Food is always related to history. When the Vietnamese fled their country in the 1970s and 80s, they did not leave everything behind. They also brought their cooking to the various places they settled – Palawan and Western Australia, to name some.
In a roundabout way, businessman Michael “Mike” Ang brought Tra Vinh, a successful Vietnamese restaurant in Perth, Australia, miles closer to its origin, settling at N. Amoranto Ave. in the heart of the Banawe food hub in Quezon City. In the 18 months that this restaurant has opened its doors, patrons have grown to like this homey, simple restaurant for its authentic Vietnamese cooking.
There is always something missing in the flavors of many Vietnamese restaurants in the city. There is that herb or spice that makes you realize the establishment is either catering to local tastes or they could not find the right herbs. Tra Vinh stays true to the flavors of the region it is named for. Tra Vinh is a province in the Southern Vietnam region, at the Mekong Delta. It also has the largest ethnic population of Chinese in the country, hence its influence in their dishes.
For a feast at Tra Vinh, it’s great to start with Goi Cuon Tom Thit, or fresh spring rolls, which are rice paper rolls with fresh salad, rice vermicelli, prawns and pork belly slices served with peanut sauce. If you want the crispy version, you can order Cha Gio Tom or fried prawn spring rolls with Tra Vinh’s special sauce. The sauce is made with vinegar, sugar, spices and fish sauce. You can also try Cha Gio Thit or Fried Pork Spring Rolls. If you want a brighter flavor, you can dip the fresh spring rolls in the special sauce as well, which is what Northern Vietnamese do with their rolls.
For salads, why not try their Goi Xoai Tom (Prawn Pomelo Salad) and Goi Buoi Tom (Prawn Mango Salad) which have freshly chopped vegetables with fresh prawns, locally sourced green mango or Davao pomelo), peanuts, herbs and spices. Putting some of the refreshing salad on top of Tra Vinh’s prawn crackers gives diners different new textures that while whet your appetite for the next course.
Another great appetizer to try is Ban Xeo, a crispy Vietnamese pancake/omelette with shrimp, pork and vegetables, mostly bean sprouts. You put the pancake in lettuce and mustard leaves, herbs like basil, cilantro and mint and roll it like a spring roll. Dip this in Tra Vinh’s special sauce and it’s like having a healthy bite of Vietnam.
For the main course, Cha Chien, or Fried Salt and Pepper Fish, which is a specially seasoned fish deep fried and topped with onion and herbs. You can also enjoy Tom Chien, or Fried Salt and Pepper Prawns, large fresh tiger prawns also deep fried with Tra Vinh’s traditional salt and pepper mix. Squeeze some lemon on top and this tasty dish is gone in minutes.
If you’re looking for authentic Vietnamese soups and noodles, Tra Vinh has a number of delicious ones for you. If you love shabu-shabu, Tra Vinh Dac Biet, or Special Tra Vinh Soup is meant for sharing. It is a broth with a combination of pork slices, fresh prawns, squid, fish balls, pork liver, mushrooms, quail eggs and vegetables. You can order this with noodles or with rice. The noodle version also has Tra Vinh’s own prawn cracker.
For groups, you can order the Canh Chua Ca or Special Vietnamese Fish Soup, a sweet and sour fish soup with vegetables like mustard leaves and bean sprouts, herbs and spices. Perfect for a cold or rainy day.
Pho Dac Biet, or Combination Beef Noodle Soup has beef slices, tender New Zealand Rib eye, beef balls, beef tripe, pho noodles and fresh herbs.
Mi Vit Thien, or Braised Duck Noodle Soup, is Tra Vinh’s specially prepared duck soup with mushroom slices, bok choi, rice vermicelli and fresh garden herbs. Duck can be tough and gamey when not cooked right but Tra Vinh’s traditional herbs and spices makes this a great treat during rainy days.
New to Tra Vinh’s ever-evolving menu is Bahn Canh Cua, or Crab and Seafood Noodle soup. Made from fresh crabs, fresh prawns, fresh squid with fresh udon noodles, it’s salty-sweet and filling, much like eating the fruits of the sea.
A departure from the usual soup and noodle dish is Bun Thit Nuong, or Barbecue Pork Noodle, with rice vermicelli and marinated barbecue pork, peanuts, spring rolls, fresh and lightly pickled vegetables.
If you would rather have rice, you can order a set meal, Grilled Pork Chop Rice, or Com Tam Bi Suon Cha Trung. This Vietnamese version of their classic silog meal also comes with sides like Tra Vinh’s in-house meatloaf and picked vegetables. The pork chop is grilled and marinated to perfection and the sides are the perfect companions to the meat.
Tra Vinh also has a light desserts to complement the filling main courses like their highly-recommended shaved ice sweets – Hat Sen Nhan Nhuc (Dried Longgan with lotus seed), Che Viet (Sweet Vietnam Jelly), Che Ba Mau (Special Mixed Beans) and Thach Nhan (Jelly Longgan).
You can also order their Coffee Jelly Float made from Vietnamese coffee and homemade Vietnamese coffee ice cream.
For refreshments, don’t forget to order their one-of-a-kind home-brewed iced tea made from imported lotus leaves and lemon slices. Lightly sweetened, this iced tea is perfect for their dishes.
Then end your meal with a glass of Ca Phe Sua Da, Vietnamese Iced Coffee from traditionally dripped coffee and condensed milk. There are light, medium and strong variants to choose from, depending on your preference.
Tra Vinh Vietnamese restaurant is one of those unassuming places that you’ll come back to time and again. Expat Vietnamese come here often to get a taste of home and frequent patrons love their unique dishes different from all the other restaurants out there.
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