• Minh Thuy Nguyen (right) with her mum, Ba Oanh (centre) and aunt (left) who run the kitchen. (Aimee Chanthadavong)Source: Aimee Chanthadavong
Bringing northern Vietnamese steamed rice noodle rolls to the masses.
Aimee Chanthadavong

15 Jul 2019 - 1:45 PM  UPDATED 16 Jul 2019 - 9:05 AM

Marrickville is home to many Vietnamese restaurants. Recently joining the already extensive choice of local eateries in this inner-west suburb of Sydney is Banh Cuon Ba Oanh, a restaurant that may be tiny in size but is hard to miss with its mustard yellow exterior.

Banh Cuon Ba Oanh was born from a home-catering service that started three years ago by local resident, Minh Thuy Nguyen. "We always wanted to own our a restaurant and because of the catering business we had the money to do it," she tells SBS Food.

Nguyen has named the little eatery after her mother, Ba Oanh, who heads up the kitchen every day to make fresh portions of the restaurant's specialty, handmade steamed rice noodles filled with pork mince and black fungus known as banh cuon. She's been cooking banh cuon since 1986, as marked on the sign of the restaurant.

"Every time my mother completes steaming the rice noodle rolls, the smell and taste brings me right back to my childhood memory full of love and happiness."

"I remember when I was young there were pots of steam from the rice noodle rolls. While everyone was still asleep, my mother would wake up early and prepare the rice noodle rolls that should go sell at the markets," Nguyen says. 

"Every time my mother completes steaming the rice noodle rolls, the smell and taste brings me right back to my childhood memory full of love and happiness."

The batter is thinly spread on the steamer to make the rice noodles.

Each sheet of rice noodle is so thin that when steamed it becomes translucent and must be carefully handled using a long thin wooden rolling pin to remove it from the steamer.

"It's just like how they do it in Vietnam and takes years of practice," Nguyen says. 

Nguyen emphasises the batter is the "most important stage that determines the taste of the steam rice noodle roll, otherwise, it can end up sticky and pungent in smell". She also says it's often the step that most people get wrong.

"My mother chooses the most fragrant young rice grains, soaks it in water for three hours to make it soft and then puts it through a machine to ground it finely. She then soaks it for another three days, and each day my mother filters the fine grains with fresh water before we can use it," she says.

Each sheet of rice noodle that’s made is so thin that when steamed, it becomes translucent and needs to be carefully handled.

To showcase the family's north Vietnamese origin of Hai Phong, each serving of banh cuon comes with Vietnamese herbs, a choice of shredded pork steamed in banana leaf, house-made cha que (cinnamon pork), thit nuong (charcoal-grilled pork), or egg, served on the side, as well as nuoc cham (a blend of fish sauce, crushed garlic, fresh chilli, and slow-cooked pork mince) for dipping. 

"We want to bring a piece of north Vietnam to people," Nguyen says.

"Normally, in South Vietnam, they only have fish sauce and bean sprouts sprinkled on top. It tastes different as well; they like their fish sauce more salty and with a lot more sugar. 

"In North Vietnam, we make our fish sauce lighter because we have it almost like a soup when we dip the rice noodles in. That's why we also add the pork mince in as part of the fish sauce."

Love the story? Follow the author on Twitter: @achanthadavong 

Banh Cuon Ba Oanh

343 Illawarra Road, Marrickville

Open Tuesday to Sunday 8:00am –3:00pm and 5:00pm–7.30pm

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