7 June 2024

Au Lac takes its street food to the open road!

| Michelle Taylor
people outside a food van

Can, Tony and Linh are spreading joy through their food van. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

Au Lac’s deliciousness has been delighting Canberran tastebuds since 2000. Delighting and confounding, with dishes like sizzling beef, duck in plum sauce and massaman beef curry that all taste like the real thing but are, in fact, entirely vegan. Owners Can and Linh have steadily grown a staunch following that sometimes surprises them.

“One time we were walking through the night markets in Hong Kong,” Can tells me, “And we overheard someone say. ‘I can’t wait to get back to Canberra for some Au Lac!’ We could not believe it!”

After the success of their Dickson restaurant, the family expanded, launching a second very successful Au Lac in Woden in 2014.

Today, I am visiting the Boho Luxe Market + The Vegan Market in Epic to experience Au Lac’s brand-spanking new venture: its food truck!

Can and Linh’s son, also Au Lac chef, Tony, and I find ourselves having a chat under a very zen teepee-like structure, away from the buzz of hungry crowds.

trio of bao

A delicious trio of bao! Photo: Kazuri Photography.

“With our food truck, the emphasis is more on street food,” Tony says.

“Spring rolls, satay sticks, banh mi, and bao. With our banh mi, Mum makes her homemade pate and mayonnaise. We make all the pickles at the restaurant. There are three types: shredded tofu-country style, red and white soy ham, and crispy pork. The banh mi is only sold in our food van.”

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Having grown up in the family business has had its moments, but Tony says that he and his brother have each followed their unique paths in the hospitality industry and consider working alongside their family a genuine joy and passion.

I stand for a while, look at the menu, and watch what other people are walking away with.

Then I order popcorn chicken, a pork belly banh mi and a trio of bao.

popcorn chicken

Popcorn chicken with spicy vegan mayo, Photo: Kazuri Photography.

The cup of popcorn chicken comes with spicy vegan mayo, which has a bite to it and tastes delicious. The crisp batter around the popcorn chicken is incredible, and the flesh within is tender and chicken-esque. These bites are moreish with such fabulous texture; I eat way more than I planned.

The banh mi is a traditional flaky bun filled with crispy pork belly, pickles, pate, mayo and fresh herbs. I do not know how Linh makes her vegan pate, but it looks just like the ‘real’ thing, tasting lush and umami. The pickled vegetables add sweetness and tang to contrast. There are fat portions to the pork belly that are redolent of actual pork belly fat … but how? And … yum!

The bao buns are perfection: soft and spongy, resilient enough to hold filling and sauce.

The crispy soy chicken bao has a bite to it. It’s crisp with a fabulous batter, sticky and sweet with a drizzle of sweet soy BBQ glaze.

The Southern fried chicken has a crisp exterior and is juicy and tender.

All three bao balance their flavours cleverly, but my favourite dish today has to be the pork belly bao. I honestly would not realize I was eating vegan meat. When eaten with pickles and sauce, it gives crisp, fat and lush salty meat vibes.

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I wash all the goodness down with a peach iced tea. I usually prefer regular iced tea, but Tony recommends it. I am glad I went with this drink. It is so fresh and cold and sweet, with a hint of lemon in with the peach. What really rings true is the authentic tea and fruit flavours. It tastes nothing like the peach iced tea you’re probably more familiar with. It’s got that lovely tea bitterness in the aftertaste that you never get in a bought iced tea.

Tony says they will have a weekly soup special, such as laksa or pho, in the cold months, a great reason to follow their food truck.

Au Lac Dickson Vegan Cuisine is located at 4/35-39 Wooley Street in Dickson, while their Woden restaurant is located in Westfield Woden at Shop G90A in Corinna Street in Phillip. Follow their Facebook page to find out when and where the Au Lac Food Truck will operate each week!

Original Article published by Michelle Taylor on Riotact.

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