vermicelli salads I’ve had. I liked that it came with LOTS of peanuts, that meat was in plentiful supply and came with clean, fresh looking salad.
Hu Tieu / Mi Xao Ga - chicken and vegetables with crispy egg noodles
Hu Tieu / Mi Xao Ga – chicken and vegetables with crispy egg noodles
Martha Stewart loved her dish, loved the sauce (oyster sauce) and wants to replicate it at home.

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