Address: 10f Buckingham Ave, Springvale VIC 3171
Phone: (03) 9547 8878
From an interview with Lynn that has been edited.
My grandmother was a very good chef and an excellent teacher.
So Kim – who is my mum – was often catering for functions, and cooking for her 12 siblings. We came to Melbourne when I was 9 or 10, and I learned how to cook Vietnamese food from my mum.
We’d go out sometimes, but there weren’t many Vietnamese restaurants when I was growing up. We’d often cook at home, and now there are now three generations of chefs in the family.
Before Hoang Yen, we had a takeaway restaurant on the other side of Springvale. We really like the culture of this area, and we always wanted to be in the heart of it. One day, this business went up for sale and it was in the perfect location.
We wanted to run a family business, so mum and her business partner decided to open this restaurant.
I love cooking, but not as much as my mum.
Hoang Yen specialises in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, but we mainly sell authentic Vietnamese food.
If a family comes here for the first time, I might recommend starting with the mixed entrée. You get a little bit of everything: spring rolls, beef wrapped in betel leaves, fried bean curd prawns and fried dumplings. Other entrees include rice paper rolls, quail and Vietnamese pancakes.
Then I might suggest moving onto the Vietnamese coleslaw with chicken, and the stir-fried noodles with herbal Chinese medicine duck. The duck goes in the slow-cooker for about ten hours and it is very nice. It is also my mum’s specialty dish.
Our Hoang Yen in-house fried rice with chicken is a little bit spicy, but it is delicious. Other options include the Mongolian beef, our lemongrass chicken – which is one of our favourites – and the Vietnamese broken rice.
If you can eat pork, you also have to go for that.
You can’t go wrong with that dish.
We also make a lot of Vietnamese noodle dishes.
Phở, wanton dumpling noodle soup, vermicelli with bamboo duck, herbal duck noodle soup and fermented fish vermicelli. That one is a bit smelly, but very traditional. And, with our Chinese food, we make a lot of stir-fry dishes.
A signature of ours is the deep fried Darwin mud-crab that goes in the wok with capsicum, onion, ginger, shallots, homemade chicken stock and mum’s traditional red sauce with tamarin and pineapple.
If you eat as part of a family gathering, we also have Vietnamese fish soup with caramelised claypot fish.
These are all authentic dishes but – in one way or another – they have our family touch.
I grew up in Noble Park, then Springvale.
There’s been a lot of development in the area, but Springvale has not changed that much over the years.
And while there are over 40 restaurants – and a lot of Vietnamese food – not everyone makes the same things. They might have a few similarities like spring rolls and phở, but we all specialise in different dishes. For example, we’re from the south of Vietnam, so our dishes are a bit saltier than in the north, and our curries include coconut milk.
Initially we’d get a lot of Asian customers, but now it’s very mixed. Believe it or not, we get people from Mt. Eliza, Koo Wee Rup, Nar Nar Goon, Frankston, Rosebud, Portsea and Geelong. Some of them find out about us through word of mouth, while others see us as they drive through the main road.
Our shop is very bright at night, we are often very busy and we pride ourselves on how clean Hoang Yen is. Once they come in, customers are very loyal and they will often come back.
They can see the love that we put into our food.
We’re here for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We get a lot of older customers in the morning, students after school and many non-Vietnamese customers at night. Vietnamese food is definitely becoming more popular in Melbourne and – as more people travel to Vietnam – they become closer to our culture and our cuisine.
Australia is very diverse and multicultural, so everyone is exposed to lots of different options. As a result, there is a high expectation that our food is authentic and flavourful. Fortunately, we have such good produce here. We have a big market with fresh ingredients on our doorstep.
It’s very convenient, and you can get almost anything.
I’m passionate about our recipes.
Highlighting the fact that Vietnamese food is more than a bowl of beef noodles is really important to me. Because we are a family business, we can’t pass responsibilities to anyone else. Cooking, cleaning, prep, marketing; we have to take care of every single thing.
And I think a lot of people know who we are, and what we are about. If they can’t find us in the shop, customers – especially those who come from far away – will often ask after mum and I.
We are always running out of the kitchen to say hello.
You can’t run a restaurant like this if you don’t put love into it.
People from the Council often express how proud they are about how clean our shop is, and I’m proud of myself too.
And – while you have to be patient with customers because everyone has different tastes – I love the work, the people and the produce in Springvale.
We have put our heart and soul into this restaurant.
Hopefully that shows.
Written by Aron Lewin with all photos by Tatiana C C Scott