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FOOD & DRINK

Where to Find Melbourne's Best Banh Mi

Find everything from the tried-and-true to more contemporary offerings across Melbourne.
By Libby Curran
September 01, 2021
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By Libby Curran
September 01, 2021
  shares

UPDATE Wednesday, September 1: Victoria is currently under stay-at-home orders, with venues restricted to offering takeaway and delivery. You can stay up to date with the developing COVID-19 situation in Victoria, as well as current restrictions, at the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website.

A crusty white roll, lashings of smooth pate, and a generous pile of fresh ingredients, pickled things and herbs — it's easy to see why Vietnam's gift to the sandwich world is well-appreciated here in Melbourne. The humble banh mi is a lunchtime favourite that's both affordable enough and healthy enough to feel like you could scoff one — or two — every day of the week.

All across the city, Vietnamese bakeries and modern eateries alike are serving up top-notch iterations of the classic sandwich; ranging from the tried-and-true, to more contemporary reworkings.

Whether you fancy yours loaded with roast pork, barbecue chicken or something altogether more creative, here's where to find yourself a beautiful banh mi in Melbourne.

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N LEE, COLLINGWOOD

Come lunchtime, the biggest queue on Smith Street is almost always the one snaking out the doors of this long-running Vietnamese bakery. Sandwich fiends flock to N Lee for its menu of traditional banh mi, crafted on fluffy rolls baked fresh in-house. The classic grilled pork is a firm favourite here, though the tofu roll and a pork belly number crowned with crackling also get a strong run. The wait is never too long, thanks to a bevvy of staff who work seamlessly behind the counter, grilling up meat and piling fresh ingredients into bread just as quickly as the orders come. It's also famously affordable — the change from a tenner will more than cover a few cheeky spring rolls as an entree.

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CA COM, RICHMOND

Born out of last year's lockdowns, the Anchovy crew's genius pop-up banh mi window proved so successful that it spawned its own permanent space. These days, Ca Com — meaning 'anchovy' in Vietnamese — is slinging a tight rotation of innovative Vietnamese rolls, with a menu that's guided by the interesting ingredients the chefs get their hands on each week. Drop by for crafty creations starring the likes of Manchurian-spiced pumpkin, crispy fried tempeh and garlic, prawn mousse-stuffed garfish, and smoked mortadella matched with yellow mustard mayo. If you're willing to break from tradition, these sambos promise to rock your world.

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PHUOC THANH, RICHMOND AND WEST MELBOURNE

With two popular, long-running outposts and another on the way, the family-run Phuoc Thanh bakery has earned plenty of fans for its freshly baked breads — and the menu of classic banh mi are the stars of the show. Here, crisp, fluffy-centred rolls are loaded with traditional filling combinations like roast pork with chunks of crackling, tender barbecue chicken and nem nướng (pork skewers) in a special house sauce. All are finished with a handful of lively veggies, chilli, pickled carrot and fresh herbs, of course. At the West Melbourne store, you'll even find a breakfast banh mi option, featuring fried egg and bacon to get your morning off to a solid start.

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Julia Sansone

NHU LAN, FOOTSCRAY

Perched across the street from the buzz of Footscray Market, Nhu Lan is a classic Vietnamese bakery serving flavour-packed eats with absolutely zero pretension. The pint-sized shopfront churns out its top-notch rolls swiftly and without fuss, so you're never queuing up for too long. Not that these beauties aren't totally worth a little wait. The traditional-leaning menu heroes favourites like barbecue pork, a chicken and onion combination, and ham and salad, with fresh ingredients and fluffy bread always a given. If it's a satisfying lunch for under six bucks you're after, this neighbourhood gem is most definitely a goer.

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BUN BUN BAKERY, SPRINGVALE

As the name suggests, this Springvale spot is slinging some top-notch buns — you'll find scores of fans who agree Bun Bun's is a sandwich well worth crossing town for. The house-baked rolls hold their fillings in all the right places and pork crackling is available as a free add-on for all seven banh mi options. The menu features both hot and cold varieties of the Vietnamese sanga, with highlights including the roast pork in barbecue sauce, an even saucier meatball number and a lemongrass-roasted chicken. Expect a generous ratio of paté, too — no dry mouthfuls here. And in a win for your wallet, most items are priced at around $5 or $6.

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PHO NOM, CBD

A bright, casual canteen-style eatery from celebrated chef Jerry Mai, Pho Nom is serving up Vietnamese street food classics with a fresh, modern twist. Here, against a backdrop of bold wall art and playful pops of colour, you can tuck into primo banh mi varieties heroing top-quality ingredients, such as the crispy pork belly or tofu, and a grilled lemongrass chicken. There's also a crispy fried chicken creation finished with lashings of sriracha mayo if you feel like shaking things up. All four options feature silky house-made paté and a pile of salad as standard inclusions, clocking in at $9 a pop. Paired with a Vietnamese iced coffee — and lunch on the go is looking very good indeed.

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MASTER ROLL VIETNAM, SOUTH YARRA

For an authentic Vietnamese grab-and-go feed south of the river, people flock to this modern bakery serving up a refined take on traditional banh mi each day. Here, neat, colourful piles of salad ingredients beckon from the front counter, but it's the hefty trays of roast pork and crisp crackling that'll really have you salivating. Master Roll's menu sticks to the classics but does them with a bit of modern flair, offering options like grilled chicken, grilled pork chop and quality cold cuts, alongside a vegetarian-friendly lemongrass and chilli tofu. At $8.50, they're a little pricier than that of your old-school suburban joint, but some top-notch house-made mayonnaise and paté help seal the deal.

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SELINA HOT BREAD, SUNSHINE

A long-standing favourite of Sunshine's multicultural food scene, Selina Hot Bread is a small bakery with a huge following. Look out for the bright green shopfront and venture in for a very good roast pork banh mi, packed with the traditional paté, mayo and fresh salad, and finished with a sprinkling of chilli and crispy fried onions. Other simple yet supremely satisfying options include a barbecue chicken and salad combination, a signature meatball roll, a handful of tofu sambos and a classic Vietnamese ham banh mi. No matter which you choose, it's delightfully cheap. So go on and add a couple of rice paper rolls or pork buns to your lunch order.

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SUNNY'S BAKERY, COLLINGWOOD

Its queues might be slightly less hectic than that of its counterpart up the street, but Sunny's is still one of the leaders of the pack as far as Collingwood's banh mi scene is concerned. Decked out in a bold splash of orange befitting its name, the bakery turns out classic Vietnamese banh mi on light, crusty house-made rolls, with some very reasonable price tags to match. Fuss-free fillings range from thick-cut roast pork with crackling, to a spicy chicken, to some vegetarian-friendly tofu creations. Sunny's even offers a bacon and egg banh mi that proves especially effective at soaking up a hangover, or simply as a winning grab-and-go brekkie.

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BULLSEYE BANH MI, ST KILDA

A contemporary, Vietnamese-run eatery in the heart of St Kilda, Bullseye is known for its colourful fit-out and generously loaded banh mi. Among the menu's many street food offerings, you'll find a solid lineup of rolls, starring classic-leaning fillings like barbecue chicken, crispy roast pork and braised pork topped with crunchy curls of crackling. Vegetarians can get their fix with the braised tofu number, and there's even a banh mi stuffed with a pork or veggie spring roll, for those after a little extra pizazz. At between $8 and $9, these beauties are up the higher end of the banh mi price scale — if you can, make the most of the cheery restaurant space and enjoy yours dine-in.

Published on September 01, 2021 by Libby Curran

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