Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rice Pho & Rolls - banh cuon in Footscray

The amount of Vietnamese words I know I could count on two hands.  I know that "bo" means beef and "ga" means chicken.  "Chay" means vegetarian, "mi" means egg noodles and "cam on" means thank you.


Now, all these words might signify delicious things, but there's one word you should definitely have in your repertoire.  It's "banh", and is associated with things that are starchy, bread-like and pretty much always extremely delicious.  I'm talking:


* Banh mi (crunchy Vietnamese sandwiches, pictured two above from Banh Mi Boys)
* Banh khot (mini coconut pancakes, shown above sizzling streetside for the 2014 Rickshaw Run!)
* Banh xeo (giant lacy pancakes stuffed with filling)
* Banh kep la dua (warm coconut-and-pandan-flavoured waffles - find them in Little Saigon!)


Here's an amazing banh platter from Thanh Ha 2 in Richmond, with banh cuon, banh duc, banh bot loc and banh beo!


But my absolute favourite banh is - banh cuon.  You might know these semi-opaque, gossamer-thin rice flour crepes from Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine.  I am delighted to report that Footscray now has a first-rate banh cuon provider, too!


Let's back up a little.  Rice Pho & Rolls has just opened right near the corner of Droop and Hopkins Streets, Footscray.


While not as hip as Co Thu Quan or HM Quan, it certainly has a similar contemporary feel.  I usually associate statements of "no MSG" with Anglified suburban Chinese restaurants, but Rice Pho & Rolls makes a similar claim that they use no MSG anywhere on the menu.  So far, so good.


The menu is small - just one page - and dominated by chicken, either in pho or as Hainan chicken.  There's a kid-sized pho that is particularly excellent at $4.  I know the pic doesn't look like much, but this is fantastic chicken soup.  Bright, fresh and cleansing, and all the more amazing for no MSG.


But of course, I only had eyes for one thing - the banh cuon ($10).  They are made here (I checked) and they are FANTASTIC.  They're rolled up with a little pork and prawn, and I think the filling has a more delicate flavour than XBC's, which occasionally can be a little strong on the pork.  What I really loved, though, was the little bowl of hot soup alongside.  This had a piece of springy Vietnamese sausage and a melt-in-the-mouth meatball with black fungus, but it was the broth that was the star.  Squeeze in some lime, add a little garlic and chilli, and it's the most delicious, tangy, soothing thing to sup.

This is fantastic banh cuon and up there with XBC's offering.  The only thing it falls down on is the accompanying salad - just chopped iceberg, mint and coriander.  Some more variety would take it to the next level.  But still - you HAVE to try this.


Prawn, pork and taro spring rolls ($5) were good.  (I hardly ever order these - I don't think there's much between them anywhere you go!)


Bo luc lac - diced beef with capsicum, onion and "saffron rice" ($12) - was pretty good.  While I was there, I ran into Win from the Sunshine Business Association, who happens to be a friend of the owner.  The no-MSG thing is fair dinkum, and Win reports his mate (the owner) is very into cooking really home-style food.  I couldn't get this straight from the horse's mouth because the proprietor had left work early, as he and his partner had had a baby that day!

This is an exciting restaurant and one to watch.  I look forward to exploring the menu a lot more.

Rice Pho & Roll (Facebook)
151 Hopkins Street, Footscray


  1. I love banh cuon!! Yummo!!!!
    Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Went to Rice Pho & Roll tonight and the food was great. They even brought us a bonus item. I wasn't a fan of the sweetened tea - it has sugar can juice in it. Maybe wait til the weather warms slightly again though as it was cold in there!


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