Banh Cuon Ba Oanh, a tiny, casual eatery on Illawarra Road strip of Vietnamese restaurants in Marrickville is so brand spanking new that the restaurant hours aren't even up when I call to book. That evening when we start driving towards there for our 7:15pm booking I notice that they close at 7:30pm.
You see Banh Cuon is primarily a breakfast food, a dish of the silkiest rice flour rolls with a choice of soups and accompaniments. The menu is mostly made up of these plus some sticky rice, congee and that's about it.
The four strong female chef team all wear beanies or shower caps to cover their heads and the restaurant is named after the owner Ba Oanh. Service is friendly and even though they are indeed taking last orders at 7:30pm (and they accepted our booking for 7:15pm) there's no rush, especially as couples and groups pile in at 7:30pm looking for a meal.
We're perched on tiny stools at a low table, the sort that you might see in Ho Chi Minh City on the streets. The guys like Valentina's husband Peter or Mr NQN who are above 6 foot tall fold their legs in under the table. We've ordered a bit of everything-it's around $11 to $15 for a dish and we help ourselves to water. The food arrives fairly quickly and the aromas tickle my nose.
Steamed rice noodle rolls with Vietnamese mushroom, mince filling and fried cinnamon pork $11
The steamed rice dishes aka the banh cuon are similar variations of another but all still quite different. The fried cinnamon pork is a soup with pieces of pork-the cinnamon is really light and masquerades more as a range of spices than a distinctly cinnamon flavour.
Steam rice noodle rolls with Vietnamese mushroom, mince filling and fried green rice pork $11
We also enjoyed the rice rolls with the slices of green rice pork on the side and a tasty sweet, garlicky soup in the centre. The texture of the rice paper rolls is so fine and silky.
Ba Oanh's Special steam rice noodle roll, mixed pork pieces and grilled pork $16
The special version has plain steamed rice noodles without any filling and a delicious pork meatball in soup and slices of grilled pork on the side.
Yellow bean sticky rice with braised pork, pork floss, onion and cucumber salad $11
The sticky rice dishes are slightly different from say Thai or Chinese sticky rice dishes. The rice is less "sticky" in texture but I do love both version-the one with the braised pork, pork floss, onion and cucumber salad is deliciously comforting as is the yellow bean sticky rice with slices of tender steamed free range chicken.
Yellow bean sticky rice with steamed free range chicken $11
Free range chicken congee $11
Celia's request of congee (never refuse a woman who says "I need a congee" with a sigh) is another favourite dish. They use free range chicken here and the chicken is silky soft, with rings of Chinese bread stick donuts in it. Comforting given the night.
There is one dessert, for takeaway but Pete has had enough of the stools so he wants us to go somewhere else for dessert.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried Banh Cuon? What would you restaurant be called if you joined your favourite dish and your name? Mine would be Cake Lorraine!
This meal was independently paid for.
Banh Cuon Ba Oanh
343 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204
Tuesday to Sunday 8am–3pm, 5–7:30pm
Phone: (02) 9059 0259