Okay, so this post is looong overdue. This place is a bit of a regular haunt for us yet its taken me over a year to finally get around to writing about Can Tho’s tasty goodies. Back when I was living in Belconnen, I probably visited Can Tho at least once a week, since moving to Braddon, I don’t get to visit as often but it’s still my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in Canberra.
Can Tho sits a little west of the Westfield and just a store or two from Goodberry’s. The store isn’t fancy or anything, and is very much like your typical Vietnamese restaurant in Cabramatta or Bankstown. There are rows of chairs and tables, some basic Vietnamese paintings and a TV at the back. Its not fancy but hey, like any good Vietnamese restaurant, you go to Can Tho for the food, not the decor. While the decor is basic, the atmosphere is anything but that. You may not want to take a first date here, but its perfect for a group of friends or a family with young kids who just want to relax, eat and chat loudly with no one giving you dirties.
The menu at Can Tho is pretty expansive, although Can Tho is a predominantly Vietnamese restaurant, they also serve some staple Chinese and Malaysian dishes. I have no idea how good these other dishes are, I only really go to Can Tho for their Vietnamese dishes. Ehh why experiment when there are a couple of dishes that you’ll always crave as soon as you walk in? Plus, if I wanted Malaysian, I would probably go across the road to Malaysian Chapter which, I might add, is also brilliant. Can Tho is great and all but I’m sure a Malaysian family probably does Malaysian food better.
Alrightie, thats probably enough talk about Malaysian food, lets talk about the amazing Vietnamese goodness at Can Tho.
First up, a couple of entrees. The Spicy chicken wings ($6). These are hands down the best chicken wings I’ve ever had
from a restaurant EVER! (I don’t cook, so I can’t say I’ve ever made any that are better) This isn’t one of those “these are pretty good for Canberra…” type comments, these are the best I’ve had from all the Vietnamese restaurants that I’ve been to in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne or anywhere! Trust me, it’s a lot of restaurants!
So what make these the best chicken wings ever? Its a combination of two simple things. 1. the most amazing and crispy batter and 2. the most amazing and flavoursome toppings. Just two simple things that make these chicken wings heavenly. The coating on these wings are simply amazing, they are super light, airy, and have this amazing crunch to them. The batter covers the chicken wings perfectly and ensures that every bite is just amazingly crunchy. The crispy batter is than covered with this super flavoursome topping which includes plenty of slightly fried garlic, shallots and even a little bit of chilli. I’m normally not a fan of chilli but on these chicken wings, they actually add just the right amount of kick to make you continuously come back for more and more.
Next up, the Sesame prawn toast ($5). Another fantastic classic from Can Tho. These aren’t as good as the chicken wings or the pho but they’re still a stand out compared to others from around Canberra. Like with everything else at Can Tho, what make these fantastic, is the generous flavour in each bite. Each bite is filled with a super generous and thick spread of minced up prawn. You can taste and feel the prawn in each bite, you can tell that they haven’t just bulked it up with flour or stratch, which is always great. A lot of places, when they do prawn toast, it comes out as a really thin slice of toast, with a thin spread of prawn flavour. I hate those places and endeavour not to order this dish there. It might not be obvious from this picture but each of these are roughly 1.5cm thick, and I’d say at least .5cm of it is pure prawn. Really good!
Finally, each piece of prawn toast is fried to this perfect golden consistency. This brings all the texture and crunch that the prawn toast needs, it also gives you that overly fried flavour – not great if you care about your heart or figure but for the rest of us who live to treat our tongues, this stuff is golden. Of course, theres a dipping sauce on the side which is sweet with quite a lot of tanginess to it. This sauce perfectly contrasts the rich and oily flavours of the prawn toast. Together, they make the perfect combination of lovely prawn flavour, crispy crunch and oil goodness.
On to the mains at Can Tho, and firstly we have the Broken rice combination ($13.50). This is a Vietnamese restaurant staple and something I absolutely adore. So the elements of this dish are a fried egg, Vietnamese pork chop, some egg meatloaf, shredded pork skin and some pickled vegetables. The egg meatloaf is kind of an odd thing to describe, it has a texture kind of like a soft terrine, and has some stringy, meaty bits wedged in there. Tastes a lot like pork, but for some reason, to me at least, it has some hints of prawn to it as well, even though I’m pretty sure there’s no prawn involved here. Next up is the egg, it’s just a fried egg and if you’ve never had one before, then maybe try doing that before tackling restaurants. There are just some things you need to experience in the comfort of your own home.
Next is the shredded pork skin. Despite the name, it’s not crunchy at all, so get those mental images of pork belly out of the way. It’s actually really soft, and kind of noodle like in texture, like a really pork flavoured noodle. You might notice when you eat this that it’s really grainy and has lots of little spicks and specks everywhere. This is because when they make this dish, they get raw rice, cook it up, then grind it down into a fine powder and mix it through the shredded pork skin. It has the great quality of adding some slight crunch to it, giving it an roasted rice flavour and keeping things interesting.
The main event here of this dish is undoubtedly the pork chop, and it’s something I love very much. I don’t really know how it’s made, but I just Googled it and it seems to be a 24 hour marinade in brown sugar, fish sauce, shallots and vinegar. Look, I love this dish, but ain’t no one got time for that! That’s why I just go to Can Tho and eat their pork chops! The chop here is just exceptionally tasty. I’m sorry I’m not doing a better job describing it, but it just is what it is. A cool little thing they do is they slice the pork chop along the edge, this means the pork doesn’t curl up as it cooks. You appreciate those kinds of touches.
There’s not much thinking to do with this dish, you just dive in and work your way through everything, though, I recommend placing the egg over the rice and cracking it open. Having yolk drenched rice is just something I really love.
Even though I absolutely love broken rice, there isn’t a dish out there that’s going to supplant pho as the best dish at a Vietnamese restaurant! So finally, leaving the best til last, a bowl of delicious Pho tai ($12) or Rare beef noodle soup.
Although, I’ve been to Can Tho dozens of times, these four dishes are my staples. I’ll order them over and over again and never get bored, plus the chicken wings, prawn bread and pho at Can Tho are some of the best in the whole of Canberra. Why would I bother exploring and missing out on the best that Can Tho has to offer? One of these days, I will go to Can Tho and try out their Bun Bo Hue, not everyone can master the art of pho and bun bo hue as well, most places are just amazing at one and a bit average at the other.
The pho at Can Tho is super flavoursome, with plenty of meaty flavours permeating throughout it. The broth is slightly on the sweeter side but a lot of people prefer their pho like that. The slight sweetness adds just the right amount of lift to the pho broth but doesn’t take anything away from strong meat flavours. To top off the fantastic and super flavoursome broth, Can Tho are not shy with their meats, giving plenty of thinly sliced raw beef throughout the pho that is actually served rare! A lot of places will give you meat and you can tell the meat isn’t completely raw when it went into the bowl. Rookie mistake.
Finally, to make it the perfect trifecta, Can Tho uses fresh rice noodles and gives you plenty of it as well. Nothing annoys me more than a place that serves dried rice noodles. To be fair, it doesn’t happen often but when it happens you can just tell, the noodle just doesn’t have that lovely texture and bite, instead it’s just too soft and excessively thin. Like all good Asian food, it’s about big delicious portions and here at Can Tho, they get it perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Finally, some sweet treats to end the night. Our first treat for the night, the Flan with ice cream ($6). This dessert brings back fantastic memories from my childhood. It took me a while to realise that its actually a Vietnamese dish, not a Western dessert that my mum just picked up and started cooking for us (yes, I was a little naive – of course she wasn’t going to cook us Western food!). Many older Vietnamese people dislike the French, since well, they kind of colonised the country and then treated it like any other supreme super power treats its colonies, that is, pretty poorly. I, however do not dislike (or have any feelings to be honest) towards the French, actually I feel like I have to thank them. Without them, Vietnamese food would just be like Chinese food. Instead, thanks to a little bit of French influence, we now have some of the tastiest and best dishes around the world, like banh mi tit (pate, Vietnamese bread rolls), Vietnamese iced coffee (with condensed milk, of course), some other goodies and of course, this fantastic little treat – the flan.
The flan here at Can Tho, is just like my mum makes it. Full of creaminess, with a lovely eggy aftertaste and then coated in a rich and sweet caramelised sugar syrup. Here at Can Tho, the syrup isn’t as strong or caramelised as I’m use to but thats probably better, nothing worse than slightly burnt syrup that can just make everything bitter. The flan also has a fantastic and smooth consistency all the way through. Finally, if you’re thinking, that sounds a little too rich and decadent, then you’d be right. That’s why there’s some creamy vanilla ice cream to contrast the flavour of the flan and sugar syrup. The perfect combination of flavours and textures.
Finally, the Deep fried ice cream ($6). I can never say no to a deep fried ice cream. If it’s on a menu, I’m getting it. I just can’t help myself! Not only is it super tasty, it also defies science (sort of)! The deep fried ice cream here at Can Tho is solid, nothing amazing to blow your mind but you’ve all probably had enough of my gushing uncontrollably about Can Tho. Though I can’t say I care too much, as long as they have a crispy outer shell with a good frozen ball of ice cream inside, I’m a happy camper. The deep fried cream at Can Tho is just that, a crispy outer shell made of breadcrumbs. The main issue for me was that the skin was probably a bit too thick, so it got a bit starchy. The inside was solid, cold and creamy, just the way it should be. I also appreciated that they let me add two toppings, strawberry and caramel instead of just one. It doesn’t cost them anything but I’ve had places say no to the request, so its worth a mention!
I must say, there was a time when a deep fried ice cream did blow my mind, it was at Phnom Penh in Belconnen. The deep fried ice cream came out with a flambe. My deep fried ice cream was on fire! If you’re interested in deep fried ice cream, then definitely check that place out!
Finally, our drink from Can Tho, the Coconut water ($4). Nothing too special about this coconut water, just what you would expect from any good Vietanmese restaurant and at a decent price too. Lovely, nutty and sweet, how coconut water should be! Not like those hipster coconut waters that taste like nothing and cost you like $8 for a cup! Thats just wrong, once you’ve had this – you’ll never go back to that hipster crap. Unless you love your body I guess, thats a different story, just ignore me if you love real coconut water, I’m just uncultured.
Well, I final did it. I wrote up Can Tho. As you can see, this place is good and I love it. If you claim to love Vietnamese food, you’ve got to try out Can Tho. There are tons of places in Canberra that do Vietnamese food. There are a lot of places that do it well, but there are very little places that get it right every single time.
Can Tho is one of those places.
38 Weedon Close, Belconnen