Food Tour Hai Phong is a restaurant on Canterbury Road that specialises in Northern Vietnamese cuisine. If you love your food less spicy with more noodles and soups and want to try dishes from Hai Phong then you'll want to visit here!
Hai Phong is an area in Northeastern Vietnamese where the food is a mixture of Vietnamese cuisine, Chinese cuisine and French cuisine. There is a lot of fresh seafood used here with a lot of rice noodle based dishes rather than rice dishes. Hai Phong food tends to have less spices to let the natural flavour of food shine through and less spicy heat than Southern Vietnamese cuisine.
The first time we drove past Food Tour Hai Phong we were way on our way to Miss America's birthday dinner. There was a huge crowd outside and balloons and decorations. It also just happened to be their opening night so the crowd caught our eye. And at that time googling the name "Food Tour Hai Phong" just brought up a lot of tours of Hai Phong in Vietnam. It's a few weeks later when we find a date for Miss America, Queen Viv and Mr NQN and I to check it out.
The décor is simple with white walls and framed photos. Service is super sweet and lovely and we take a seat at our reserved table. The menu spans 4 small laminated pages with a section of signature dishes which is where our lovely waitress recommends that we pick from. Drinks wise there is Vietnamese coffee, coconut juice and some fresh fruit sodas. Prices are very reasonable with most dishes around the $19-$20 mark.
I start with a soda - lychee for Mr NQN and Miss America or passion fruit for me. The lychee is nice but the passion fruit has a stronger flavour and is definitely the pick of the two.
We start with a couple of their breadsticks or banh mi. Each mini baguette is crisp and served warm and spread with pâté and their signature hot sauce or chí chương (made with chilli, tomato and garlic) to dip in.
Our dishes arrive around the same time and we are sharing everything so they bring us little bowls. The first item is everyone's favourite. The bun cha are lemongrass pork meatballs and grilled pork slices served with a tangle of vermicelli, salad and herbs. I grab a soft lettuce leaf and place some vermicelli on it and half a meatball. It's absolutely delicious with a surprisingly sweet but tasty sauce. The slices of pork are even better and melt in the mouth. They explain that they grill the pork on charcoal in the morning to give it a char and it really elevates it.
The next dish is a stir fried vermicelli with soft shell crab on top. The crab is wonderfully crispy and moreish while the noodles have a good amount of julienned vegetables like mushroom and carrot in them along with crunchy peanuts.
The next dish is said to be their signature dish. Bánh đa cua is a specialty of Hai Phong and quite unusual to find here in Sydney. It is thick rice noodles served with crab meat. There isn't a lot of crab meat in this but it's a tasty dish with lots of additions in it from mince wrapped in betel leaf "sausages", chả lụa sausage, pork balls, tofu and red rice noodles (banh da). These rice noodles are actually more brown in colour and are given their colour from a dark caramel used made with brown sugar.
The other dish that we order is the spicy fish soup with pieces of fried fish on top. This dish uses thin rice noodles, a lightly spicy sauce and plenty of fresh dill on top with some pork slices as well. This is Mr NQN's favourite and he slurps up the soup and the slippery noodles.
There's only one dessert available - panna cotta but in a few different flavours (mango, passion fruit and strawberry) and we decide to share a passion fruit and mango panna cotta. It is made by the waitress which she tells us proudly smiling. The panna cotta is served in cups and is quite a firm panna cotta probably more flan-like in texture. They're both nice although the passion fruit is the pick of the two as the mango is syrupy sweet while the passion fruit straddles sweet and tart.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever been to Hai Phong or Vietnam?
This meal was independently paid for.
Food Tour Hai Phong Restaurant
169 Canterbury Rd, Canterbury NSW 2193
Open 7 days 11am-9pm
Phone: 0434 706 995