The magic of banh mi is in its contrasts. The crispy crust of the bread versus its fluffy centre. The meatiness of pork versus the fresh cucumber, sweet carrot, and the tangy spring onion. Top it all off with some salty soy sauce and spicy fresh chilli and, honestly, what base does this roll not hit? It’s a perfect parcel!
Here are our favourite places in Sydney to bag a banh mi that hit all the right notes.
Banh Mi Bay Ngo
This is definitely one of the best shops for banh mi in the entire city. At Banh Mi Bay Ngo, you have the choice of pork, pork skin, chicken, meatball, fish patties and, most vitally, the hard-to-find fried egg roll. (Why is banh mi made with fresh, fried eggs so hard to come by?!)
The bread is fresh and crispy, and the rolls are so stuffed that you will certainly feel full after one. For less than $5, you really can’t get better. Like all good banh mi joints, things move pretty fast and can get a bit chaotic in front and behind of the counter. It’s also takeaway only, so find somewhere nearby to sit and chow down while the roll is still fresh.
Writer's note: I took my parents here and they went back without me three weekends in a row! It’s addictive.
Marrickville Pork Roll
Marrickville AND Darling Square
If you’re into banh mi, you’ve probably already visited Marrickville Pork Roll on Illawarra Road. And if you haven’t, what have you been doing?!
This hole-in-the-wall takeaway spot was so popular, they have now opened a second venue in Darling Square. “We may appear to be a little more ‘hip’ with our friendly neon tiger, but we are exactly the same at heart,” Darling Square store owner Roger Tan said, adding that the Darling Square menu is slightly smaller than Marrickville.
When it comes to the Marrickville Pork Roll secret, it may just be the venue’s "special sauce". “[We put] extra care into every ingredient that goes into the banh mi, starting from the perfectly crusty bread to the perfectly paired finishing sauce,” Tan said. “We make everything in house, bar one ingredient [the Vietnamese hams in the traditional pork roll], including our bread which is a fun fact many of our customers don’t know!"
It’s surprisingly hard to find a good banh mi within the CBD limits. Workers between Town Hall and Circular Quay have plenty of burgers and sushi joints to get around, but a good banh mi is harder to come by. Enter Destination Roll's city outpost.
Their York St hole in the wall serves up quality rolls (the crispy pork is a favourite), which makes for one hell of a tasty cheap lunch. Destination Roll is everywhere too, from Mascot to Paramatta, Cabramatta, and North Ryde.
“We believe there are two main components to a good banh mi, both as equally important as the other,” Delicious Roll’s Thu Ba told us. “The bread needs to be fresh, crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside. We bake bread rolls every 15 minutes. [The other component is] the fillings. The ingredients in the roll need to work well with each other. From the texture of the mayo to the tanginess of the carrot, all need to be well balanced.”
Hong Ha Bakery
This 30-year-old, Botany Rd establishment would be hard to find if not for the line of people permanently snaking out the door.
Fortunately, Hong Ha has things under control. When it comes to their rolls, the chicken is a top choice, with both regular and schnitzel options available. However, like most people looking for banh mi, it’s the pork roll that really gets you going.
Don’t forget to bring your cash!
Alex 'N' Rolls
Just up the road from Marrickville Pork Roll is Alex 'N' Rolls. Having opened in January of 2019, it's a newish but fierce contender for the Inner West banh mi crown. Like most spots on this list, you can expect long lines winding out of the converted cottage and down the street, with punters eager to nab their fill of one of Alex 'N' Rolls' delicious $6 roast pork rolls.
Here, the pork is cut thick and carved from hefty glazed cuts at the counter in front of you, before being squashed between a perfect fluffy bun. Got nowhere to be? Hang about in the sunny front courtyard to really enjoy your catch.
Top Ryde Baker's House
Tucked into the Top Ryde shopping centre, Baker's House is famous for its plus-size crispy pork belly banh mi—and for the lengthy queues of super fans it draws on weekends.
The family-run institution crams their crispy crust bread rolls to almost breaking point—with aforementioned slow-cooked pork, lemongrass beef, meatballs, chicken, and salad all on the menu as base fillings. If banh mi balance isn't your thing and the meaty filling is the best bit no doubt about it—we reckon Top Ryde Baker's House is 100% your jam.
As with Bankstown, there’s more than one great banh mi shop in Cabramatta, but we’ve chosen KK Bakery for its one-of-a-kind marinated chicken Maryland roll. The juicy, marinated chicken is stripped onto the roll and gives it an extra punch of flavour.
Also, praise be, we have another banh mi shop serving up freshly fried egg rolls. If you haven’t tried an egg banh mi, we cannot stress enough how good and how rare they are. When it’s on a menu, seize your opportunity.
Obunmee gets its name from the Vietnamese word for bread—Ổ Bánh mì (pronounced “O bun mee”). Hidden away in one of Pyrmont's heritage terraces, here the range of fillings is a little broader with lemongrass pork and a "veggie delight" option on the menu alongside traditional pork. The real MVP? Go for the chicken schnitzel banh mi—a neat mashup of spicy chilli mayo and pate with crispy chicken schnitzel and a punch of fresh carrot, cucumber, apple, and coriander.
In the mood for something more coastal? Check out our list of Sydney's best fish and chips.
Image credit: Banh Mi Bay Ngo