I’ll admit that much of this year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival passed me by this year as I was caught up with packing up and moving house.
I did manage to make it to a few events though and one of the highlights was the Rickshaw Run, an annual sold out event held in the heart of the inner west, Footscray, and organised by the inimitable Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog.
The Rickshaw Run was an Vietnamese feasting extravaganza that spanned several hours, numerous venues and some burly rugby players from the Footscray Rugby Union Club who volunteered to pull our increasingly-heavy rickshaws.
Our first stop was D & K Live Seafood (3/28A Leeds St, Footscray) which specialises in…live seafood of course. Inside there are tanks galore and you’re served on the slippery floor by brusque men in galoshes. Kenny of westside food blog Consider The Sauce introduced the group to the concept of the Rickshaw Run then instructed us to dig into the freshly shucked oysters from Coffin Bay and Tasmania.
We then tipped ourselves into our rickshaws and were trundled around the corner to the Little Saigon market. To help orientate the group inside the bustling, somewhat overwhelming market, we settled down on some tiny stools at Northern Vietnamese cuisine specialist Cô Thư Quán (Shop 22, Little Saigon market
63 Nicholson Street).
We were offered a sample of Bắp Xào, a simple yet delicious dish of sauteed juicy sweet corn with dried shrimp, spring onions, capped off with a squirt of sriracha. I’m quite addicted to this dish and have even enjoyed its pungent shrimpiness for breakfast!
Everyone then dispersed to sample the fruit and veg on sale while I visited the roast BBQ shop on the corner (sorry can’t remember the name) for a huge slice of their delicious mar lai gao (steamed cake). RM was shocked that I was buying more food on a food tour but…for $2.30 it’s pretty hard to resist stuffing my face with piping hot cake.
Into the rickshaw we went and then were dropped off at Sen, a newish Chinese Vietnamese restaurant (74-76 Nicholson Street). There we were given a lesson on rolling Gỏi Cuốn – rice paper rolls. The trick is not to be greedy and put too much filling inside (it’s not a burrito!) and to roll everything up tight, tight, tight!
Another short trip on the rickshaw dropped us off at Phong Dinh (152 Hopkins Street) where we tried hu tieu – a clear rice noodle soup. It may be sacrilegious to say but I think hu tieu is better than pho.
For my taste the broth is clearer and lighter and the noodles are chewier and springier. It doesn’t come with all the pho accoutrements such as bean sprouts and herbs but I actually don’t tend to add those items in my bowl.
Tummies were starting to get rather full now so we had a brief respite from the eating as we watched a taiko drumming performance by Wadaiko Rinko Noriko Tadano. And then masseurs gave everyone shoulder massages as we watched the show! As if we were the ones doing all the rickshaw pulling.
Wait, we were fed during the drumming performance! Fortunately just mini servings of sugarcane juice and banh khot – mini coconut pancakes with prawn.
Our final stop was Sapa Hills (112 Hopkins St) one of the most popular Vietnamese restos in Footscray. We frequent it often because (a) their food is delicious; (b) the atmosphere is calm; and (b) they are one of the few places in Footscray that take EFTPOS!
At Sapa Hills we had one of their signature dishes Bún Chả Hà Nội. The chargrilled pork they serve is particularly smoky in flavour and is combined with rice vermicelli and fresh herbs. I’ve not done an extensive survey of other Bún Chả Hà Nội but I think Sapa Hills make some of the best.
Almost 3 hours later, we’ve had a brilliant time eating, drinking, chatting and sharing foodie tips with our fellow rickshaw passengers. The Rickshaw Run is a marvellous event that showcases just a small slice of the culinary wonders to be found in Footscray and I look forward to exploring more. Eat Drink Westside – yes please!