Ali Kaneet sacrifices his integrity to conjure up an arbitrary list of Sydney’s best banh mi.
MY UNCLE Theo once told me, “The best woman is the one who goes home with you when they call last drinks.” I can’t say that I agree with his take on drunken hook-ups, especially after a 6am incident at the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel back in 2002. But I reckon what he says makes a lot of sense when it comes to banh mi – pork rolls for the uninitiated, and bánh mì for the word-nerds.
The best banh mi is the one that’s in your hand. It’s a simple dish an imbecile can slap together, and that’s part of its appeal. If you’re taking the time to travel across Sydney to enjoy for the “best”, you should really look at your priorities.
That said, after the raging success of my list about Sydney’s Top 100 Restaurants, my editor wants another “Top however-many of Sydney’s whatever.” So here’s a list of some of the places that have pinned down the science of stuffing a bread roll with deli meats and salad. And look out, next week I’ll reveal Sydney’s 20 Best Devon and Sauce Sandwiches.
The Bakery With No Name 116 George Street, Redfern
Crusty bread rolls, a bit of pâté, mayo, slices of pork with a couple of other mystery meats. Then comes the salad – cucumber, coriander, crispy lettuce, and carrots – and condiments. “Chilli? Soy sauce? Salt and pepper?” the lady behind the counter asks. All this, and it only costs a lousy four dollars? You almost feel guilty as you hand over your pocket change.
Banh Mi Co 76 Harris St, Pyrmont
Got a spare couple of gold coins burning a hole in your pocket? Then skip the cheap option in Redfern, jump in a cab and head across town to Banh Mi Co. A standard pork roll is six dollars here. Once I’m there, sometimes I figure, “Hell, if I’m spending up why not go all out?” and blow $6.50 on their chicken roll. To get a real bang for your buck eat in. There’s that genuine Huy Fong Foods sriracha sauce on every table; a few squirts of the good stuff will take your roll to the next level.
Great Aunty Three 115 Enmore Road, Enmore
A lot of banh mi joints are bakeries that make a few pork and salad rolls on the side. Great Aunty Three had a much stranger genesis, as a place selling healthy juices and smoothies along with some Vietnamese cuisine. The banh mi are “gourmet banh mi”. That could cause rumbles in the colon of anyone who has suffered through “gourmet pizzas” with lamb, fetta and beetroot toppings, but fear not. Here “gourmet” means pork belly, roast duck, beef stew and, well, vegan chicken. Okay, it does get a little weird.
Vinata Hot Bread 13/1 Hughes St, Cabramatta
As well as the fresh bread rolls, the chicken liver pâté, mayonnaise and sauce are all made onsite at Vinata. At least they were when I visited about three years ago. There are a lot of Vietnamese in Cabramatta and a fair few of them were eating banh mi here, so it stands to reason that this must be good (assuming it’s still trading).
Tied for first
Hong Ha Hot Bread and Marrickville Pork Roll
1151 Botany Road, Mascot and 236A Illawarra Road, Marrickville
I ate their banh mi until my I had nightmares of crusty bread rolls, but I still couldn’t choose between these two joints. So fresh, so filling, so flavoursome and such effing good value (sorry mum, but I got carried away with alliteration). You only have to look at the lines that stretch from these shopfronts to know that they’re doing something very special when it comes to putting a fairly standard combination of ingredients into a widely produced style of bread roll. It’s clear that these banh mi are top notch (or the people who run these stores have no idea about managing staffing levels).
Do you have a favourite pork roll emporium? Leave a comment below. Or don’t, it’s a (kind of) free country.