If you're a Marrickville local, you might know Auntie. She has a small shopfront on Illawarra Road and, should you come across it, it's well worth heading inside to say hello. Start with her bánh xèo ($13) because she certainly knows how to make a mean one. The thin and crispy coconut and turmeric crepe — which comes stuffed with onion, bean sprouts and your choice of protein (like pork and prawns), and served with fresh lettuce cups and fragrant mint to wrap it in — is as authentic as they come. Seriously, it can't be faulted. And if you don't know what it is, well, you soon will — because at Hello Auntie, almost everyone is devouring one. It's just one of the signature dishes this small Vietnamese restaurant nails. Oh, and never mind the cutlery; this delicious job requires scissors and fingers only.
Then there's the pho, the beloved Vietnamese dish most people pronounce wrong (FYI it's fur). At Hello Auntie a classic bowl of this soupy goodness is only $10. Of course, there are embellished alternatives, and if you want the good stuff, then the pho dac biet ($15.50) is a must-try. Picture this: a large bowl filled to the brim with house-made wagyu meatballs, thinly-sliced black Angus beef, braised brisket, a torched beef short rib and rice noodles swimming in a broth so rich in flavour, you'll be begging for the recipe.
This is all best lapped up with a classic cocktail or alcoholic slushie ($14.50) in hand. Or, for a more authentic experience (not including the price tag), order a Bia Ha Noi lager ($9) while you sit back in your Bentwood chair and watch the 'aunties' do their magic from behind the brass-trimmed open kitchen. But that's not the only interesting viewing. The narrow, low-lit industrial-style space is decked out with shelves stacked with old-school knick knacks and black and white family memorabilia. There's even a collection of mirrors that line the exposed brick walls, so you can watch the restaurant in full swing.
But this place isn't just about tradition. There's a modern twist around every corner and dishes like their bánh khot with prawns and smelt roe ($19) — a tasty mini version of their bánh xèo — is a great example of their creativity. The fried chicken wings marinated in fermented tofu ($19 for one kilogram) are, on the other hand, a bit hit-and-miss. The chicken is cooked well, but is bland in flavour and missing that all-important dipping sauce. But that's about the only negative. The food is fresh and fragrant, and you'll still find all the staples like DIY rice paper rolls ($45) and vermicelli salads ($15), as well as an intriguing dessert list.
So whether you're stopping in for a date night, a catch-up with friends or a quick solo lunch, Auntie has everything covered.
Images: Bodhi Liggett.