Vietnamese food, especially in Australia is known for two things, taste and value. I remember, when growing up, being amazed at how many ingredients go into a typical Vietnamese dish and how much time it takes to cook a good meal. A bowl of pho involves cooking beef bones for hours and adding a bewildering number of spices including coriander seeds, star anise, cumin, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, garlic – and they are just the spices I recognise. The depth of richness in the soup also comes from salt, ginger and of course fish sauce. And more is added to the pho at the table: bean sprouts, chilli, basil and hoi-sin sauce. Next time you order a $10 bowl of pho, take a minute to appreciate all the effort.
And it’s the same with a banh mi thit (Vietnamese pork roll) over 10 ingredients including three types of meat, pate, mayo, pickles, chilli wrapped in a crusty, crunchy long roll. While a chicken and avocado sandwich might set you back $8, you can get a pork roll for as little as $3 and it’s not just in the Vietnamese hubs like Cabramatta, Marrickville and Bankstown - a very decent pork roll can be had for $3 in Penrith! Pork rolls are the un-sung heroes of fast food, perhaps the original subway! Pork roll shops are spreading all across Sydney - next time you pop off to your local hot bread shop, check to see if there’s a counter in the corner. A tip, if I may: avoid it if there’s sliced lettuce anywhere in the vicinity!
Earlier this year, I undertook a stomach churning search for Sydney’s best pork roll – a crazy chomping frenzy stretching from Hurstville to Penrith and in between. At the end of the six weeks, I announced the winner of Sydney’s best pork roll.
Since that time, it seems like more and more pork roll places have popped up. One of the more recent is an all-out assault on Sydney’s CBD, with the Pork Roll shop in Sydney’s George Street diagonally across from World Square. A tiny frontage that is just enough for two pork roll making counters, early on it was only an amazing $3.50 for a pork, roll but within months that had gone up to $3.95 – which is still pretty amazing value.
Noodlies finally got the chance to give it a test drive and I’m very, very pleasantly surprised. It’s the best Vietnamese pork roll I’ve had in the city; crispy roll with an lovely ‘just right’ colour – not under cooked or over-cooked, all the ingredients are there, all pretty authentic – no skipping corners, there’s even pickled carrots, spring onions and sliced chilli – two types of condiments too, soy and salt and pepper. A few minor, and they're very, very minor observations: firstly, it could have done with a tad more pate and mayo which would have made it more creamy, the meat had a slightly strong five spice after-taste (fine for me, but may not be to everyone’s taste) and finally the soy sauce was a little light. But please, readers, these are very minor issues in an otherwise excellent pork roll that’s under $4k. Oh, +1000 likes for the crunchy roll!
If you want to read more about Vietnamese pork rolls get the current edition of SBS Feast Magazine for my full page ‘break-down’.
Pork roll (that’s the only name on the shop)
627 George St, Sydney
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