There’s a number of reasons that I like cheap Asian food joints. One of those reasons is, well, it’s cheap. Sure, I enjoy going to fancypants restaurants and blowing money on a meal, but I can’t afford to do that all the time, so cheap = good. Another reason I’m fond of the cheap Asian places, is how fast you get your food. As soon as you put your order in and sit back, food starts to arrive. So that’s all good, but unfortunately it’s not without a compromise. The main compromise you make for cheap and quick is that generally the décor is a bit lacking….
When I say lacking, I actually mean a teensy bit gross! The tables might be sticky, and the chairs wobbly. But never fear – there ARE cheap Asian places where you don’t need to compromise.
Hung Vuong is one of many Vietnamese restaurants along Hopkins Street in Footscray, but their point is difference is that it doesn’t look like it was last decorated in the 80’s. It’s bright, with a large mirror lining the wall on one side of the restaurant and a large window at the front. The chairs and tables are non wobbly, and sitting on the tables are the obligatory condiments, thermos of tea as well as chopsticks, spoons and napkins. The menu is very limited – your food choices are rice paper rolls, spring rolls, broken rice, vermicelli and phở. In fact, the drinks menu seems longer than the food one! Not that limited choices is necessarily a bad thing. It means that you can decide on what you want to eat in 1 minute, have your food arrive in 5 minutes, and the bulk of your time there can be spent slurping up your noodles and chasing out any scraps of food in the murky soup.
I particularly love the special beef phở – a mix of sliced beef, tripe, beef sausage, tendon and brisket with flat rice noodles in a rich beef broth. Buuuut, if you’re not into offal there is normal sliced beef as well as a chicken option. As with other places, the phở comes with a plate of fresh bean sprouts, fresh chilli, Asian basil and lemon and you can add them to your liking. I also like to add some of the chilli sauce that sits on the table – not the one that’s in the bottle, but the one in the small container that has a hint of shrimp paste. That stuff is so awesome.
The rice paper rolls are better at other places, so if you’re hungry, I would recommend ordering a large phở instead. A large one will cost you $9 and you won’t regret it.
Also good is the vermicelli. You can choose from pork, chicken, prawn, or spring rolls. I like their vermicelli because it’s not just a big bowl of noodle with a tiny bit of other stuff. You get pickled carrots, lettuce, Asian basil, cucumber, and chopped nuts along with the meat and a little bowl of vinegary sauce with a touch of fish sauce.
The thermos full of tea might satisfy you drinkwise, but if you do feel like something a bit different there are other options. If you’re feeling like something sweet, almost to have as a dessert, go for the three colour drink. This is a drink with red beans, green jelly and coconut milk with crushed ice. There’s also several fruit smoothies such as an avocado smoothie, which is avocado blended with condensed milk. I like avocados but have only ever had them as in savoury dishes and found it very, very rich, very buttery and unbelievably thick. It’s filling so don’t order a large phở and an avocado smoothie unless you have a huge stomach. Just go the large phở instead. Like I said before, you won’t regret it!