Since returning from our holiday in Vietnam, there has been one extremely exciting development in Hobart’s dining landscape; Saigon Express.
The timing couldn’t have been any better, with our taste buds now tuned to what authentic (and delicious) Vietnamese cuisine should be.
I’d love to return and give Saigon Express the full Monty (not literally, no one wants to see that), but for now I’ll keep it short, sweet, and all about the bánh mì.
When Saigon Express launched their menu on opening day the two things that jumped out at me were:
- they sell bánh mì; and
- it’s only $5 per roll!!!
Let’s jot that down in the diary for lunch one day…
That day arrived yesterday, and while the drive out to Claremont was longer than normal for a lunch, the reward was well worth the effort!
At first glance it would be easy to write them off as just another suburban dive, selling bland pap for the masses; here today, gone in six months…
While I can’t comment on the rest of their menu yet, I was so pleased to find that the bánh mì is anything but bland!
On their menu they offer the following variations:
- Classic pork (thịt ngưội);
- BBQ pork (xá xíu);
- Grilled pork (thịt nướng);
- Satay chicken;
- Mixed ham; and
- Meat ball.
When placing my order over the phone I asked for their most authentic bánh mì, and was recommended the ‘Classic pork’. Yes please! Wanting to compare against one of their other variations I also picked up the ‘Grilled pork’ version, glutton that I am.
First up, the packaging is fantastic. I was eating in the car and while the tubular bag didn’t stop me from dropping a lot of crumb on my lap, I can only imagine how much worse I would have looked if the bánh mì had simply been wrapped in normal paper.
The bread rolls they’re using are super fresh, with a lightly crunchy exterior and fluffy pillow guts to contrast.
When it comes to food there aren’t many things that I really dislike, but crunchy, flaky toasted bread rolls is one of them. I don’t know how everyone else manages to eat these things without doing serious bodily harm, but I always seem to come away with cut gums, chafed lips and a lap full of bird food! In fact it was the sensational texture of the bánh mì we tried in Saigon itself that first made me realise how good this bread could be in the hands of a master. While the bun used at Saigon Express isn’t at that level, it’s still very, very good. I didn’t question its provenance, so it may well be a Woollies special, but honestly I don’t care.
It turns out that my experience with the bun was paralleled when it came to the bánh mì in its entirety. Not quite as good as the real deal, but for a tiny suburban restaurant on the outskirts of Hobart it’s pretty bloody close!!
Ordering the classic pork will get you what looked like three different cuts of pork, sliced thinly and well distributed throughout, plenty of pickled daikon and carrot, shaved cucumber, a smeared base of pork pate and a couple of sprigs of coriander. I think there may been some mayo in there as well…?
This impressive thing about this bánh mì is that the flavours were balanced. Such simple, some may say mundane, ingredients, yet with judicious use of herbs and seasoning. The pickled vegetables had a distinct zing, and the pork was delicious. I love my coriander and chilli, and if I was to offer any criticism it’s to say that the bánh mì was lacking a little in both. One more sprig of coriander would have been perfect and there weren’t any chillies at all. I remember with a strange fondness tasting that first chilli in my bánh mì on our first afternoon in Saigon, and nearly dying from the intense, addictive heat that ensued. I understand that I may be in the minority, but at least for the ‘Classic pork’ bánh mì I would suggest that they ask the customer for their preference.
The ‘Grilled pork’ bánh mì was also tasty, but where the Classic version had balance, this version was more two dimensional and was all about the pork! So, so moreish…I could have eaten bowl after bowl of that charred, smoky, porky goodness…
If you’re in Hobart and want the closest thing to an authentic Vietnamese bánh mì that you can get, then Saigon Express is the place for you! At a meagre $5 per roll this is an absolute steal and is the perfect lunch option for anyone living or working in the vicinity.
If this experience is anything to go by I can only imagine how good their regular restaurant menu must be like, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing a more comprehensive review some time soon!
You can find out more on their Facebook page here: Saigon Express
Their opening hours are Mon-Sat: 11am – 8:30pm
You’ll find them tucked away at 26 Wyndham Road, Claremont.