In search of banh mi

I was born and raised in Sydney, originally living in and around Marrickville before moving down to THE Shire (there is no other, apparently) partway through primary school then disappearing for a few years to live in Hong Kong. We returned to THE Shire for me to complete the bulk of my high schooling and I remained there until getting married a couple of years ago and migrating across to the North Shore. It really is considered a migration – people joke that I had to get a visa and surrender my passport before leaving THE Shire, such is the amount of pride felt by the locals. (We’ll leave the jokes about everyone being inbred and cut off from the mainland for another time, teehee!)

Growing up in the inner west meant easy access to Greek and Italian sweets as well as Vietnamese breads and pastries. My mother would often purchase crusty baguette rolls with their soft, fluffy innards and a croissant for me. I would spend seemingly forever attempting to eat one, usually only getting halfway, by patiently peeling off individual layers and marvelling at their delicate translucency.

Banh mi thit, or Vietnamese pork rolls, are not something I grew up with but something I’ve grown to love since adulthood. Now while my current living area is diverse in Japanese and Cantonese cuisine options, with a steady increase in Korean eateries in recent years as well, it is definitely lacking in the Vietnamese department. I know of only three Vietnamese restaurants in my immediate vicinity, and I struggled when it came to thinking of Vietnamese bakeries from where I could procure banh mi thit for which I’d had an unexplained craving for 48 hours.

This is the journey that it led me on.

Sweet Delight Bakery
Situated between a newish Japanese ramen joint and Porters Liquor along a section of Victoria Avenue away from the main shopping strip, this little bakery is well-stocked with not only loaves of bread and bread rolls but plenty of full-sized cakes, tarts, slices and pastries also.

Their pork and chicken rolls are served to us on soft, non-crusty rolls absolutely jam-packed with salad fillings. Retro charm is added by having each roll cut in half and brought out to us on mismatched plates. The chicken roll turns out to be the tastier of the two and I am disappointed that the pork roll is missing the usual pork pâté.

Cherry Lane Cakes
Being across the road from one of the entrance points to Chatswood station, I can’t even begin to think how many times I may have walked past here without realising that they sold banh mi. It seems I may be in the minority as, when I dropped in to try one, several people wandered in after me ordering the same. Heck, one fellow even asked for his “usual”.

The first and more recent times here have seen their rolls served on crusty baguettes, but interestingly our second visit resulted in soft rolls being used like at Sweet Delight above. I am encouraged by their having pork pâté which results in a much richer pork taste. (Strangely, pork pâté is spread on the chicken rolls as well.) There is little soy/seasoning flavour, however, despite witnessing it having been drizzled on each time.

Vina Bakehouse
Years ago I had originally dismissed this as another one of those chains which reside in large shopping centres. That was before I’d ever tried their hot cross buns, but now I’ve been buying theirs each year since. Which of course then begs the question of how many times have I stood there completely oblivious to their glass cabinet which houses banh mi fillings.

The visit to this final bakery also brings triumph in being the tastiest pork roll of the three. There is an obvious taste of pork pâté which is tempered by the slight saltiness of the thin(nest) slices of cold meats laid on top – but then I see Chinese roast pork being added! The crusty baguette adds shatter and, so far, this is the only soy sauce/seasoning I’ve been able to taste of those tried.

Bakeries like these retain that small, independent bakery/corner store look and charm about them. It’s comforting and reminds me of simpler times – I could have wandered in during my childhood, ten years ago or just yesterday and it would have looked the same. I guess that’s part of the appeal.

Sweet Delight Bakery
224 Victoria Ave (between Olga St & Robinson St), Chatswood NSW
Tel: (02) 9413 4641

Cherry Lane Cakes
Shop 3, 457 Victoria Ave (next to 7-11), Chatswood NSW
Tel: (02) 9413 4594

Vina Bakehouse
Shop 213, Level 2, Westfield Chatswood (next Oliver Brown), Chatswood NSW
Tel: (02) 9413 1347

happy eating!


  1. The last banh mi thit definitely looks so much better than the first two. Now you made me crave for it as well!

  2. oh man now i want one! i always ask for extra pate :D

  3. I have no idea why i'm looking at all these photo's of food when i'm starving. It's making it worse! These look especially delicious :)


  4. I've never had Banh Mi before, and it wasn't until I started looking at cookbooks and magazines a couple of years ago that I found out about them for the first time! Strange huh? Must be because i grew up in a different part of Sydney ;) The last one even looks the tastiest of them all!

  5. glad u found your banh mi! i cant find a place around chinatown where they serve it with a soft roll :(

  6. i munched on a killer banh mi for lunch... these things are lunch perfection rolled up into a 3 dollar bundle of goodness

  7. Hey Phuoc, haha, I walked past that place over the weekend and was eyeing the banh mi cabinet as I went by! =p

    Hey chococlatesuze, good tip - I'll ask for extra pate in future too!

    Hey NaNa, it's always dangerous looking at food when you're hungry to start with!

    Hey Von, time for you to hunt one down and try it, methinks =D

    Hey sugarpuffi, I actually prefer the crusty rolls - so messy but so good!

    Hey rockahenry, $3?! Bargain - mine usually come in around the $4.50 mark.

  8. You have to go to Taste in Surry Hills for one, amazing!! And Ms G's (Dan Hong) does a nice twist on a mini banh mi :)

  9. Hey minibites, I keep getting distracted by the pork belly baguette whenever I visit any of the Taste outlets to notice anything else! =p

  10. Be nice about those that reside in THE Shire :p Mrs "I have migrated to the North Shore".

    Would you believe that I can actually buy banh mi at the Oyster Bay bakery? Yes I went into shock when they opened up about two years ago, and was also concerned as we are such a sleepy suburb, surely they couldn't pull in the numbers to keep everything fresh?

    They do, amazingly, and I often pick one up on the way to work for my lunch. Okay they are not the best in town, but beggers can't be choosers. I get my fix :)

  11. Hey Sara, I have such fond memories of THE Shire and will be truly sad when my mother moves out of the area!

    I remember there being a Vietnamese bakery near Sutherland station, and suspect they may have banh mi there but, of all places, never would have expected there to be banh mi in Oyster Bay! Lucky you =)

  12. ''Banh mi'' is the word came from Vietnamese,Vina Bakehouse is the shop who owns by a Vietnamese.So i think the last one is same with the Banh mi in vietnam with 90 percent...and it's look so yummi:)

  13. Hey maynguyen, the other two bakeries where I purchased banh mi are also run by Vietnamese as well, but I definitely do prefer that last one too.

  14. Phew you saved my life! Wandering around Chatswood looking for a pork roll when I stumbled across your blog. Went to Vines, the last place you reviewed. Sadly they seem to have forfeited on the cha su (chinese roast pork) guys, although I personally like it without :) Still hit the spot!


Thanks for leaving a comment!


Related Posts with Thumbnails