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The city’s hospitality scene mixed things up during lockdown, and some of the temporary gems we got in 2020 have (thankfully) stayed. Anchovy’s lunchtime-only banh mi was one of them, but only on Saturdays. That’s about to change.

Owners Jia-Yen Lee and Thi Le announced on Instagram over the weekend that they’ve secured the lease to the space right beside their modern Vietnamese diner, and will soon be serving banh mi five days a week.

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“We were planning to stop it this year but people asked us to bring it back, so we did. For us as a restaurant, it was starting to get a bit hard – we were still serving them out the window, and it wasn’t the best scenario long-term,” Le tells Broadsheet.

They were considering renovating the front of the restaurant to accommodate the banh mi sales, until the space next door – a former massage parlour – became available. Over the next few months they’ll transform it into Ca Com (Vietnamese for anchovy), a dedicated banh mi shop. “The fact that it’s next door means we can utilise a lot of things from Anchovy,” she says.

Most of the food preparation (chopping vegetables, making pickles, marinating the meat) will happen at Anchovy, but sandwich construction and cooking will happen in Ca Com, where they’re installing a woodfire hearth.

The sandwich special was initially Lao in origin – the team began serving it as a lockdown lunch item alongside a dinner menu that explored the cuisine of Laos. It’s called khao jee pate, and it’s structurally and texturally similar to a banh mi, with a stronger chilli kick.

After they finished up the Lao dinners, the team transitioned to banh mi, with fillings such as barbeque turmeric chicken, pork neck, chicken sausage, pork-and-herb sausage, pine mushroom, and fried egg. Le says some favourites will return (her personal pick is the fried tempeh version), alongside new ones.

Flavours at Ca Com will change weekly, but expect options for meat eaters, pescatarians and vegetarians at any given time. They’ll be between $14 and $15 a pop – more expensive than your average banh mi, but Le reckons we should all be paying more for the Vietnamese roll.

“We’ve always felt that Asian food has been [perceived as] cheap compared to other cuisines. No one wants to pay for a banh mi and I find it crazy – a lot of banh mis and fillings are made from scratch,” Le says.

“Everything’s cooked over fire, we’ve got no gas, no nothing. And we’ll be using a lot of local produce and think it’s in the same ballpark as all the western sandwiches.”

Ca Com is slated to open at 336 Bridge Road, Richmond in the next three months.