I absolutely love pork rolls (Saigon rolls, banh mi tit or whatever you want to call them). They’re definitely on my list of top 10 foods of all time. These little unassuming bread rolls have got everything going for them. They’re super tasty, somewhat healthy(ish), really filling and extremely affordable as well! The combination of fresh vegetables with delicious Vietnamese hams along with creamy, fatty and delicious pate and Vietnamese mayonnaise, all inside a Vietnamese baguette. Who knew just a few ingredients could bring so much joy. Yes, I did realise how often I said Vietnamese just then.
I must say, my love for pork rolls has definitely grown since coming to Canberra. I guess I have never really fully appreciated how good I had it in Sydney. In Sydney, you don’t really have to go too far to get a good and reasonably priced pork roll. Wondering around Cabramatta, Bankstown or the CBD, you’ll find bread stores that sell pork rolls at every turn, particularly in Cabramatta. If you ask ten different people what their favourite pork roll store is, you’ll probably get at least eight different answers, and I can see why. Like yeah, everyone loves the Marrickville Pork Roll store but really, that store down the street that sells it for $3.50 with no lines is probably just as decent. Plus, its pretty easy to know if a pork roll will be tasty. If you’re looking through the window, and the Vietnamese mayonnaise and pate looks correct, then chances are you’ll be in for a good time. After that, it all comes down to how generous they are because that totally makes or breaks your pork roll as well.
Here in Canberra, we don’t quite have the same luxuries, as I’ve sadly come to realise. Good pork rolls are actually rare and finding a decently priced one is almost impossible. I completely understand that it can’t be as cheap as it is in Sydney. As from my understanding no one in Canberra makes the various Vietnamese hams that go into pork rolls, hence everything in imported from Sydney. Plus, there definitely isn’t a great deal of competition in Canberra either. Having said that, $8 for a pork roll is ridiculous and it frustrates me even more when my Canberran mates harp on about how amazing, affordable and what a bargain a $8 pork roll is for lunch. IT IS NOT!
I know that some people think that we talk about price too much, but, well I don’t know about you, but eating out is a massive hit to my wallet, so sadly, value is fairly important to me. With that in mind, I’m used to $3.50 pork rolls!
After all that complaining, I think I’ve found the solution. I think I’ve located a pork roll store in Canberra that does it right and for a reasonable price and I’m super excited to write about it.
Here it is, the Pork roll ($6) from Saigon Fresh in Gungahlin. There are four things I look at when I compare pork rolls, I do this all mentally and within seconds by the way, I’m sure others probably do the same too! So don’t think I’m crazy or anything. I look at the mayonnaise or butter, pate, the vegetables and the meats. Price also factors in. I know a lot of people also talk about the bread but I have never really cared for the bread too much. If it’s not bad, it’s good. By that, I mean not horribly chewy or stale, but I’ve never seen any place get it that terribly wrong.
Here at Saigon Fresh, all four elements were pretty spot on or close enough for me to consider it a decent if not pretty damn fine pork roll. So the four elements that I really care about are as follows:
1. Vietnamese pate
2. Vietnamese butter/mayo
3. Pickled carrots, radish and other condiments
You might think it’s weird that I have two whole points dedicated to sauces but to me, the mayo and pate are the two most important elements in a pork roll! These make or break pork rolls and if you’re not having both, you’re not experiencing a true pork roll! Of the two, the pate is the most important. It should be really strong and rich, with a slightly smoky underbelly. While the butter needs to be light and creamy, with a soft, smooth texture like mayonnaise but with a rich and slightly sweet flavour to it. The veggies and meats aren’t too important for me, as long as they’re the right type and generous, its all good and I’ve yet to see anyone use the wrong meat yet. There are three meats, the pink one, the white one, and the white one with the red edge (my detailed technical knowledge must be very impressive to you all). I need a whole layer of each meat, that’s all I ask, no half pieces business please!
So now that you know what I’m looking for in a pork roll, it’s probably time to talk about the rolls here at Saigon Fresh. Well, how did it stack up? Pretty darn well. The pork roll at Saigon Fresh was well balanced, everything you’d expect to find in Sydney. A good amount of meat and other bits, carrots were crunchy and pickled nicely. Bread was fresh and crispy as well which I really enjoyed.
The pate was really good and tasted spot on, unfortunately they weren’t overly generous with it so the flavours were not as strong as I would have liked, but I guess some people would call it ‘subtle’. There was a good amount of soy sauce, enough for flavour but it didn’t soak the bread or leak through either. No shallots here at Saigon Fresh, instead they used purple onions, which was a bit weird, but fit the roll quite well. The coriander was shredded up instead of being long stalks placed on top, allowing it to mix really well throughout the roll and you got bits of flavour everywhere instead of a huge chunk on one end and none elsewhere. The cucumber was cut differently, here they used oval slices instead of long lengthways strips. You might think its weird of me to point that out but surprisingly it gave the pork roll a pretty different texture. It made the pork roll slightly less crunchy due to more of the ‘centre’ of the cucumber being present.
Nevertheless, for $6 is not a bad price for Canberra, if not a bargain! Especially as the pork roll is actually pretty darn tasty and every element was pretty spot on. Regardless of my nitpicking, this is my place to go for a pork roll in Canberra, hands down, every time.
I know it was just one dish, but I mean, you go to a pork roll joint, what else would you get? This shouldn’t surprise anyone. This was really nice and if I didn’t live so far from Gunghalin, I’d honestly come and grab this roll way more often, it’s that good. This has got to be up there in both price and taste for pork rolls in Canberra, so if you’re at all someone who is interested in these little Vietnamese delights, then you can’t go past Saigon Fresh in Gunghalin!
Gunghalin Village, Hibberson Street, Gunghalin
Monday to Thursday
9:00am to 5:00pm
9:00am to 7:00pm
Saturday to Sunday
9:00am to 4:00pm