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With a number of us sporting cravings for banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake), and the non-existent consumption of Vietnamese food during Laiwah’s time in Japan, our second dinner took place at Thanh Tam in Richmond. While Susper and Pamooola usually frequent Dong Que in Footscray for their banh xeo fixes, Pamooola had recently paid a few visits to Thanh Tam with her family, and made the suggestion to go.
The restaurant setting.
Aside from the banh xeo, we were all in the mood for different dishes, and so after ordering a dish each, we ended up with a banquet-style feast on our hands.
Steamed rice paper roll, with prawn and pork (banh cuon tom thit).
The streamed rice rolls were paired with a multitude of ingredients that made the typically-stand alone rolls taste even better. There was a lovely contrast between the cooler veggies and slices of pork loaf (cha lua), and the warmer, cooked rice rolls and prawn cakes.
Fine rice vermicelli, with beef wrapped in betel leaf (banh hoi bo la lot).
I have only ever really eaten bo la lot on its own, served on a skewer and fresh off a BBQ grill. In this dish, it was served with rice vermicelli noodles, which made the dish more substantial. The savoury and grilled flavour of the beef and betel worked well with the noodles and the fresh veggies.
Vietnamese coleslaw, with rare beef (bo tai chanh).
The beef slices were gorgeously tender and succulent. The fish sauce-based dressing on the salad tasted sweet, and added to the savory sweetness from the pickled carrots, deep fried shallots and prawn crackers.
Bun bo hue.
The soup in the bun bo hue dish was very flavoursome, but lacked the prerequisite explosive spice factor. The soup was noticeably less red than usual, so my palate wasn’t very surprised by this discovery…
Congee, with chicken (chao ga).
I’m not a fan of congee since I associate it with confined-to-bed sick times, but I didn’t mind Thanh Tam’s chicken congee. The congee actually packed quite a bit of flavour, and the chicken wasn’t as dry as I thought. The shorter rice grains used gave rise to a silky smoothness in the congee’s texture.
Vietnamese pancake, with meat and prawn (benh xeo tom thit).
Plenty of lettuce and mint was supplied to go with that GIANT pancake.
Ahhhhhh, and now for the main event that we had all been looking forward to: the banh xeo. First thing to note: the size of that pancake was HUGE! Check out the size comparison to Susper’s hand.
The flavours were spot on, and the veggies in particular tasted super fresh. Despite using more batter to give that larger-than-average pancake size, they still managed to cook it well; the dish wasn’t soggy or mooshy, and the pancake possessed much crispiness. It’s not hard to see why Pamoooola recommended this restaurant!
Deep fried ice cream.
The deep fried ice cream was a real sweet treat. Underneath the deep fried, textured, crumbly batter was a rich, creamy vanilla ice cream. There was a coconut presence in the batter, which together with the berry syrup sauce, brought additional elements of sweetness that paired perfectly with the ice cream. With our taste buds blown away by the tastiness of this dessert, we all thought it was a shame that they had only one serving left… especially since it was shared between seven people…
Deep fried banana fritters, with vanilla ice cream.
On the other hand, they had plenty of banana fritters available. Unfortunately, the bananas paled far in comparison to the deep fried ice cream. That’s the way it seems to go, hey? The batter was quite floury, tasted heavy, and lacked texture. The banana underneath wasn’t bad, but wasn’t extraordinary, either. The ice cream was the best-tasting component on the plate, and the ice cream should never be the star of a banana fritter dish!
We encountered a few misses, but with mostly hits, a tasty banh xeo dish that gives you bang for your buck, and an AMAZING deep fried ice cream, a visit to Thanh Tam is highly recommended if you enjoy Vietnamese cuisine. I know I will be making a return visit sometime soon…
172 Victoria St,
Richmond, Victoria, 3121.
(03) 9429 8130