SIFF Cabramatta Allsorts Barbeque and all sorts of anniversaries

by Forager on October 9, 2010

Last Saturday the vibrant city of Cabramatta in Sydney’s western suburbs hosted a barbeque as part of the CRAVE Sydney International Food Festival (SIFF). The Cabramatta Allsorts Barbeque in Freedom Plaza was covered by Simon Marnie’s 702AM ABC Weekends show and I had the good fortune to be asked to be interviewed on the show along with Helen from Grab Your Fork and Simon from Simon Food Favourites.

The 702AM coverage of the event started at the sprightly early hour of 8:30am in Cabramatta. Having grown up a few suburbs away, and still maintaining a healthy habit of returning to Cabramatta for either a meal or the fresh produce every other weekend, I was well aware that the locals take their events and festivities very seriously. Parking was going to be scarce.

I arrived early, well before my estimated on-air time, parked far enough away to be in the next suburb and even then, but when I got there, crowds were already bustling around Freedom Plaza. Dark, pregnant clouds threatened to spoil the fun so a large, sturdy marquee had been set up in the middle of Freedom Plaza and it was not long before I spotted Simon Marnie already hard at work, casually flitting from person to person, the interviews calm and casual, the interchange between interviewees seamless, despite the chaos around him.

Simon Marnie

Simon Marnie interviewing guests

The Iron Chef restaurant supplies a whole suckling pig for the barbeque, which is displayed momentarily before being quickly scored and dismembered by deft gloved hands wielding heavy cleavers. Choice squares of crispy skin are salvaged and served to guests on soft Peking duck pancakes with a dollop of hoisin sauce. They were delicious, the crackling breaking with a satisfying crunch.

Suckling pig

Whole suckling pig being chopped up for the barbeque

I find the other bloggers and we watch as the barbecue display slowly comes together, the roast duck carved, mountains of bread rolls sliced and the bain-maries filled with delicious barbequed goods. The heavens open up and all around us water streams off the marquee but it doesn’t stop the enthusiastic crowds milling in for the barbeque and for Masterchef series 2 finalist Alvin Quah’s cooking demonstrations. The Allsorts Barbeque is designed to introduce out-of-towners to the delights hidden in Cabramatta as the curious locals were milling around to see Alvin and the other celebrities. I could see locals using shopping bags and trolleys like armed weapons to clear the way in front of them to get to the front of the barbeque display, only to look confused and wonder out loud why they’d want to buy barbequed goods here when they could get it at their favourite barbeque shop where they can inspect, choose and haggle to their heart’s content. Certainly, my parents who were in the area doing their weekly shopping were wondering that – they’d hoped for something different. They seemed to accept my explanation that we were trying to showcase Cabramatta, and surely enough, nestled amongst the locals in the crowds, visitors to Cabramatta were in abundance (easily identifiable as they don’t have that look of steely determination and bargain hunting purpose on their faces).

Allsorts bbq

Pieces of the Allsorts barbeque stand coming together

The boisterous Costa Georgiadis from Costa’s Garden Odyssey was a barrel of raw untamed energy and was clearly a fan of the barbecue.

Costa likes the bbq

The energetic Costa is a fan of the Allsorts barbeque

Simon completes his circuit of the plaza and returns to interview Alvin between his cooking demonstrations..

Simon interviews Alvin

Simon interviews Alvin between demonstrations

…And the food paparazzi know a photo opportunity when they see one and cameras are whipped out to snap the interview.

Food paparazzi

The food paparazzi snap into action

Then in a seamless transition, Simon Marnie is interviewing us on air and briefs us with the mission. He introduces the winning 702AM ABC SIFF blogger, Andrew Rose, and handing us twenty dollars each, instructs us to find and bring back a favourite dish that showcases Cabramatta, with a secondary task of passing on some food blogging tips to Andrew.

Twenty dollar mission

Off on my mission to find a delicious dish for twenty dollars

Twenty dollars is a lot to spend in Cabramatta. I’d toyed with a couple of options including the obvious choice of beef pho, or a snack favourite, the Vietnamese pork roll. But in the end I decided upon a dish of pork chop with broken rice and fried egg. It isn’t the most poetic of names, but it is a literal translation of the Vietnamese name for the dish. The choice of this dish was two-fold: the first, for convenience as the chaotic scene around me begged for an easy to handle dish and not something with potential for disaster like a brimming bowl of steaming noodles; and secondly, because this dish brings back fond memories of my teen years.

Some of my previous posts have mentioned my childhood aversion to rice. Relentless rice-pushing by my parents ensured that. It was through my best friend, L-bean and her introduction of Vietnamese cuisine to me in my early teen years that I came to slowly appreciate rice through the wonders of nuoc cham, that fragrant fish sauce based dipping sauce. Pork chop with broken rice and egg became a instant hit with me and I still get cravings for this dish (still not rice alone, but I can stomach rice when accompanying a pork chop).

The peculiarity of broken rice is interesting. As far as I can tell, broken rice is actually a cheaper grade of rice – it’s literally, the broken grains of rice that remain at the bottom of the rice barrel at harvest and was frequently eaten by poorer farmers and peasants. There are suggestions that the popularity of broken rice is fuelled in Western countries by those Vietnamese reminiscing their childhoods when food was more scarce. L-bean insists that broken rice is nuttier and more flavourful, starchier and holds sauces better than normal full grain rice but in a voice beyond her years bemoans that in recent years broken rice dishes are harder to find in Cabramatta as the additional effort required to filter the grit from broken rice is shunned in favour of the easier to handle full grain rice.

Personally, for me, it wasn’t the flavour – broken rice was novel and different enough for me to dissociate it with the normal long grain white rice my family traditionally eats and that was enough to get my vote. To get my pork chop broken rice dish, I headed to Bau Truong, known for their rice dishes and is very conveniently for me, just off Freedom Plaza.

Bau Truong

Off to Bau Truong to get my preferred pork chop broken rice

The restaurant was busy with its morning trade when I ordered the dish. I had expectations that it would be easy to have the dish presented on a proper, dine-in plate, with proper cutlery as opposed to take away bowls and cutlery once I explained I was part of the SIFF event, but I was wrong. It took a lengthy amount of convincing to persuade the restaurant owner to allow me to “borrow” her plate and cutlery for the event, with assurances and promises from me that I would not run off with their plate. Whilst they prepared the dish, I spied the barbeque grill behind a glass splatter pane where the pork chops were being char-grilled with mouth watering aromas wafting towards me. I asked politely whether I could take a photo of the grilling from behind the grease spattered glass. After a bit of consideration and personal scrutiny, the answer was a resounding “no”. Confused I tried to re-explain my intent and the answer this time was – “er, no, the boss isn’t here so I can’t make that decision”, all the while ignoring that the owner behind the till was in plain view.

Well, at least they make a tasty pork chop here. It’s herby and strong in garlic and lemongrass flavours, sweet, savoury from a soy marinade and smoky from the char grilling. It is best enjoyed by breaking the taut egg yolk up on the rice so that the rich yolk mixes with the rice, pour the nuoc cham dipping sauce on, mix it through with the fried spring onions and enjoy the rice between mouthfuls of juicy pork chop. The accompanying pickled radish and carrot provides a bit of texture and acidity to cut through the oily, rich components of the dish.

The 2 pork chops, fried egg and broken rice comes to a bargain $13.

Pork chop broken rice egg

Bau Truong's pork chop with broken rice and fried egg

Pork chop

The delicious herby marinated pork chop

I had intended to order a milk egg soda drink with my change – a curious creamy, fizzy drink made with egg yolks, condensed milk and soda, but considering I’d have my arms full ferrying this dish carefully back across the plaza, thought better against it.

But I needn’t have worried since the owner sent someone out with me to carry the precious plate to the marquee (I suspect to confirm I was actually with the SIFF event and to deter any rogue thoughts of me from running away with her plate and cutlery)!

Not long afterwards, I was joined by the other bloggers and we set up our dishes.

Setting up our dishes

Setting up our dishes ready for the show

Helen had chosen a good variety of drinks and snacks including 3 varieties of drinks – durian, avocado and sugar cane and cumquat juice; a Vietnamese pork roll filled with nem nuong and custard egg puff snacks.

Helen's choices

Helen's choices (clockwise from top left): durian shake, avocado shake, sugar cane and cumquat juice; custard filled egg puffs; nem nuong filled Vietnamese pork roll

There was my pork chop dish with the accompanying nuoc cham dipping sauce (in red) made typically using cooked fish sauce; sugar; lemon, lime or rice vinegar; pickled vegetables and chilli. There is also the ubiquitous serving of chicken broth with coriander and spring onions – again just to cut through the richness of the dish.

Pork chop dish

My choice of pork chop with broken rice and fried egg, accompanied with nuoc cham dipping sauce and a clear chicken broth

Simon Leong chose a dish of crispy chicken from the popular Tan Viet Noodle House which comes with a bowl of egg noodles, lettuce, herbs, nuoc cham and chicken broth.

Crispy chicken

Simon's choice of crispy chicken with noodles, nuoc cham and clear chicken broth

It isn’t long before Simon Marnie is amongst us again and interviewing us about our choices, the flavours and how to actually dissect and eat the dish. I switched onto autopilot so I can’t remember much of what I said but in retrospect realised I completely omitted the information about the broken rice. A minor face palm moment but nothing too disastrous was said by anyone and I think everyone was happy with their on-air performance.

But the show must go on and Simon is due to move on to the next segment and start wrapping up as a young timekeeper holding a clock designed for the visually impaired silently reminds us.

Timekeeper

A timekeeper helps keep the program on track

Costa takes this opportunity to channel Flavor Flav.

Costa channels Flavor Flav

Costa channels Flavor Flav

And of course, there are photos of the food bloggers too. Aside from Helen, Simon and myself, Simon Park of The Heart of Food and Thang Ngo of Noodlies also were there, Thang being interviewed earlier in the program about his popular pho contest. Many thanks to Thang also for providing two of the photos below.

A food blogger gathering at Cabramatta

A food blogger gathering (clockwise from top right): Simon Marnie interviews Helen of Grab Your Fork about her choices; Simon Leong of Simon's Food favourites and Thang Ngo of Noodlies share a chat; (from L to R) Simon Park of The Heart of Food, me, Andrew Rose the winning 702AM ABC SIFF food blogger and Simon Leong; a picture of me with my pork chop and broken rice. Last 2 photos courtesy of Thang Ngo.

If not saying anything career-limiting on air isn’t reason enough to celebrate, last weekend happened to be our 9th (!) anniversary and once I’d dutifully returned the plates and cutlery to Bau Truong, I hightailed it home from Cabramatta. Our 8th anniversary happened to be a rather memorable one, spent at 5000m+ on the salt flats in Bolivia, in a paper thin dorm room with 4 other men and suffering from altitude sickness and delirium.

For a tamer anniversary celebration, the Co-pilot and I spent the long weekend in our friend Mick’s peaceful country home amongst the bushland in Wollombi, in the Hunter region of NSW. Mick has spent the last decade building his prized country home from scratch and it is a world away from the busy vices of city life – with no TV, no internet, barely any mobile reception, water from a rain tank and power from a generator. It is a precious and rare thing indeed to find oneself gloriously unconnected from the digital world. And better yet to have sweeping views of the surrounding valley.

Wollombi views

Sweeping Wollombi valley views

There were cows roaming about on the property from neighbouring farms and every now and then shy wallabies would watch on from the sidelines.

Shy wallaby

A shy but curious wallaby looks on

We wandered down to the Wollombi markets to peruse through the offerings. I’d hoped it was a fresh food market, and though there were sausage sizzles, pies and pastries, chutneys and jams on offer, there wasn’t any fresh farm produce.

Sausage sizzle

A production line sausage sizzle

There was all manner of knick knacks, antiques, junk and tools being sold. It had everything but the kitchen sink.

Wollombi markets

Bits and bobs on sale at Wollombi markets

Oh my mistake, there’s the kitchen sink.

Kitchen sink

Everything including the kitchen sink

I did manage to score one find – a bonsai and a bargain at $20! Hopefully this one fares better than the other bonsais in my hands and actually survives for once.

Bonsai

My latest Bonsai experiment

The weather closes in and we settle down for a cold and windy weekend of rain. Just as well we have a fireplace to enjoy it!

Roaring fire

Moving cooking preparation to the lounge room to take advantage of the roaring fire

We made the most of the unseasonally, wintery cold weather and the Co-pilot made a delicious beef bourguignon. Perfect as I was feeling the cold and needed something warming.

Beef bourguignon

Beef bourguignon: browning the beef and bacon, frying the aromatics and slow cooking the luscious stew

As it turns out, I was feeling a bit more than the cold and was coming down with a throat and ear infection and have now lost my voice. It’s now 5 days and counting with barely more than a squeak out of me. The Co-pilot thinks I sound like a Dalek. I think I sound like that synthesized warbled noise they use for demons in bad Hollywood apocalyptic movies. At least I can be thankful it didn’t happen a week earlier when I was due to go on radio.

And the final celebration comes this weekend – it’s my little blog’s 2nd anniversary this weekend! Granted it wasn’t the most productive year as I took a long break from blogging when I migrated from old blog to new, but hopefully, the coming year is more productive, holds more unique adventures and definitely more travel!  Thanks for reading!

.

Featured addresses:

Bau Truong

Shop 10-12, 70 John Street, Cabramatta.

Tel: (+612)9727-4492

Bau Truong on Urbanspoon


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave B October 9, 2010 at 7:03 am

Wow, two years, congratulations! How many tens of thousands of words is that?

2 Christine @ peasforme October 10, 2010 at 9:48 am

Congratulations on your blog and relationship anniversaries!
Christine @ peasforme recently posted..Brasserie Bakery Cafe BanksmeadowMy Profile

3 Ellie (Almost Bourdain) October 11, 2010 at 8:58 am

Happy Blogoversary! What a great event! Looking forward to many great posts from you.
Ellie (Almost Bourdain) recently posted..Homemade Ferrero Rocher Chocolate Hazelnut BallsMy Profile

4 mademoiselle délicieuse October 11, 2010 at 10:10 am

Haha, I love how Asian retailers are innately cautious about photography and such things as you possibly running off with their plastic plate!

Congratulations on the radio interview, your annivesary with the Co-Pilot as well as the blog’s anniversary. Enjoy reading your recounts of food and travel, and I recently enjoyed a bit of time at Wollombi as well! So peaceful there and, with our busy society, love being cut-off from the rest of the world through its lack of free-to-air TV, internet and scattered mobile reception.
mademoiselle délicieuse recently posted..Spain meets Japan with Izakaya Dining- Japaz- 5 Oct 2010My Profile

5 Reemski October 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Happy anniversaries! Love reading of your amazing adventures both here and O/S..
Reemski recently posted..Marque Friday Prix FixeMy Profile

6 Conor @ HoldtheBeef October 11, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Wow, a lot has been happening! Congratulations on both anniversaries and for not embarrassing yourself with the interview 😉

I think my local Vietnamese restaurant is going to be getting some of my money tonight after having read this. Tummy is grumbling and it’s not even 6 yet :(
Conor @ HoldtheBeef recently posted..The King of Ice CreamMy Profile

7 Richard Elliot October 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

How good does the suckling pig look?!? I would have loved to try have tried some of that piggy.

I went to the branch of Bau Truong in Canley Heights on Friday night. Some really good Vietnamese food.
Richard Elliot recently posted..Restaurant Review- Café Mint- Surry HillsMy Profile

8 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella October 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Happy second blogsoversary! How does it feel? :) And your dish looks great!
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella recently posted..Win a Picnic for Two Worth 185 From The Sydney Picnic Co!My Profile

9 Trissa October 13, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Happy Blogiversary Trina! Two years already huh? Here’s hoping to bigger and better things for year 3 and hopefully no long breaks so we can continue to read your great posts!
Trissa recently posted..Finding Inspiration- Berry Tiramisu and a giveawayMy Profile

10 Sara (Belly Rumbles) October 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Happy anniversary and happy blogiversary!
Sara (Belly Rumbles) recently posted..Frozen Vs Homemade Mashed PotatoMy Profile

11 Forager November 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Hey Dave – at the rate and length that I write – millions of words probably! And probably millions more in dead brain cells..

Hey Christine – Thank you! Crazy how quickly time flies!

Hey Ellie – Thank you and yes – I look forward to keeping those posts churning out

Hey Mademoiselle delicieuse – I know! I didn’t really that I looked that untrustworthy or desperate to make off with a plate!

Hey Reemski – Thank you! And hopefully plenty more adventures – particularly the o/s ones to come.

Hey Conor – Thank you! Speaking of Vietnamese – I do do with one of those pork chop dishes right now too!

Hey Richard – I love the chicken and cabbage salad at the Canley Heights branch – and they make a decent bun bo hue there too.

Hey Lorraine – Eh – not too different from the first to be honest!

Hey Trissa – Hear hear! I hope there aren’t long breaks either! And to think it got so hard I almost gave up!

Hey Sara – Thank you thank you! :)

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