Take a translucent rice-paper sheet that's just been steamed and place pork mince and shredded wood-ear mushrooms on top. Fold the sheet around the fillings and then slide it onto a plate and serve it next to a few medallions of cha (garlicky, fish-sauce-spiked Vietnamese pork sausages with the texture of frankfurters), a tart-but-slightly-sweet dipping sauce, and a heap of fresh herbs and fried onions. You’ve got banh cuon: the silkiest rice paper roll on Earth.

This northern Vietnamese dish isn’t very common in Sydney. Most Vietnamese restaurants here serve cuisine from the south, which is where most migrants came from. But that’s slowly changing, particularly in Marrickville, where you’ll find Banh Cuon Ba Oanh, a tiny corner shop many Vietnamese locals say serves the best banh cuon in town.

The banh cuon sheets are made with house-ground rice flour and cooked on a traditional steamer to make them as thin as possible. The fried onions sprinkled on top are made here too, and the fish sauce is recooked and aged to make it more like the fish sauces in Hanoi.

Judging from the constant lunchtime queues, people appreciate the effort. But there are other things on the menu: xoi (turmeric-coloured sticky rice with dried mung-bean paste, fried onions and pork floss); congee (chicken-broth that’s flavoured and topped with fried bread, pickles and pork innards); and one dessert, che buoi (iced coconut milk, pomelo-pith crackers and a chewy tapioca jelly). Everything is made in-house, of course.

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Updated: July 12th, 2023

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