Something that I greatly miss from my days of doing uni in the Brisbane CBD is the range of lunch options. There were so many awesome cafes and fast food joints that weren't just the usual Maccas, Hungry Jacks and Subways, which is all that exists around Toowoomba. Going back 2 years or so, I was already spoilt for choice. Since then, more and more exciting venues have cropped up all over the place to the point where it's almost intimidating for me to navigate around town.
Banh mi is something that I've been crazing over this year. I love Vietnamese food. I've even mentioned to Marc that if I could choose 2 world cuisines to eat for the rest of my life, it would have to be Japanese and Vietnamese. I like that they are fresh and light on the palate and therefore impossible to get sick of. It thus came as a shock to me when Mochi mentioned banh mi one time last year and I had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently, it's a type of Vietnamese pork roll, served on a French baguette that is considerably common and well-known. I didn't know about it but in this case, it seems I'm late to the trend.
I found an article about banh mi sources in Brisbane. Many were authentic Vietnamese bakeries around Dara/Inala but I noticed a couple in the city too. I developed this irrational need for banh mi. It's strange to 'crave' something you've never tasted before, and don't really know what it's supposed to be like. Mochi had told me it was a roll with bits of pork, or pork loaf (processed meat) with fresh herbs and sauces. It sounded weird to me but at the same time, oddly mouth-watering.
I informed Marc one day that we would be trying the banh mi at The Roll Shop for lunch. It was raining on and off and we were darting through the streets unsure of exactly where we were going. I thought it was on Creek Street but Marc said he thought he knew which store I was talking about and that it was in an alleyway. He was right! The alleyway is Gresham Lane and if you know where that is, it's a more accurate locator than Creek Street.
The shopfront is small but it was very busy. To be fair, all CBD vendors are busy during the lunch time rush but it was a rainy day and there was still a non-stop supply of customers. We ordered our food and took it to a nearby indoors food court to avoid the wet.
Marc and I had a banh mi each, with different fillings. Apparently, Marc had been to The Roll Shop before but only for rice paper rolls. He liked them then so we ordered another three to try.
Roast crackling pork banh mi
I had the roast crackling pork banh mi. It contained crispy roast pork pieces, pickled carrots, fresh cucumber, coriander and a hot chili sauce on a baguette. When I think of baguettes, I think of stale, chewy bread rolls but this was neither. It was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The pork pieces were delicious and the whole combination was just so tasty. The chili sauce had a good amount of kick to it too.
BBQ pork banh mi
Marc went with the barbeque pork banh mi. It was essentially the same as mine but with sweet barbeque pork substituting the roast pork. He enjoyed it too. I think with something like this, it's such a simple idea that the success really lies in the quality of ingredients. In this case, the meat and bread were both fresh and tasty, so the roll worked well.
Pork and prawn rice paper rolls
The rice paper rolls were generously filled and again, very fresh. I've said countless times that Marc and I are both huge fans of rice paper rolls. These were good but for me, the banh mi stole the show.
Whenever I think about having lunch in the city now, I'm conflicted because I know there are other new places I 'need' to try but I always feel like more banh mi! I loved that they were substantial and filling but still fresh and reasonably healthy. I think it's a great, fast and delicious option for a work lunch.