Never had banh cuon? You need to. These silky rice noodle rolls are a traditional Vietnamese breakfast staple, usually cooked at little roadside stalls as swarms of scooters zoom past. The newly opened Banh Cuon Ba Oanh is about as close as Sydneysiders can get to the real deal. That includes a tiny kitchen cloaked in clouds of steam and squishy tables with ankle-high stools (no joke) that will test your flexibility. The proof is in the banh cuon and Ba Oanh delivers - expect thin layers of house-fermented rice batter expertly ladled and steamed until soft and silky. Peer into the open kitchen and you’ll likely find Ba Oanh herself, family matriarch and restaurant mascot, in amongst the action.
Order the classic version ($11) of this Northern Vietnamese dish and your rice noodles will be rolled with a rubble of pork mince and flecks of crunchy black fungus mushroom. Dunk them in the sweet and salty nuoc cham fish sauce dressing and savour alongside slices of cha que (a pale baked pork sausage seasoned with cinnamon), soft herbs and deep-fried shallots. Alternatives include plain rice noodle rolls served with grilled pork ($11) or a soft set organic egg ($4).
Bring a handful of mates and you could easily order everything on the one-page menu. Continue the nood-fest with bun cha quat ($11), cold vermicelli noodles eaten with grilled pork, salad, pickles and nuoc cham, or hit up the sticky rice combos. It involves glutinous rice either cooked plain or mixed with yellow beans and boosted with your choice of poached free range chicken or sweet braised pork with pork floss ($11 each).
Free range chicken congee, a restorative rice porridge ($11) rounds out the menu. It’s a terrific version, savoury soul-reviving heartiness amped up with pork mince, pork floss, fresh shallots and crunchy slices of deep fried savoury donuts. Vietnamese locals are already loving this cheap eat addition to Marrickville. We reckon you will too.