There’s a common line you hear from Western Sydney residents. It’s along the lines of “we always go to the city for food and drinks; we want something closer to home”. Thanks to a new wave of restaurateurs, that’s starting to change. In Cabramatta, the Do family (young brothers Kelvin, Abel, Mark, Edward, and their dad Thomas) has opened Papa Do’s.
“We’ve had a lot of Vietnamese people ask us ‘what do you sell here? Do you sell soup?’ We’re like ‘nah, we sell fried chicken and burgers’ and they say ‘you should sell Vietnamese food’. That's the kind of mentality around here,” says Kelvin.
It’s a burgers-and-chicken kind of joint – graffitied walls, casual vibes, beers on most tables, cocktails on the others, and, occasionally, live music. “I thought fried chicken would be good because it's universal. Old people eat fried chicken too,” says Abel, referring to a table of elderly Vietnamese-Australians sipping watermelon juices by the bar.
The chicken is more Korean than American – spicy, saucy, crunchy batters, and largely avoiding breast pieces. Unlike the dominant trend, the burgers are far from the American cheeseburger template. A fried chicken combo has a pawpaw chutney, coriander, fish sauce and coconut milk, and a beef brisket is simply smoked meat, alfalfa sprouts and barbeque sauce modelled on pho gravy (which also comes poutine-style).
“That's the front page, everything else is my experimentation into Western and Vietnamese food,” says Abel. Sometimes the special boards have buffalo wings with stinky tofu ranch dressing (a pretty novel concept), or bao buns with deep fried intestines. “In Cabramatta, I have a lot more freedom in what ingredients I can use. And kids around here aren't afraid of eating deep fried pork intestines.”
It’s that style of fusion food that’s casual enough for it to be recognisable but still interesting. His favourite dessert is a crumbly adzuki bean pie topped with a ball of taro ice-cream. “The idea comes from Chinese KFC and their apple and red bean pie,” he says with a chuckle.