Great banh mi in Sydney
If there’s one Vietnamese bakery that transcends suburban lines and draws crowds from near and far, it has to be Mascot’s Hong Ha Bakery. Operating for over 30 years, the non-descript shopfront has been serving up the same fresh rolls since day dot, and you'll almost always spot a queue that snakes out the door. This is a traditional pork roll that celebrates simple things done right – the bread is the hero, still warm in the hand, straight from the ovens out back, with a golden crunchy crust and a pillowy interior. Three types of pork (Vietnamese devon, cured and barbecued) with a hearty slathering of pâté, mayo and a fistful of crunchy salad make this quite the stomach-pleasing two-hander. And the special chilli sauce hits with a sweet tinge before bringing the fire.
Micheal Le founded this simple corner restaurant on Enmore Road in 2011. Recipes here were passed down by his grandmother, Thi Ba Nguyen (the smiling face in the restaurant's logo), who was taught to cook by her own grandmother. This lineage of culinary knowledge manifests itself in some truly outstanding banh mi. The roasted pork and crackling roll is a popular favourite, and something of a standout amongst Sydney’s favoured banh mi establishments. Baguettes here (both white and wholemeal) are fresh from the family’s Marrickville bakery; the wholemeal is worthy of a try, swapping a hard crust for a super light and spongy crumb that’s easy to rip in to. You'll find tart slices of Granny Smith apple in your salad, which amp up the slightly sour component of any good roll. It’s all packed in with a plentiful helping of succulent roasted pork, with crisp bits of crackling folded in, making up for any lost crunch.
First-time owners Rosie and Anthony Nguyen take their Vietnamese heritage and combine it with Sydney café sensibility at this small and sunny little spot on a busy stretch of Regent Street. You can order muesli, a bacon and egg roll on a soft milk bun, or a slice of banana bread in the AM, but hold out till lunch and you'll be hit with fresh rice paper rolls, vermicelli salad bowls and ripping banh mi. Your choice of protein (we're big fans of the crackling pork belly) gets a lengthy marinade before being slapped on the charcoal grill for a big fat smooch of fire and smoke, which livens up these bonzer baguette sangas in ways you can't imagine. And to combat all that fatty, salty intensity? A proper Vietnamese iced coffee, of course, with that OTT sweet jolt of condensed milk.
Part of the beauty of the humble banh mi is that it can be served up from a hole in the wall, and one of Sydney’s original grab-and-go spots, Marrickville Pork Roll, really is just that. You won’t be able to miss it though, with a line of eager banh mi buffs stretching along Illawarra Road, and even at times, back up to Marrickville Road. Everyone knows these guys are doing something right, with not only a second shop in Marrickville — where their crackled crusted baguettes are freshly baked and delivered from, but also a store in the Darling Square precinct opening in 2018. Across the venues, the traditional, winning formula remains unchanged, combining a generous helping of sliced cold-cut pork, with pickled carrot and daikon adding to the crunchy texture, and a liberal drizzle of housemade spicy chilli sauce. The sauce is a standout for this banh mi, with a subtle sweetness to go along with the heat, but it doesn’t overpower the rest of the roll. What are you waiting for? Get in line.
It takes some guts to challenge Marrickville Pork Roll, but Alex ‘N’ Rolls – just a few metres down the road in a humble, converted terrace – puts up a mighty good fight. Banh mi and sticky rice dishes are the only items on the menu, with just the right amount of care taken in the ingredients and preparation. The roast pork roll is a flavourful delight, a well-blended balance of saltiness and fattiness, with thick-cut pork carved fresh at the counter, and served on a hefty and firm roll that easily accommodates the pork drippings in its fluffy filling. Maximise your pleasure by taking a seat at one of the tables in the sunny courtyard.
Family-run Banh Mi Bay Ngo is a well-known Bankstown establishment, with a respected track record of over 30 years of good service and even better food. The family’s love of food and passion for cooking is undoubtedly why this banh mi is heralded across Sydney; each ingredient complements the other – from the rich pâté and mayo, made in-house, to freshly pickled shreds of carrot and daikon, spicy chilli and the secret barbecue pork recipe. The barbecue pork banh mi balances savoury, sour, and salty flavours well, and the ratio of meat to salad is right on the mark. This is how you do it.
There's a full-service restaurant with all the bells and whistles (pho, bun, banh xeo and banh cuon) at this design-savvy Vietnamese eatery, but you're here for the dedicated tuck-shop window that faces the street, where a decent selection of banh mi is available. The combo pork roll takes top billing on the window-mounted menu board, and with good reason. Thick-cut servings of roasted pork, creamy mayo and a silky pâté accompany the overflowing salad stuffing of pickled daikon, spring onion and coriander, with generous slices of chilli adding the final kick to this smaller than usual, but still very lunch-worthy banh mi.
Named after the pronunciation of the Vietnamese word for bread (Ổ Bánh mì), this quaint shop, shoehorned into one of the heritage sandstone terraces on Harris Street, has been open since 2014. The banh mi offerings are uniquely varied, ranging from the traditional pork roll to twists like the Veggies Delight – a mix of stir-fried vegetables with salad and a fried vegetarian spring roll. But the pick of the bunch for a hearty lunch is the chicken schnitzel banh mi, a crumbed, fried chicken breast served on a crunchy-crusted toasted baguette, crammed full of thick cucumber slices and grated carrot, and topped off with a tantalizing herb and chilli mayo.
There's a ‘Hot Bread’ sign almost everywhere you look near the station in Cabramatta – a sign that you truly are in banh mi territory – and one of the titans is undoubtedly Viet Hoa Hot Bread on bustling John Street. Viet Hoa has been slinging pork rolls for over three decades that cost just a couple of gold coins, and they're as authentic as they come. The standout ingredient in Viet Hoa’s pork rolls is the fresh bread itself, with a crusty outside and light, airy inside. Fillings are simple and trustworthy, and they're open 24/7, so when the cravings kick in, you know exactly where to head.