We all have one, that favourite shirt or pair of jeans we always wear no matter how worn out it is. The same can be said about a restaurant or a dish from a restaurant, you’ll keep going back and paying for it regardless of how much things change. The food at Battambang in Cabramatta invokes such feelings. I’ve been eating here for nearly 20 years, it was one of the first restaurants which my parents took me to because it was the only thing we could afford at the time, eating a $3.50 bowl of noodles at this restaurant was a big deal.
Fast forward 20 years and nothing much has changed in the restaurant. The dodgy looking tables are still there, a packed restaurant with people speaking everything from Cantonese to Cambodian and honest food cooked by honest people. Come to think of it the only thing that has changed is the price. It might have creeped up to $6 a bowl but it’s still a bargain for Sydney standards. Mind you, I am blogging from their second “newer” store which is on the John St side of Cabramatta. The original Battambang is on the other side of Cabramatta train station.
The menu on the wall is in Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian. If you do visit, they should offer you an english menu in a plastic folder. If not, just ask for one.
This is my comfort dish. A huge serving of fried rice laced with ‘wok breath’, a trait which I pray for in every fried rice dish I order. What is wok breath? It’s the charred/smoked taste of a fried dish. The serving is huge and is covered with an array of vegetables, egg and salted fish. Tender pieces of deep-fried pork chop are plumped on top. On the side are house made pickles, I spot baby cucumbers, carrot and cabbage. What makes me come back for this dish? The combination of textures as well as the contrast of saltiness (salted fish) and sourness (pickles).
This dish is Battambang’s franchise dish, or a variation of it at least. Rice noodles are mixed with a dark sauce which has remnants of soy and hoisin sauce, maybe a bit of sesame oil. It is a sweet and salty sauce, a very unique taste.
The combination of toppings can vary depending on your order but generally there is offal, pork mince, prawns, bloody jelly and other bits and bobs of seafood. The bowl of noodles come out ‘dry’, that is, the soup comes separate. I actually love this component of the dish as it means I can take sips of the soup which is always full of flavour.
On the side you’ll also get fresh raw bean sprouts and lemon, they add a fresh dimension to the dish.
You also get pieces of pork bones still with pieces of meat on them. I always think about our dog Max when I’m eating these bones, I bet he’d love the flavours. The soup is intense, it contains hours and hours of cooking. I usually order extra fried dough bread which you will find already on your tables to dip into the soup. It brings out the flavour of the soup even more.
Battambang is the type of restaurant which is a local favourite, it’s no frills and is the real deal. You won’t find filler dishes just to fill out the menu, everything here is hardcore Chinese/Cambodian food which is made with love. It might be intimidating to walk in on your first time, but the joint is run by an extremely friendly group of people. I find myself coming here at least twice a month for breakfast on the weekend, before I go for my usual Vietnamese coffee run. It also opens at 7am, to catch the morning workers who need their Battambang fix.
Battambang Cambodian Restaurant
15/73-79 John St, Cabramatta
(02) 9754 2120
Open 7 days – 7am to 6.30pm