When we heard the final list of businesses opening in the new Darling Square precinct in Haymarket, one stuck out to us: Bau Truong. The other announcements were predominately casual openings from lauded chefs, including beloved dessert man Andy Bowdy with Saga Lyte and Kerby Craig with his Japanese pasta eatery, Pasta Wafu, along with a new concept from the Devon team and the second Hello Auntie restaurant.
And then there was Bau Truong – a decades-old Cabramatta institution with little social media presence, no big-name chef nor a flashy design. Instead it has a loyal fan base that considers it one of the best places to get a home-style Vietnamese meal in Cabramatta. “We knew Saga was on board; Wafu was on – big Instagram influencer people, excuse that term. It was exciting, we're not really social-media people,” says Michael Thai, the son of Bac Cang - the woman who took over Bau Truong in 1995.
The second Bau Truong is in The Exchange building’s Maker’s Dozen Food Hall and is little more than a pretty wooden-framed kitchen and a takeaway counter. There’s a menu lit by neon lights to one side offering lunches such as pho, vermicelli salad bowls and slow-cooked meats. “It’s comfort food but also with some interesting ingredients,” Thai says, mentioning a salmon curry and a spicy crab sauce Bau Truong makes.
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It’s not strictly traditional, nor is it a copy of the Cabramatta recipes, but fans of the western Sydney restaurant will be happy to see two of the best OG sellers on the menu: the minced prawn and sugarcane skewer, and the pork and taro spring rolls. “My mum is 75 now and she is still in charge of the menu,” Thai says. “My family is very traditional. My mum would never let me stroll too far. Whenever I talk about something modern with my mum it's like I'm a toddler on a leash; go too far and they pull you back.”
That said, the most radical departure from his mum’s traditional recipe will be launched in a couple weeks: a deep-fried banh mi. It’s made by spreading Vegemite and Laughing Cow cheese on the bread, and then topping that with bone marrow. It’s given a very thin, light batter and then slid into oil to cook.
Also coming is a night time-friendly menu. “We have a few snacks that will go really well with drinking: some deep-fried things, a mushroom pate that's served with a sesame rice cracker and a prawn toast that's not made with bread but on noodles.”