The rise of the humble sandwich as foodie lunchtime fodder, combined with Australia’s love of Vietnamese cuisine, has resulted in a surge in Banh Mi sales across the country. And we’re ecstatic.
Is the Banh Mi the most popular style of filled roll going around at the moment? Well, we reckon the hipster-friendly Bagel could give it a run for its money. However, we suspect that there are more Vietnamese bakeries whipping up Fresh Salad, Pate and Roast Pork Baguettes than there are shops boiling batches of circular bread dough.
But what exactly is a Banh Mi? If you’ve managed to miss this delicious snack, then you’re in for a treat.
At it’s most basic, a Banh Mi is a short Baguette with a soft, light interior and a thin, crispy crust. To turn this into the Vietnamese Roll that so many of us love, you cut it open lengthways and get stuffing. Common fillings include shredded Carrots, Cucumber, Green Onion, Fresh Coriander, Roast Chicken, BBQ Pork, Tofu, Mayo and more.
Whilst many of the ingredients are fairly standard, how are a surprising number of variations in Banh Mi from bakery to bakery. Is the shredded Carrot pickled? Is Pork Pate slathered on the bottom of the Roll before everything else is piled on top (for us, this is a must!)? Has the Chicken or Pork been marinated or spiced prior to cooking? Are Chillies obligatory – and if yes, how hot?
All of this means that finding the best Banh Mi in Melbourne is a tall order.
Luckily, we’ve yet to meet a Vietnamese Roll that we haven’t demolished, so we’ve done the research for you.
Location: Phuoc Thanh Bakery Richmond, 206 Victoria St, Richmond, VIC 3121 Ph: (03) 9429 5952 & Phuoc Thanh Bakery Chadstone, Chadstone Shopping Centre, 1342 Dandenong Rd, Lower Ground Food Court, Chadstone, VIC, 3148 & Phuoc Thanh Bakery West Melbourne, 424 Spencer St, West Melbourne, VIC 3003 Ph: (03) 9939 3119
From a simple bakery in a Vietnamese eatery-dense block of North Richmond, Phuoc Thanh has become a sandwich-making force to be reckoned with. These days, the unpretentious shop is still turning out irresistibly tasty Banh Mi, but also has sister outposts wowing customers in Chadstone and West Melbourne.
And no wonder. For us, despite the huge choice of spots to eat on Victoria Street, Phuoc Thanh still makes some of the our favourite Banh Mi in Melbourne.
The bread itself has that magic quality of being both light and yet satisfying. The layer of Pate is rich and the perfect foil to the stacked fillings. And what a great range of fillings! There are slithers of seasoned Vietnamese Ham, juicy Meatballs, BBQ Chicken or Bouncy Tofu. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Pork Loaf with Brawn is a texture and flavour bomb.
And this is one of the great strengths of a Phuoc Thanh Banh Mi. These folks really know how to make texture – soft Pate, crisp pickled Veg – an integral part of their Rolls. Which is why we can never ignore the crunchy Crackling promise of their Crispy Pork Banh Mi ($13).
If the trek to Richmond is too far, check out one of Phuoc Thanh shops elsewhere. There’s a reason they are opening up across town – their banh mi are definitely some of the best in Melbourne.
For more of the fiesty, diverse food of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, see our Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Melbourne
Location: 11 Puckle St, Moonee Ponds, VIC 3039 Ph: (03) 9041 7308
Moonee Ponds is witnessing a minor foodie resurgence at present. However, nice as many of the cafes in the area are, the one place you really must try is Luke’s Vietnamese. Why? Because Luke’s – as the locals call it – repeatedly makes the round-ups of the top Banh Mi in Melbourne. How do we know? Well, the queues that regularly snake out of the door are a really great sign.
And no wonder. The rolls here are generous – both in terms of size and the amount of filling. What’s more, there’s a surprisingly large amount of choice. For example, there are 5 styles of Pork alone with the Crackling being a stand-out both in terms of juiciness and flavour.
At Luke’s the ingredients are all super fresh and of the highest quality. They also don’t hold back on the punch of their Chillies or the power of their Sauces. Pleasingly, texture is important at this Vietnamese bakery too with plenty of crunch to counterbalance soft Bread and succulent Meats.
And if you like to keep it plant-based, you’re in luck. The team at Luke’s do vegetarian and vegan-friendly Banh Mi. In fact, they even whip up a vegan version of their pate. Now that’s the kind of customer care we are willing to travel for.
If you have a passion for ring-shaped sandwiches, check out our Best Bagels in Melbourne.
Location: 99 Highbury Rd, Burwood, VIC 3125 Ph: (03) 9808 3326
Confession time. We LOVE the Banh Mi at Lunchez on Highbury.
Sat at the bottom of the hill, a couple of blocks after the Burwood Cemetery, at first glance it doesn’t seem like the most obvious spot for a Vietnamese cafe. But during the week – when the eatery is open – the surrounding streets house a surprising number of warehouses and small businesses. And if there’s one thing a hard worker knows, it’s where to get an awesome sandwich.
And to our mind, Lunchez on Highbury knock out some of the finest Banh Mi in Melbourne.
This place is packed during the lunchtime rush.
Well, no wonder. Not only is everything – including the superb Banh Mi – freshly prepared in front of you, but the staff are beyond delightful. There is always a cheery smile when they hand over your food, and that is quite something seemings how manic it can be in there on occasions.
What’s more, to call Lunchez on Highbury a cheap eats haven is an understatement. The fully loaded, incredibly tasty Banh Mi start at $6.50 for the Vegetarian option and go up to $8.50 for the rich, juicy Crispy Pork. Temptations such as the BBQ Kebab, BBQ Chicken , Mixed Ham & Tofu all come in at $7.50.
Lastly, the team at Lunchez also a number of other noteworthy Vietnamese dishes. The Beef and the Chicken Pho are both only $12, which seem ridiculous given how generous each bowl is and how wonderful the broth smells. And where else can you get a Burger with The Lot for a mere $7.00?
Take our advice and join the queue sometime at Lunchez on Highbury. You won’t regret it.
Love a bowl of noodles every now and then? See our guide to the Best Ramen in Melbourne
Location: 1/288 Springvale Rd, Springvale, VIC 3171 Ph: (03) 9547 8289
If you know your Vietnamese sandwiches, the chances are that you’ve joined the line outside Bun Bun Bakery in Springvale. After all, this is place has topped numerous ‘best Banh Mi in Melbourne’ lists over the years.
The team behind the counter work with military precision. And they need to. Hungry customers start appearing at 6am and the final Pork Roll doesn’t leave the building until 12 hours later. 7 days a week!
So what to order? Well, not surprisingly, many are here for the Roasted Pork and Crackling ($9). Whether you go for the BBQ Sauce or not is up to you. But honestly, the fabulously crunchy Pork Skin and that deeply-flavoured sauce is an amazing combination. Another marriage made in heaven is the Roast Chicken in Lemongrass – juicy pieces of chicken with a good citrusy punch.
And vegetarians and vegans are catered for as well. The Tofu Banh Mi is especially memorable at Bun Bun Bakery.
Whatever you decide on, you’re sure to be very happy with generosity of the fillings and the excellent balance of flavours.
Just be willing for wait in line for your roll.
With shops selling their signature fat wedges popping up across the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, see our review of Saul’s Sandwiches.
Editor’s Note: We are currently in the process of updating this page. Please come back soon for more recommendations.