My love of Saigon rolls (bánh mì) began when Hub Asian supermarket opened right next to my apartment complex in Belconnen. It was my weekend ritual to pop downstairs and grab a fresh, made-to-order Saigon roll for lunch. So when Hub grocers closed a couple of years ago, I was devastated. I searched everywhere in Canberra for bánh mì but couldn't find it anywhere! :(
When I heard that a Vietnamese place in Gungahlin was selling them, I immediately made plans with a friend to check it out!!
Any Saigon roll (pork, chicken, meatball, vegetarian) costs $5.50. A combo deal costs $8, which includes a soft drink from the fridge. For an extra $1, you can upgrade to the drinks on the menu - juice, smoothie or Vietnamese ice coffee.
As soon as I took the pork roll (shown above) out of the paper bag, I could immediately smell the distinctive Vietnamese aromas wafting up from the roll. The baguette was crusty and the pork slices tasted like pork (as opposed to indistinguishable mystery meat slices). The slices of cucumber, red onion, pickled carrot and coriander lent a summer-like flavour to the sandwich - and the fresh chilli gave a nice kick. The best part was the generous slather of pate and mayonnaise underpinning the whole thing. All elements were artfully combined to create a perfect equilibrium of sweet and sour flavours, smooth and crunchy textures. The flavours of the chicken roll (shown below) were just as impressive.
I couldn't help compare the rolls to the Saigon roll I'd had in Brisbane during a work trip. During my Canberra bánh mì drought, I was left with no option but to seek it out wherever I could! The Saigon roll (shown below) I tried at Little Saigon Grill in Brisbane city's Rowes Arcade was good at the time, but cannot compare to the true Vietnamese flavours served up by Saigon Fresh in Gungahlin.
It's only the second week Saigon Fresh has been open, but clearly all the bánh mì lovers in Canberra have already heard about this place - the staff were kept busy with a steady stream of customers.
Food wise, they've kept it quite simple - focusing mostly on serving Saigon rolls and rice paper rolls. However, the drinks menu is quite extensive, with an exciting selection of juices and smoothies. I wasn't game enough to try the durian smoothie, but I did give the cane sugar juice a go (which was nice but kinda gave me a sugar headache :S) And for some reason, my juice was served in a styrofoam cup, which would make more sense if it was a hot drink. Hopefully, they'll switch to using recyclable plastic cups rather than (non-biodegradable nor recyclable) styrofoam cups for their cold drinks.
Saigon Fresh have identified a gap in the market and chosen to offer fresh, flavoursome bánh mì, which is a huge relief - the search for Saigon rolls in Canberra is officially over!!
Food Avenue rating: 8/10
Now all we have to do is convince them to open up a shop in Civic - all you office workers in Civic would love to have a Vietnamese style baguette for lunch right, right??
Leave a comment below if you like the idea of Saigon Fresh in Civic!