There is perhaps nothing worse than arriving at your lunch break only to find your homemade sandwich has gone soggy, or you've left your leftovers sitting on the kitchen bench. Enter the bánh mì – a crusty French baguette slathered with pate, filled traditionally with pork or chicken and adorned with fresh cucumber, pickled carrot and coriander. The classic Vietnamese sandwich is affordable, fast and most importantly, delicious, and now so popular that there are cafes and bakeries opening all over the city in dedication. Here's where to find Melbourne's best bánh mì.
The newest addition to Melbourne's love affair with bánh mì is Ba'get on Russell Street, and despite only being open for a wee while, they've got the production line down pat.
At Ba'get you're spoiled for choice with 10 varieties of bánh mì on offer including a 'Breakfast Ba'get' with egg, or 'Buddha's Tofu Ba'get' for the herbivores.
If you have the time to spare be sure to eat in; you'll be treated to complimentary Pandan Tea and will be able to marvel at the quirky interior including light shades made from baskets. Kitsch and clever.
What do you get when you bring together a Chinese medicine practitioner, a management consultant/former Masterchef contestant and a former corporate lawyer? Food truck favourite, Bánh Mì Boys, that's what. Darren Kwok, Keen Poon and Francis Fung have taken their modern twist on Vietnamese fare to the streets, making appearances at festivals, markets and other events right across town.
Lemongrass pork, zesty chicken and sambal eggplant round out the flavoursome bánh mì on offer, which are available in 7 inch or as a 'Mini Mi', the perfect excuse to try all three. If you can't get enough of the Boys, they're available for catering too!
Tucked away off bustling Bourke Street in Tivoli Arcade is FOB Rolls, home to authentic bánh mì with tongue-in-cheek titles.
The play on words begins with the name of the tuckshop itself, with FOB an abbreviation for 'fresh off the boat'.
Order 'Quack Me Up' and you'll get roast duck, 'Chick-A-Dee' and you're up for marinated chicken, or 'Jurassic Pork', and you guessed it, you'll be munching your way through a pork-filled roll.
What's more, rice paper rolls are just $2 with any bánh mì purchase. The Prawn Star is a must.
With outposts in three of Melbourne's busiest eat streets - Smith Street, Clarendon Street and Little Collins Street - N Lee Bakery is a business with a cult-like following. The friendly staff run a tight ship and handle the queues with precision.
From American-style hot dogs to savoury croissants, there's an extensive menu to choose from, but the bánh mì simply can't be beaten. Of particular note is the pork meatball version, or Xiu Mai in Vietnamese – it's perfectly seasoned and melts in the mouth.
After mastering the art of the pop-up, Paperboy Kitchen now has permanent residency in the city and is perhaps best described as Melbourne's high-end answer to bánh mì. Rest assured it's worth the extra couple of dollars, with free range chicken, slow-cooked lamb shoulder and beef brisket with pho dipper all rocking the menu. The traditional accompaniments have also been pimped – pate, carrot and cucumber have been replaced with Asian slaw, carrot-daikon pickle and sriracha-mayo. Coriander is the only classic ingredient to remain.
A final tip – do yourself a favour and do not leave without sampling a 'Milk Bar Cookie'; they've got everything in them you'd find in a milk bar including chocolate and salt and vinegar chips. Simply scrumptious.
It's been almost two years since the first Roll'd set up shop in Goldsborough Lane, and now the fruitful franchise has 15 stores in Melbourne and one apiece in Brisbane and Canberra with no sign of slowing down.
Rolling out, ahem, Vietnamese hawker-style food, the menu is fresh, fun and draws a crowd in all of its locations.
Alongside 'Roll'd Soldiers' and 'Uncle Pho' is 'Mr Bun Mee', which despite its unconventional name, offers the same time-honoured recipe you'd expect from a classic bánh mì.
Nhu Lan Bakery | 116 Hopkins Street in Footscray
N Tran | 263 Chapel Street in Prahran and 5/210 Toorak Road in South Yarra
Jenny's Hot Bread | 535 Riversdale Road in Camberwell
Image Credit: Rasa Malaysia