I blame cloudcontrol for putting the idea into my head. He daydreams...
I still really miss the fact I could run downstairs from my place and grab a banh mi (Vietnamese pork roll) or some xoi cuc Ha Noi (Hanoi-style sticky rice with chrysanthemum) or even a quick bowl of pho.So naturally, I had to buy a pork roll for breakfast on the way to work. And then I had to buy one for lunch too. Research purposes, people!
It may have been 8.30am but Nhu Lan was pumping. You have to be pushy or you will get swept aside as more customers flood in, demanding their favourites, while the ladies behind the counter deftly slice steaming rolls, spread pâté, and rifle through their lunchboxes of takings to find you your change.
Your choices are divided between cold and hot offerings, from mixed ham or bi (shredded pork skin), or any one of BBQ chicken, pork, chicken & onion, tofu, as well as interesting "kebabs" and "xiu mai" (like the eponymous yum cha dumpling, without the skin, in a vibrant red sauce).
My favourite roll is BBQ chicken. The sticky red thigh is plucked from a pile which seems a foot high, tossed on the weathered, stained chopping board and with a few satisfying thuck thucks of the cleaver, sliced for stuffing into your crispy roll. This is topped with pickled carrot and radish, cucumber, coriander, chilli and special sauce, before being tucked in a crisp paper bag and sealed with an efficient twist.
BBQ Chicken Roll, $3.80
The chicken is warm and juicy, melding with the soft yet crunchy roll, accented by fantastic, sweet, tangy pickles. YUM! All you suckers getting "chicken" rolls at Subway - walk the extra block and you'll never look back!
Bi is usually described as "shredded pork skin". I'd never had it before and was curious. I don't see how it can be the skin, though, as it is meltingly soft, and surely the skin would be horribly tough and chewy unless it were made into crackling? (Then again, that is probably just me, trying to find an excuse to make crackling.) It seems to me to be the under-skin layer of fat, shredded and mixed with a little lean meat. If you can enlighten me, please do so.
Unlike the chicken roll, the bi version was seasoned with chopped peanuts, fried onions or shallots, nuoc mam cham or seasoned fish sauce, and marinated, chopped spring onions. The bi was very tender and sweet, but too fatty for my taste to eat for a whole sandwich. It would be great as a kind of relish on the side of an otherwise light dish, such as a simple bowl of rice. I can't fault Nhu Lan for the execution though, which seemed to me to be perfect - as always.
Nhu Lan (map)
116 Hopkins St, Footscray
Hours: 5.00am - 6.00pm, 7 days