Sydney’s most vegetarian suburb?
Yep, the local Cabramatta Buddhist community supports seven vegetarian eateries, think about it, what other suburb can you name with that many meat-free joints?
Less than three months old, Bo De Tam (heart of compassion) is newest in town, a stone’s throw from Duy Linh, noodlies, Sydney food blog’s current favourite vegetarian.
Bo De Tam is located in a brand new retail complex, it’s spanking clean and bright thanks to floor to ceiling windows. There’s a bain-marie to the left for takeaway and a buffet style feed. Tiled floors, hard wooden furniture and a faux-marble feature wall project a sharp image that contrasts with the compassionate, warm Buddhist-inspired restaurant (the bodhi leaf logo is a giveaway).
Cabramatta is booming and the rents reflect it. You have to be good to survive and Bo De Tam is plunging head first into an already competitive market.
Vegans rejoice, Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants don’t use egg or other animal products. First to arrive is bo bia, a variation of Vietnamese fresh rolls, usually made with fried pork skin, vermicelli and mints. Here, pork is replaced with fried tofu skin. It arrives from the bain-marie complete with plastic packaging and styrofoam container. The rolls have less fried tofu skin so it’s a little plainer than other places, though the mock chilli fish sauce is rich, if you’re deep in conversation, you might not notice it’s vego sauce.
Banh cuon is another dish that translates relatively well in vegan form. Usually the rice rolls are long, here they’re dainty little squares containing fried mushrooms and tofu (instead of minced pork). The cha lua (Vietnamese pork roll which is a key ingredient in banh mi thit) is replaced by thin slices of tofu. It might look a little different, but the squares are delicious, bite-sized and moreish. Again, the rich mock fish-sauce helps to give the dish a punchy taste.
The vegetarian combination congee (chao thap cam) took a little time to arrive but that’s because it was cooked rather than microwave reheated (yes, some places do that). You smell the ginger first and the bowl was pipping hot throughout, perfect for a warm winter’s morning. It’s a generous serve with lots of colourful ingredients, carrots, mushroom, peas and topped with roughly sliced coriander. Utterly delicious!
Bo De Tam is brave, launching into a hotly competitive market. The sharp and hard decor clashes a little with the spiritual influences but overall, it’s a worthy, delicious contender.
Bo De Tam Vegetarian Restaurant
1-3/46 Hill Street, Cabramatta