Wandering around Cabramatta, a suburb 30 kilometers southwest of Sydney, the streets are vibrantly populated with restaurants, grocers, bakeries and miscellaneous small businesses that make you feel as though you’ve been transported away to a bustling town in Vietnam. There’s a vibrant, potent sense of energy in the air with packed parking lots, long restaurant queues and busy walkways, a place where Vietnamese can still be considered the dominant language for many of its inhabitants.
In 1973, Australia abolished its White Australia Policy, opening up the possibility for non-Europeans to migrate. Cabramatta had acted as the migrant transition hub for Europeans who arrived post-WWII and it would do so again for the Vietnamese immigrants after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Due to its low accommodation prices and proximity to the manufacturing sectors, Cabramatta and its surrounding suburbs were the ideal areas for these migrants to settle.
A Vietnamese migrant community grew in Cabramatta as relatives and new migrants consistently crossed over. Over the years, the Vietnamese population would continue to grow with relatives and new migrants coming into Cabramatta. Here, they would enter a society that created semblances of familiarity and safety for those who had suffered the trauma of war. After the collapse of the manufacturing industries in the 1980s, many families would venture into opening up their own businesses consisting of bakeries, butchers, cafes, restaurants and ventures.
On the food frontier, Cabramatta stands tall as one of Sydney’s premier hubs for Southeast and East Asian dining. In Little Saigon, the neighborhood has become more eclectic in modern times featuring Taiwanese bubble tea stores, Japanese and Korean BBQ restaurants. For travelers and locals alike, Cabramatta is considered a mecca for Vietnamese food. Vietnamese bakeries are famous for their pork rolls, steamed buns and pandan waffles. Small businesses in alleyways and makeshift stands along the streets sell a variety of savory and sweet Vietnamese street foods.
On warmer days, travelers and locals queue up to buy freshly squeezed sugarcane juice and visit Vietnamese cafes to devour their favorite chè. Grocers and fruit stores pack their shelves with exotic herbs, spices and fruits common cannot be found anywhere else. BKK Shopping Centre is home to an international food court boasting a plethora of Southeast Asian cuisines.
Ready to get started? Here’s our guide to some of Sydney’s best Vietnamese restaurants.
Tan Viet Noodle House
Tan Viet is synonymous with their famous crispy chicken skin. This succulent piece of chicken Maryland has achieved legendary status. Though there are now various locations around Sydney, it’s in Cabramatta where this restaurant first started its humble beginnings in 1993. You may encounter a long line especially during lunch and dinner hours, however, rest assured your patience is well worth it. Pair the crispy-skin chicken with their famous egg noodles or tomato rice.
Named for the famous Vietnamese island destination, Phu Quoc’s famous blue sign is a sight for sore eyes for any traveler craving fresh and tasty Vietnamese meals. With long queues common at lunch and dinner time, Phu Quoc is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after restaurants in Cabramatta. Try their most famous dish, bánh hỏi chạo tôm (sugarcane prawn with rice vermicelli). If you’re after more variety, order the bánh hỏi dặc biệt that comes with the sugarcane prawn, spring roll and grilled meats. If there isn’t enough color only our table from the food, have the chè ba màu (3 color bean drink) as a drink or a dessert afterward.
Yum Cha is a ritual in which you gather with loved ones, eat delicious dumplings and drink tea. With their famous array of dumplings, which includes salivating siu mai and much-discussed chicken feet, Vinh Phat is an ideal spot for all of your Yum Cha needs. Opening its doors in 1985, Vinh Phat has been the go-to location for high-quality Chinese/Vietnamese cuisine. Arrive here on a weekend and witness a line that stretches as far as the eye can see. The price for such delicious dim sims is well worth it!
Menus plastered on walls and homey decor, Pho 54 welcomes hungry travelers with their classic charm and aromatic bowls of phở. Tradition, reliability and fast execution are the key factors here and you taste that with every sip of broth. If the weather is cold and your soul yearns for phở, order yourself a bowl of phở dặc biệt (phở with combination beef parts).
Tuong Lai is your typical “hole in the wall” spot that is low-frills but absolutely sophisticated and delicious. Similar to Pho 54, this diner boasts a classic interior (with menus on the wall) and fast turnarounds on dishes. Come here for the cơm tấm dặc biệt (combination broken rice) that comes with a delicious piece of roasted pork chop, shredded pork skin, meatloaf and a fried egg. Add your fish sauce dressing and mix the plate together for an unforgettable lunch experience.
A haven for vegetarians, An Nhien serves up vegan dishes so tasty it’s capable of convincing meat-lovers that the alternative is not that bad. One of many vegan restaurants in Cabramatta, the highly popular An Nhien serves a variety of Vietnamese classic and modern dishes without any animal-based produce. Dine-in or takeaway boxes that fly out of its kitchen. Whatever you choose, don’t walk past this place without trying their famous vegetarian bún riêu.
A rare non-Vietnamese gem, Battambang has been devoted to making the Khmer presence well known to the locals with their dazzling array of Cambodian dishes. One of the most sought-after dishes is their Phnom Penh egg noodles which come with an array of condiments such as pork, prawn and bloody jelly. Being one of the rare Cambodian restaurants in Sydney, Battambang stands tall in delivering quality dishes.
The Hot Bread Shop
Whether you’re after freshly baked Vietnamese baguettes or you’re craving a pork roll, the Hot Bread Shop in Cabramatta has been serving locals for over three decades. Highly regarded for their rolls, come here to try their pork roll or their famous chicken roll. Whichever one you choose, you’re guaranteed to leave satisfied and with a smile on your face.
Viet Hoa Hot Bread Shop
Open 24/7, the bakers at Viet Hoa Bread Shop works tirelessly around the clock to feed its hungry patrons for over three decades. Arrive here at all times of the day or night to feast on their various bánh mì, steamed buns, coconut pandan waffles. In need of a drink? You can grab a cup of their sugarcane juice to wash all that food down.
You’ll find it challenging to find anyone who has not heard of Café Nhớ. From Vietnamese iced coffees to gelatos or fruit shakes, this cafe is the one-stop shop for Vietnamese drinks and desserts. Unsure of what to try? Their famous Vietnamese Iced Coffee and Mixed Fruit Cocktail are not a bad place to start! The mixed fruit cocktail is a summer delight featuring an assortment of diced fruits, jellies and mixed with condensed milk. Add durian if you’re feeling extra adventurous!