I am such a fan of Vietnamese food here in Melbourne. I was very surprised when a friend of mine who went over for an assignment in Vietnam came back and said food was total rubbish compared to the Vietnamese food you get in Melbourne! Vietnamese beef noodle (pho) is one of my all-time favourite dishes. I can eat it pretty much everyday and won’t get sick of it.
(Vietnamese spring rolls – cha gio)
The Age Cheap Eats guide and various websites rated Tien Dat in Box Hill quite highly and since I was in the area, I thought I might give it a go. I rocked up there at around 1.30pm on a Friday and it was absolutely packed. I managed to snag the last table (the waiter didn’t seem to thrilled with me. I assumed because there was only one of me and the table could have seated two?)
I felt like a bit of the good old Vietnamese noodle salad, so I ordered the Grilled Pork and Spring Roll Rice Vermicelli which isn’t really vermicelli at all. It bothers me slightly when the word vermicelli is used completely incorrectly but I digress. The noodles were of the thin rice variety which were served cold. The pork was ‘char-grilled’* and well flavoured with lemon grass. There was almost no need for dressing. I loved the crunchy bits of peanuts that were sprinkled on top of the pork. It was delicious. The spring rolls were freshly fried and piping hot. Nothing is worse than cold, chewy spring rolls! At first glance, I couldn’t see any salad – just a bit of pickled carrot and daikon (see the first picture) but once I dug into the noodles, the salad presented itself. The salad was made up of iceberg lettuce, beansprouts, Vietnamese min and mint. I love the fresh herbs used in Vietnamese food. This dish is definitely a must-try.
(Steamed Pancake Rolls with Prawns – Banh Cuon – $5.20 for 2)
I also ordered Steamed Pancake Rolls with Prawns (banh cuon) which was basically prawns in a bit of chilli and seasoning soy sauce wrapped in thin sheets of rice noodles. The rolls were served on top of blanched beansprouts and topped with crunch fried shallots. It was basically like the Chinese chee chong fun (the type you get for as a dim sum) but the filling was slightly spicy with that very distinct seasoning soy sauce overtone. It was served with fish sauce dressing rather than the soy sauce. The noodles were silky and soft and the fillings not at all what I expected. I was much impressed with it.
(a close up of the filling – not a very good one, mind)
Too much food for one person though. I almost died. The lady next to me said to her lunch partner ‘I’m so full!’, and this was when I was half way through my noodles, struggling, with my rice rolls untouched. She caught me rolling my eyes at the amount of food I had to go and started giggling. The tables were wayyyy too close together for my liking (about a foot) I have to say! The service was quick but passable. I had to ask twice for water everytime I was there but at least I got it eventually – which, to be honest, is adequate for a Vietnamese restaurant since my expectations were not high**.
Tien Dat, 3 Carrington Rd., Box Hill
* Vietnamese restaurant speak for ‘fried to the buggery’. In a very good way though.
** My favourite pho place in Springvale requires me to literally walk up to the counter and ask for water (again) and wait there until they give me one otherwise I wouldn’t get water. Why do I put up with it? Because it has the best pho in Melbourne!