By Deborah Ong
Song Ngu Takeaway quietly opened about 3 years ago on a small shopping strip just off Ballarat Road. The tidy corner shop sits alongside some of Braybrook’s best kept secrets, including Papabear Bakehouse, a fantastic Filipino bakery and Tak Hing Food, arguably the best handmade bao shop in the west.
Ever since trying it out for the first time a couple of years ago, Song Ngu has become a staple on the rotation of local places that my husband and I frequent. The shop has a seating capacity of 16–20 people at its maximum, which is not much, but turnover is relatively quick as diners tend not to linger. The service is efficient and friendly, the food is very reasonably priced and is consistently fresh and tasty.
As I write this review, I am at the tail end of a trip to Vietnam and Singapore, where ‘economy rice’ stalls are ubiquitous in every neighbourhood. These budget-friendly shops are popular with office workers, students and tradespeople for a quick and affordable lunch. They also service the after-work crowd as a great takeaway option for family dinner.
Song Ngu follows a similar format and specialises in rice and an array of dishes that you can pick and choose from their hot display. A plate of rice with one meat dish, one vegetable dish and a soup will set you back about $15. An extra meat dish will bring it up to $19. Pandan scented Vietnamese tea is complimentary for dine-in customers and can be requested hot or iced. If you like variety and are dining with two or more people, you can ask to share the dishes which will then be plated separately and served with a large bowl of rice.
Unlike the more heavily-flavoured options at foodcourt bain-marie joints, the food at Song Ngu is more delicately-flavoured and akin to home-style Vietnamese cooking. Favourite staples in our household include their pork-belly braised in soy and coconut water (thit kho), bitter gourd stuffed with pork mince and wood-ear fungus in a clear broth (canh khổ qua), and their sticky ginger and soy-glazed chicken thighs (gà kho gừng).
There are always new and interesting dishes being added to the rotation depending on what’s available and what’s in season. We’ve had stir-fried fresh bamboo, winter melon soup and a host of other tasty things. All you need is a curious palate and the ability to point at things in the display cabinet!
In addition to the dishes in the hot display, they also do have a small à la carte menu featuring noodle options such as Bún bò Huế (Hue spicy beef noodles) and Bún riêu (rice vermicelli in a tomato and lemongrass broth with shrimp paste), spring rolls or Cơm tấm (broken rice with grilled lemongrass chicken/pork). It all looks amazing, but I personally find it hard to go past the generous bain-marie options. Perhaps one day I will, and I’ll tell you all about it.
Song Ngu Takeaway
19 Market Pl, Braybrook Vic 3019
Mon to Sat, 8am–8pm