Huu Thanh

Food Court, Footscray Market, Irving St, Footscray

A little while ago, Kenny alerted me to the fact that taking photos in Footscray Market is not allowed, which of course makes me want to do it all the more. So after my naive documentation of T&T Takeaway, I’m wilfully flouting the rules and working my way around the food court. Next stop, Huu Thanh.

What I like about both T&T and Huu Thanh is that they’re completely unpretentious. But that might have something to do with the fact  they face onto a food court, and the strains of market vendors spruiking their wares (what IS that “baile-baile-baile” phrase they yell!? is it “buy lah, buy lah, buy lah”?). I love the way that you can sit in the front of the stall, and watch the people go about their shopping. It reminds me a little of the food stands at Tan Dinh market where I used to have lunch in Sai Gon.

Anyway, my cousin had told me that my uncle’s favourite pho joint was in the food court at Footscray Market. I think it’s T&T Takeaway. After all, that was the place that his wife suggested to my mother that we eat at, and well, Huu Thanh doesn’t have pho on the menu. Anyway, T&T Takeaway was full that morning, and I was in need of some soup noodle healing, after a(nother) big night out on the booze. So I went next door to Huu Thanh, and ordered the next best thing for a hangover, the bun bo Hue.

It was a little disappointing. There was a complete lack of pork knuckle, and the beef was a bit on the bland side. The whole bowl seemed to be dominated by a massive slice of cha lua, which is probably my least favourite thing in the dish. The broth, while flavoursome in a non-specific way – there’s definitely more to it than MSG, but what that is, is hard to say – lacked the lemongrass hit for which I love the Dong Ba version.

I will say this: it’s a steal of a lunch meal at $7.50. That’s one thing you’ll find about both Huu Thanh and T&T. The prices are just marginally cheaper than already cheap Vietnamese restaurants in the area.

Huu Thanh has quite an extensive menu (well, about 12 items) of Vietnamese soup noodles. I’ll be back, but next time I’m going to try something else. Hopefully their other noodle soups are better. I’m thinking mi Quang might be the new bun bo Hue this year…

Sekai Japanese Ramen

Shop 194, 81 Hopkins St (Footscray Market ), Footscray
Phone: 9687 1088

A while ago, I dislocated my big toe playing soccer. Yeah, I know, gross; not the way to start off a post about ramen. But you should know that on the day I went finally got down to Sekai Japanese Ramen, in the Footscray Market, I had swung down Hopkins Street on crutches, because despite sporting injuries, recipe testing for the Melbourne Foodblogger’s Dinner had to go on, and I needed more pork belly (and Penny needed more ox tongue).

So I figured since I had to endure the indignity of traipsing through the market on crutches, with one foot in a half-cast and a backpack full of meat, I at least deserved a decent lunch beforehand. I’d been meaning to visit Sekai ever since Lauren wrote about it not long after I moved to Footscray. Having good options for both pho and ramen within walking distance of my new home? Surely life couldn’t be that good…

… sadly life isn’t quite that good. While Sekai produces a passable effort, it’s far from what I would call good. On this occasion, I tried the Sekai Ramen, with the shoyu (soy) based broth. I’m not going to go into detail about the Chinese-owned Japanese restaurant issue, but Sekai is clearly Chinese run.

The first thing the bothered me about this bowl was the seafood extender. Yes, they might be of Japanese origin, but I don’t like them. The second thing was the rather obviously over-cooked egg. I don’t expect a gooey egg – it’s a bonus if it appears – but grey yolk edges are a clear sign this egg has been waaay over-cooked. The only saving grace was that it’s a tea egg.
The broth was a little bland, and there was little complexity in flavour beyond the soy itself. The chashu was similarly uninspiring. Lacking in fat content, and nowhere near tender enough.
I was hoping that the ramen noodles would be the saving grace, but even before I bit into them, I knew all hope was lost. They were too soft, and lacked any real toothsome quality.

All in all, if you’re hankering for a soup noodle in Footscray, you’d be wasting your time with Sekai Japanese Ramen. I’m hereby expanding the theory of proximal pho to the theory of proximal soup noodles. Mediocre just isn’t good enough in Footscray.

Sekai Japanese Ramen on Urbanspoon

T&T Takeaway

Food Court, Footscray Market, Irving St, Footscray

After hauling my new washing machine 250 metres up Barkly St with my parents – they had parked the car in front of the wrong building, and unloaded the thing before letting me know they’d arrived – I wandered down to Footscray Market with them for some lunch and to do some grocery shopping.

Mum had a ‘hot tip’ from one of my aunts about a good place in the market to eat, so we sat down at one of the eateries in the food court. Interestingly T&T offers both Vietnamese and Filipino food. I’m not sure how that works with respect to the ‘authenticity’ stakes, but I imagine they might actually just be two proprietors sharing a kitchen space? Most of the Filipino stuff appeared to be pre-made, whereas a lot of the Vietnamese dishes on the board were made to order in the kitchen out the back.

Mum had the bun mang goi vit (apologies for the upside down photo) which came with the goi vit on the side.
Goi vit basically means duck salad.
I tried a little, and the bamboo wasn’t really up to scratch for me. It was neither pungently bamboo-ey nor was it braised in a tasty enough master stock. The duck was alright, but as it’s just braised/boiled, duck in this dish is never as stellar as a roast duck.

I ordered the bun mam, which is a rice vermicelli noodle soup made with fermented fish paste as the stock base. T&T’s bun mam broth was well balanced; strong without being overly fishy or salty. A squeeze of lemon helps to lift the flavour, which is otherwise quite intense. I thought i a little odd to be given chunks of roasted belly pork and large prawns, yet there was a lack of cha lua or any other processed pork. Still, when it arrived, the crackling on the pork was still crunchy, so I can’t complain too much!

Dad ordered the bun bo Hue. I sipped a little of his broth, and I have to say it was, well, weird. It was somehow sweet, and lacked the lemongrass,and even chilli characteristics that I associate with good bun bo Hue.
All in all, I think perhaps my aunt either chose better dishes, or just has different tastes to me. I wasn’t that impressed with T&T. There are better places in Footscray, also serving $8 bowls of noodle soup.