One of my favourite restaurants in the area, Hai Au combines great home cooking with fast efficient service in an almost surreal environment that’s so over the top that you’ll find it hard not to love. They’ve installed an open grill at the entrance which they fire up on the weekends that’s well worth a visit. You can see it in full flight in the video above. Initially introduced for to grill chicken wrapped in banana leaf, now it’s used to grill sweet potato, fish and even cook burnt rice.
The grilled chicken (above top left) is moist and tender, protected by the banana leaf wrap. It’s served with sticky rice and Vietnamese sweet chilli sauce. The burnt rice (above top right) is cooked at the top but burnt at the bottom, reproducing the effect of rice cooked in a traditional clay pot. It’s an acquired taste, but many like to eat it with soup. Here the rice is moistened with oil and spring onion, with extra flavour from pork floss.
Speaking of Vietnamese sour soup (canh chua), Hai Au does just about the best one around. There’s a group of us so tonight we’re having the hot pot version. The soup is brought to the boil at the table and we drop in the ingredients. Today, we’ve chosen the prawn version, but you could have fish or chicken. I particularly like the addition of okra and water spinach. The soup already has so much flavour, sour, sweet and salty which is only enhanced with the addition of these ingredients.
Another dyi dish is the betel leaf beef. Nothing looks better and tastes better than seeing your meat cooked at the table and in this case infused with betel leaf flavour. They’re cooked until the leaves are almost blackened. Continuing with the dyi experience, you roll them in rice paper, mints and vermicelli and dip in either a sweet chilli sauce or a pungent fermented prawn sauce.
Check out the video below to see what the betel leaf and sour soup looks like when cooked at the table.
What’s your experience of dyi food? Too messy or adds to the fun of the experience?
Hai Au Vietnamese Restaurant
48 Canley Vale Road, Canley Vale
02 9724 9156