A seven course dinner for four people. How much would you pay for that? $200? $300? Try $98!
Knowing my love for seafood, my parents always used to take me out for a seafood dinner every time I visited – or, my mum would specifically cook a prawn or fish dish for me if we were eating at home. Even now that my mum has passed away, my dad continues to take me out for seafood when I visit.
Last time I was in Melbourne, we went to Huong Giang Bun Bo Hue in Springvale, a little restaurant run by a Chinese Vietnamese family. They’re famous for their $5 lunches during the week for local workers and labourers, but their dinner menu is just as impressive as the chefs switch from churning out quantity, to delivering quality.
Starting the first of our seven courses, is the traditional soup course which starts most Chinese banquets. The night we went, chicken sweet corn soup was on the menu – a bit thinner than I’m used to, but that served us well as it was much lighter and a nice way to “hoi tou” or “open stomach” for the courses to follow!
The highlight of the seven course dinner was the mud crab, cooked Chinese style on fried noodles. I am absolutely unashamed to admit that with the exception of a claw, I ate the entire crab myself as neither my father or brother enjoy crab the way I do! Lightly battered and then cooked in a savoury ginger and shallot sauce, the crab was simply heavenly, and the noodles soaked up the sauce beautifully.
Third course was the special fried rice, which served as a base for the dishes to come. As a standalone dish, it wasn’t anything special, but did include the most important element of any fried rice – the lup cheong or Chinese sausage.
The tofu hotpot was next on the list – and as you can tell by the prawn and calamari, it’s not actually a vegetarian dish as I thought it might be when I ordered it! This was quite a good dish – we actually ate most of it the next day after we doggy-bagged it home, and the tofu had soaked in most of the sauce by that point which meant it just squirted delicious flavours into your mouth as soon as you bit into it.
My picky eater of a brother attacked this dish as one of ones he was willing to eat – the beef brisket was exceedingly well cooked, unbelievably tender, and simply fell apart and melted as soon as you placed it your mouth. A fantastic choice.
This was one of my mother’s signature home cooked dishes, so it was a somewhat bittersweet moment as my father ordered it for himself, myself, and my brother, mere months after my mother’s passing. While the chicken spare ribs were perfectly fried and seasoned, I’m afraid my natural bias prevails – it will never be as good as what my mother used to make for me.
I only wish that I had had the chance to spend more time with her before she passed, to have learnt her recipes (all stored in her head!) and to be together as mother and daughter – and friends. Those are the regrets that I have – and I’m sure, the same regrets that we all have when our loved ones leave us.
We finished our meal with a final course of fruit – watermelon and orange slices per the usual Chinese preference for ‘cleansing’ fruit.
Overall, I rate Huong Giang Bun Bo Hue an 8 out of 10 – all the dishes were consistently excellent, and you really can’t beat the price.
If you’re interested in the seven-course dinner, ask the waitress what dishes she would recommend you ordering on any given day – the options alternate depending on what’s in season and what produce they’ve been able to buy that day at the markets. The multi-course menu for the set $98 price isn’t actually advertised in the menu, though there is a handwritten sign on the wall in Chinese.