If you’re into food, you’re probably well aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away many of Sydney’s great dining pleasures. At the same time, it has also shown just how innovative and adaptive our restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs, food trucks and food and drink businesses can be. For many businesses it has been a rapid shift in focus, from dine-in to delivery, and from making entrees and mains, to creating video content that allows us to cook dishes at home alongside the likes of Colin Fassnidge and his darling daughters. Event caterers, Chao Catering, have made the jump from boardroom catering to DIY meal kits that allow you to recreate Vietnamese classics in your home kitchen.
Chao Catering is a sister act, combining the skills and talents of Emma Nguyen, of I Love Pho in Crows Nest, with those of her sister, Jessica Nguyen, who operates La Sen in Randwick.
Their clever DIY Packs ($55/4 people) give you the option of making a restaurant-standard pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) or a vermicelli noodle salad, in less than 15 minutes.
I tried out a custom two-person-sized version of both kits and found it hard to pick a favourite. Maybe the crisp spring rolls pushed the vermicelli noodle salad slightly ahead (in my humble estimation)... hard to say, but it definitely tasted like a bought one!
Each kit is presented in a cardboard tray with a little white menu card.
Inside the tray you’ll all the vacuum-packed ingredients you need to make the dish, from the aromatic broth for your pho, to the sauces (hoisin and a very lively sriracha) you season the soup with at the end.
You just take to them with scissors and follow the simple reheating instructions that use a stovetop pot and the microwave.
The inclusion of so many fresh ingredients, gathered for you and portioned correctly by the Nguyen sisters, makes for a very easy assembly.
Just pile the fresh ingredients so they look like the pho you’ve eaten in Vietnamese restaurants countless times. Sit back in a fragrant cloud of broth and admire your own handiwork, before you muddy it up with chilli sauce and hoisin.
Wrapping sugarcane prawns in fresh leaves has been a highlight of most of my in-restaurant Vietnamese meals.
Chao Catering have made them easy to achieve at home with their frozen Sugarcane Prawn Lollipops ($18.60/5), that take all of thirty minutes from freezer to table.
We made our own jar of nuoc cham, complete with grated carrot, though the sisters are happy to provide a sachet of Vietnamese Dressing ($3.50/250ml) if you don’t fancy your luck balancing sugar, lime juice, minced garlic, chilli, vinegar and fish sauce.
We ate ours in lettuce boats filled with fresh herbs, and it felt pretty fancy for a mid-week work-from-home lunch.
Five Spice Devil Wings ($8.60/8 pieces) would work as an entrée before either of the meal kits. We made them into lunch with duelling salads, straying away from Vietnamese with a Japanese coleslaw with sesame dressing, and a classic Greek salad.
Crispy Skin Chicken ($9.60/2 pieces) we worked into another multicultural mélange with coconut and turmeric rice, and an eggplant and tofu stir fry.
Coloured up in a frypan, marinated Honey Lemongrass Pork ($13.60/400g) took all the hard work out of making a simple meal against the same turmeric and coconut rice.
While we created our own golden rice mix, the Nguyen sisters have got your back if you’re time poor, with sachets of Fried Rice ($10.60/500g) featuring all the wonderful meats you've sampled in their pho and salad kits.
Whether you’re a busy frontline service worker who doesn’t have time to shop during this pandemic, or someone who misses being able to go to a restaurant and eat a bowl of pho, Chao Catering DIY kits and frozen packs are healthy, good-value ways to eat Vietnamese food at home. Highly recommended!
Buy them online here: https://chaocatering.com.au/collections/frozen-packs