Heaven for Vegetarians
It would be true to say that Quang Minh Temple in Braybrook, located in Melbourne’s western suburbs, offers nothing short of a religious and cultural experience. A Buddhist temple for a large community of Vietnamese Buddhists, every Sunday it opens its gates for those seeking enlightenment or perhaps a culinary mini-break. We come for the latter.
In a food hall, which feels like a school gymnasium set up with endless rows of trestle tables and small plastic stools, vats of phở so big you can almost bathe in them are bubbling away. The atmosphere is bustling and the operation is an efficient production line. All you need to decide is how hungry you are. When you’re ready, line up, chose your size (small $6; large $8), pay, get a ticket, move along and hand it to the service lady and bingo, there is your steaming, fresh bowl made up right in front you on a tray.
Small and large bowls of ingredients lay waiting, when you hand over your ticket, the stock is poured onto the contents and topped with a large hand full of chopped iceberg lettuce and bean sprouts. Forget sauces, tea or table service, it’s up to you to pick up your cutlery from a self-service area and you have the option of super-hot fresh chilli and/or lemon. Go easy on the chilli, it really is fiery.
Not knowing what type of phở will be served on the day is a major draw card for those who like surprises. The offering changes every week and being part of a Buddhist temple, the best part is it’s all 100% vegetarian and very occasionally not vegan – sometimes there are egg noodles. We’ve never been disappointed, it’s always mouth watering.
This week they served the Hu Tieu Nam Vang – which translates as Phnom Penh in Vietnamese – a light brown, clear, flavour-packed broth with a characteristic sweetness served with fried tofu skins, cashews, oyster mushrooms and ‘sausage’ plus square, chewy tapioca noodles. Tapioca noodles are an interesting change from the standard flat rice and they don’t go soft and soggy. This soup is a symphony, the various vegetables that make up the stock dance in tune on your palate. There is no flavour sacrifice, it may be vegetarian, but this is that will satisfy the carnivores.
But in the event that it doesn’t, stroll through the small undercover market on your way out and pick up a steamed bun, some faux chicken nuggets or fried ‘calamari’. Feeling like something sweet? How about a pandan waffle or three-colour drink? If you’re lucky the man selling the sugar cane drinks will be there too. You can also do your fruit and veg shopping.
Quang Minh Temple is not exactly conveniently located, unless you live in Braybrook, but it offers everything we’re looking for in the perfect mini-break: a touch of the exotic, excellent, cheap food and friendly people. It is a must for any phở-devotee. And for the vegetarians, it’s doesn’t get any better than this.
Stock: 5 – the Hi Tieu stock is unique, a little bit sweet and has tons of flavour, which can be a challenge when you’re going vegetarian
Inside: 5 – this isn’t the standard vego boiled vegetables plus tofu offering, it’s like a Kinder Surprise with fried tofu skin, mushrooms and ‘sausage’
On the side: 4 – chilli is fresh and fiery hot, the lemon delivers an additional tang, lettuce and sprouts are added by the server, so technically not on the side, one point lost for limited ability to customise
Extras: 3 – tapioca noodles are fantastic, there are no tea or condiments, but we are devout followers will continue to be back
18 Burke St, Braybrook VIC 3019
(03) 9312 5729
Every Sunday 10am to 2pm