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Race into Flemington for Vietnamese cheap eats that go way beyond a bowl of pho
Flemington might be best known for hosting the race that stops the nation, but mere metres away from the racecourse is Hem 27, a Vietnamese eatery in the Showgrounds Village shopping complex where you can bet on a winning meal for less than $20.
Hem means alleyway in Vietnamese, and although Hem 27 is actually located on the edge of a carpark, the restaurant is nevertheless successful at channeling Saigon street vendor vibes. The entryway peeks straight into the kitchen and tables are set against a wall with mounted shutters. At lunchtime, the place is heaving with local office workers and shoppers sitting elbow to elbow with their heads down over a plate of noodles or rice.
If you think Vietnamese soups are are all a gradient of pho, you need to try the banh canh cua at Hem 27, a rich soup made with silky tapioca noodles that are similar to udon. The thick crab gravy soup is slightly spicy and tangy, with flecks of crab meat. Toppings are generous – there’s a surf and turf combo of fish cakes, mushrooms, and pork loaf – but the crowning glory is the deep fried soft shell crab. Top tip: set the crab aside or eat it quickly before it gets soggy.
The beef satay noodle soup is another house speciality. The dish is a closer to a stew – the satay sauce is stirred into the beef broth and topped with beef slices – and if you’re used to thinking of satay as a thick peanut sauce, you’ll be surprised at how light it can be when added to a spicy soup, fragrant with ginger and star anise.
It’s not all about soup at Hem 27, their rice dishes champion subtle fragrant ingredients as much as punchy flavours. The tam ky chicken with ginger rice is a favourite from the middle of Vietnam and it’s easy to taste why. The chicken, which has been boiled and shredded for the tam ky salad, is lightly seasoned and tossed with raw onions and coriander before it’s served with ginger-infused steamed rice. The dish comes with a zingy ginger fish sauce that adds some punch to the subtle flavours when everything is combined. Dab a bit of the excellent chilli oil propped on every table for more spice, but this dish is about championing the chicken and rice.
Flemington might draw in the big events, but Hem 27 is the local cheap eats gem worth racing towards for a taste of regional Vietnamese specialities not often seen in Melbourne’s suburban noodle shops.
Shop 27, 320-380 Epsom Rd
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat 11am-10pm; Sun 11am-9pm|