After a couple of minutes speaking with Quang Nguyen, it becomes pretty clear the man takes his bánh mì seriously. “I’ve been in Australia for a good 16, 17 years now,” he says. “In Melbourne, there’s a lot of Vietnamese food, a big Vietnamese community, but there’s only a few places you can get an authentic Vietnamese taste. The majority, it’s not really Vietnamese flavours.”
So, along with an old friend from Hanoi, Trung Nguyen, he opened Vietnoms, an authentic bánh mì and rice-paper roll joint in the Melbourne CBD that makes them like they do back home. “We decided okay, let’s go open a store where we make it like they would in Vietnam,” says Quang.
Using pork and chicken grilled over coals, and hand-made liver and pork paté, Nguyen reckons it’s as close as you’ll get to a roll from a street vendor on Bat Dan. As well as char-grilling their ingredients, the two Nguyens (no relation) pickle their own carrots and radishes. “We pickle it the day before,” he says. “[So] it’s not a really heavy pickle, it’s just slightly sour with a sweetness to it.”
Along with the bánh mì, Nguyen makes fresh rice-paper rolls, including a vegetarian option with tofu, carrot, vermicelli and an Asian pesto made from Thai basil, Vietnamese mint and pine nuts. Also available is a classic Vietnamese coffee, complete with a layer of sweet condensed milk and a drip-filter resting on top of the glass.
But as far as selection goes, Nguyen insists that it’s simple and streamlined. “In Vietnam, if you go to a popular shop, they don’t make ten thousand different things,” he explains. "So we’re just going to stay with the two things we know best at the moment, and hopefully be the best.”
Mon to Fri 7am-3pm