Fave 5 Asian Cheap Eats in Melbourne

By Pip Jarvis
31st Mar 2015

When we love something we really, truly LOVE something! And that’s exactly how we feel about our new relationship! Some things just go together. Like cookies and cream, Brandon and Brenda… The Urban List and MINI! 

Our two families have collaborated to bring discerning readers and drivers a new fortnightly series – MINI Fave 5s. The must-try guide to Melbourne, celebrating the launch of the new MINI 5-door hatch! 

So, Urban Listers, clear the diary and get excited for our Fave 5s. There’s a whole year of eating, drinking and discovering to be done… 


We love a good feed here at TUL, and our tummies positively jump with joy when we find an awesome meal for mere peanuts (mmm, peanuts). When it comes to cheap eats in Melbourne, it's a known foodie fact that some of the best bargain bites come from our city’s top-notch Asian eateries. From banh mi to bibimbap, ramen to rice paper rolls, laksa to lemon chicken, Melbourne cheap eats don’t come more delicious than this.

It’s time to wok and roll, Listers, with our list of epic Asian cheap eats in Melbourne. Chop Chop.

Banh Mi | $6.50 each

Uncle in St Kilda

‘But wait!’, you cry. ‘I can get a banh mi for three-fidee at my local Vietnamese bakery!’ Well, yes, that may be true. But does it contain the (stay with me) deliciousness of crispy pigs ear? No, no it does not. And most probably it’s on a crispy bread roll, the type that is admittedly delicious, but often cuts the corners of your mouth, rather than a cloud-like brioche bun—so soft, so fluffy.

This banh mi bombshell at Vietnamese hotspot, Uncle, is filled with crunchy slithers of salty, fried, pig’s ear—a deliciousness that is akin to pork crackling on crack. Pair that crackle with the buttery softness of the brioche bun, the touch of creamy mayo, the tangy pickled cucumber and fresh, fragrant coriander, and you have a cheap-eat treat for the senses. 

Uncle’s tofu option with pickles and peanuts is just as good, with an aioli/bbq sauce that is out-of-this-world good, and has been known to turn a meat eater vegan, if just for one meal.

Tom Yum Goong Burger | $10

Thaiger in Melbourne CBD

When it comes to cheap eats in Melbourne’s CBD, Thaiger has carved a unique niche with its hole-in-the-wall trade in burgers with a twist. With Thai-inspired burgers like the Chick-Chick Bang Bang and Pork Belly Get Into My Belly, Thaiger has a dedicated following of Melbourne burger lovers.

While they’re all pretty high on the yum-ometer, our favourite cheap eat from the menu is the Tom Yum Goong burger for a tidy tenner. Picture this: a dreamy brioche bun stuffed with plump and spicy grilled prawns, fresh herbs, coriander, crispy lettuce, and Tom Yum mayo—it's a flavour sensation no Melbourne cheap eats crawl should be without.

Crouching Thaiger, hidden burger.

Vegie Bibimbap | $10 (for lunch)

Seoul Soul in Richmond & Northcote

Now just cos you're a cheap eats crusader, doesn't mean fast and calorific food is the only option. We’ve recently discovered the healthy wonder that is the Korean dish, bibimbap, and we’re hooked. For the uninitiated (shame on you), it’s a bowl of warm rice, topped with sautéed and seasoned meats or veggies, and Korean chilli pepper paste, plus a raw or fried egg. Once it arrives at your table, you mix it all together and enjoy immensely.

For lunch, you can grab a vegie bimimbap at Seoul Soul for ten shiny dollar coins or one crispy piece of plastic dosh. This one’s got your five-a-day and then some: zucchini, carrot, bean sprouts, sweet potato root, mushroom, and radish with a pan-fried egg. Hot tip: take your Insta shot before you smoosh it all together. You’re welcome.

Pork & Prawn Goi Cuon | $10 (for 3)

Phamily Kitchen in Collingwood

Slicker than your average, if this new Vietnamese eatery on Smith Street doesn’t colour you happy with its gorgeous, vibrant blue fit out and pink roof (pink roof!), we don’t know what will. Except maybe for the and delicious, authentic cheap eats on offer…

Dishing up all the classics—pho, banh mi, Vietnamese slaw, and crispy soft shell crab, et al—the pork and prawn goi cuon (rice paper rolls, dontcha know) at Phamily Kitchen are one of our top Melbourne cheap eats, at $10 for three perfect parcels.

The rolls are a decent size, with a good amount of filling; the prawns are juicy and the pork’s nice and moist. They’ll hit the sweet spot, without stuffing you to the brim. Because leaving without a Vietnamese coffee would be madness.

Classic Ramen  | $14

Tokyo Tina in Windsor

At $14 for a piping hot bowl, the classic ramen at hot new Windsor Japanese restaurant, Tokyo Tina, is at the higher end of the Melbourne cheap eats scale, but well worth it.

A hearty, soul-soothing brew, this is our new go-to dinner when we're feeling like a big warm hug. Sniffles, Mondayitis, broken heart—we reckon this’ll fix ya!

The yummy salty Tonkotsu broth (made from pork bone), the melt in your mouth roasted pork belly, the perfect 63-degree egg, the carby goodness of the noodles and the zingy spring onions—it’s a cheap eats dinner of champions.

If you’re more of a Vietnamese fan, make sure you check out sister restaurants, Hanoi Hannah and Hanoi Hannah Express Lane, where the banh mi and pho are great, cheap options.

We're thrilled to partner with MINI to bring you our Fave 5 series—our fortnightly guide to the best of the best in Melbourne. From food to fashion, Campari to Crossfit, each Fave 5 edition is researched and recommended by The Urban List, and driven by the new MINI 5-Door Hatch—putting the city at your fingertips and giving you the freedom to explore it! 

Image Credits: Phamily Kitchen, Thaiger and Seoul Soul - Simon Shiff. Tokyo Tina and Uncle - Nick West. 

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