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Food Place Review: Banh Mi – Vietnamese Rolls

Food Place Review: Banh Mi – Vietnamese Rolls

First Impressions

Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh MiThe first time I came across Banh Mi Vietnamese Rolls, located below Grenfell Tower (aka ‘The Black Stump’) at 25 Grenfell Street (opposite Citicross Arcade),  I passed because of the crazy lineup that lead way out past its front entrance. At the time I wasn’t about to waste half my lunchtime queuing up. The next time I walked past, my curiosity got the better of me.  No sooner had I stepped up to the queue of about twenty people, pulled out my mobile phone and read a few emails that I found myself face-to-face with a tatted up Cool Cat of an Asian dude ready to take my order. That was my first encounter with Andy Vinh, Owner-Operator of what has become my Number One Banh Mi joint in the Adelaide CBD. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy Vinh

The Beginning

Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy VinhAndy is Aussie-born to parents, who were some of the first ‘boat people’ from Vietnam, arriving in 1976. While his parents were relatively liberal by traditional Vietnamese standards, he still felt the pressure to pursue further studies at university – part and parcel of belonging to an Asian family and being the first in his family to ever had the opportunity to do so.  Graduating with a Bachelors in Physiotherapy, he practised for about six years in Adelaide and Sydney before the untimely passing of his close cousin brought about a rethink of what he really wanted to do with the rest of his life. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy Vinh

His time of reflection took him back to his Uni days when he bought Banh Mi for lunch, from a place called Taydo in Arndale, on the way to classes. Before he knew it he became the designated Banh Mi ‘Mule’ for his uni friends, filling orders of up to thirty Banh Mi at times. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy Vinh

Despite of this clear demand for Banh Mi, there was nothing in the city area to fill it for many years. This light globe moment triggered the beginning of Andy’s Banh Mi adventure, firstly at the old Central Market food court, and subsequently relocating to where they are now in 2013. At the time, Banh Mi – Vietnamese Rolls was only one of three places selling Banh Mi in the Adelaide CBD. There are now approximately 27! Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy Vinh

The Experience

Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy VinhFrom the get go, I got the feeling that this joint had it goin’ on! From the retro-Vietnamese decor to the buzz in the kitchen, visible for all to see, it seemed to me like Andy had a very clear vision of how things were going to look and work before it all began. The clockwork kitchen ops coupled with the unique ambience of the store made for an experience you wouldn’t get from any other Banh Mi outlet.

Customers are spoiled for choice. Just about every configuration of Banh Mi you could think of, it was there. Each one is carefully constructed, from the cutting of the bread down to the even distribution of filling, to ensure consistency for the entire length of the roll. Andy tells me that, apart from quality ingredients, this consistency is the key to a good Banh Mi roll. And believe me, these guys definitely make a good Banh Mi roll. So how long does it take? Not withstanding the occasional long queues, from order to product in hand takes a little over a minute. That’s good going. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy Vinh
Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy Vinh

Now, there is one negative about this quick turnaround.  People don’t realise the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into a roll. By Andy’s own admission his place isn’t the cheapest Banh Mi joint in Adelaide. However, when you consider the process and the amount of prep that goes into the end product, way lot more goes into a Banh Mi roll than a sandwich you buy from the local cafe for roughly the same price. There’s the roasted pork belly and chicken fillet, made fresh each morning, the 100kgs of carrots, peeled and grated each week, the freshly baked Vietnamese bread rolls, delivered first thing every day, the locally sourced chả lụa (pork sausage)… the list goes on. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy Vinh

Based on the same labour rates, Banh Mi ought to be twice the price of sandwiches but they’re not. They are the same price, which when combined with the quality and attention to detail, it’s good value in anyone’s language. It’s certainly worth a whirl for your next lunchtime. Andy and his crew will be ready and waiting.

Cho đến lần sau! (Until next time!) Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow;; Foodie; Banh Mi; Andy Vinh

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