Address: 18 Buckingham Avenue, Springvale VIC 3171
Phone: (03) 9548 4887
From an interview with Kelvin that has been edited.
We started Thanh Phat in August 2012.
Our family came from Vietnam for a better life, and we spent a bit of time researching the market before we opened this restaurant.
My grandmas and aunties are very good cooks. They taught my parents the proper technique for making authentic Vietnamese food, and they eventually brought that here.
My parents are cooking at the back, and my sister and I are front of house. While my parents ran a different type of business in Vietnam, I finished a Bachelors Degree from William Angliss Institute.
I try to help my parents run the business as best as I can.
It’s not easy finding traditional Vietnamese food in Australia, and we do it really well.
A lot of Vietnamese food in Melbourne is modern and trendy but, at Thanh Phat, it’s very traditional.
Among a variety of dishes, our specialities include spicy beef noodle soup called Bún bò Huế, phở, Hanoi style fried tofu with pork and shrimp paste – which has a bit of a kick to it – and Quang Nam noodles.
We also make broken rice which is a traditional breakfast option, and Vietnamese shaking beef on rice. There are a few dishes that we’ve blended with Chinese style cuisine, but most of the food is cooked in the same way as how we would make it in Vietnam.
And we have recipes that my family came up with. For example, the chicken with rice is similar to Hainanese style, but we came up with a different idea. Instead of rice with chicken stock, we use fried rice. Our sauce is also made from – among other things –soy sauce, shallots, fried garlic, sugar and spring onion.
My grandmother came up with it, so you won’t see it anywhere else in Melbourne.
We also sell street food.
There is a lot of delicious street food in Vietnam, but it is really hard to find in Melbourne.
We specialise in three very popular and tasty dishes.
Stir-fried sweet corn with shrimp (Bắp Xào Bơ), rice paper with quail eggs and shrimp (Bánh Tráng Trộn) and Vũng Tàu mini pancakes with lettuce, mint and prawns (Bánh Khọt Vũng Tàu).
With the Vũng Tàu pancakes, we add dried shrimp which is blended and fried on a hot pan to make it crispier than the bánh xèo.
You won’t find it in a restaurant or a five-star hotel, but it is full of flavour.
We get a lot of locals, as well as people from different areas across Melbourne.
And I think a lot of young people come here because of the environment. They enjoy the music that we play, and we make dishes that they really like.
Favourites for students include the really crunchy chicken ribs, and the sizzling Vietnamese beef steak with a warm baguette and Laughing Cow Cheese. The steak is made in a Western style as it comes with a sauce of mushrooms, beef stock, pepper and a thickener.
A lot of regulars come back for these dishes and – even though they are done a bit differently – it reminds them of home.
This is a good spot to run a restaurant.
We have a big market on our doorstep with lots of fresh ingredients, and you can get them any time of day.
And I’ve worked in Springvale for a long time now. Buildings are coming up in previously empty spots, and there are a lot of new shops which is a really good sign for the area.
We are focusing on our food as it is what we do best, and we are always trying to improve the quality of our dishes. We’re also thinking of introducing new dishes, but we are still debating which ones are the most delicious.
We have almost 100 options, so there’s no rush in implementing them.
I think Vietnamese food is becoming more popular in Melbourne.
Franchises have opened up in the city, but they don’t always serve authentic Vietnamese food.
The way that we decorate the dishes is important to us. We put a lot of thought and care into our presentation, and we make sure that our dishes look the same on the plate as they do on the menu.
You can’t put a good looking picture on the menu, and give the customer something different.
They’ll be disappointed.
I’m here seven days a week.
Some customers have been here for four years and – because they see us all the time – they know we’re a family business.
And, honestly, working with family is enjoyable. It’s sometimes hard because there are so many opinions which can lead to arguments, but we live by the same traditions.
We know how to cook traditional Vietnamese food, and we understand which ingredients go well together.
That’s what Thanh Phat is about.
Written by Aron Lewin, with all photos by Tatiana C C Scott