You complete mi: Vietnamese pork roll kits a hit for Alexandria’s Lit Canteen

Ly Dan and David Phan, co owners of Lit Canteen in Alexandria, with their make-it-yourself banh mi and rice paper roll boxes.
Ly Dan and David Phan, co owners of Lit Canteen in Alexandria, with their make-it-yourself banh mi and rice paper roll boxes. Photo: James Brickwood

When slicing a banh mi roll there is no right or wrong way to do it, it's going to taste amazing, says Lit Canteen co-owner Ly Dan.

However, according to Dan's business partner David Phan, there is a better way to slice it:

"Make sure you go back and forth like a saw, do not press [hard] against the bread because all the air escapes," he says. This will keep the roll crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – important for anyone ordering one of Lit Canteen's make-it-yourself banh mi kts.

Lit Canteen's OG Banh Mi Box with Vietmase ham, pork, pickles and a bonus croissant.
Lit Canteen's OG Banh Mi Box with Vietmase ham, pork, pickles and a bonus croissant.  Photo: Lit Canteen

"A banh mi is a Vietnamese baguette roll with pâté and mayo," explains Dan. "The classic version is cold meat – at least three different types – and pickled vegetables with fresh cucumber, topped with soy sauce."

The idea for a banh mi box was hatched in late July as a way to deliver care packages to friends and family.

"Coming from Vietnamese culture, we always come together around food and that was missing because of lockdown," says Dan.

The kits were quick to gain popularity in the community, however, and Dan and Phan are now making more than one hundred boxes a week that are either picked up from their Alexandria shopfront or delivered within a 25 kilometre radius.

Each $45 box comes with three baguettes and a croissant to assemble filling sandwiches.

"The OG" box contains a selection of Vietnamese hams, shredded chicken, barbecue pork patties, pickled and fresh toppings, plus house-made mayonnaise and cognac-spiked pâté. A vegetarian kit substitutes the meats for panko mushrooms and fluffy tofu.

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When asked how the croissant ended up in Lit Canteen's banh mi smorgasbord, Dan says it's "a bit of fun" inspired by MasterChef contestant Tommy Pham who loaded a Danish pastry with banh mi on the last season of the reality cooking show.

"[The croissant] has received great feedback. It has a beautiful crunch and buttery luxuriousness to it".

The pastry also alludes to the French colonial rule of Vietnam in the 19th century, which is how the banh mi came to be: French settlers bring their love of crusty bread to Vietnamese people who put their own spin on it.

Because of the success of its banh mi kits, next week Lit Canteen will be launching $65 prawn rice paper roll boxes designed to serve four.

Dan says that maintaining a sense of community during the pandemic is vital. "The boxes have been just as much about keeping the business going as it has about bringing people together."

Local pickup for boxes is Monday to Saturday with at least one day notice. Delivery is available on Saturdays only and all orders must be in by 4pm Thursday.

More banh mis for lockdown lunch

Like ramen, pho and fried chicken, a great banh mi is worth crossing suburbs for. If that's not possible under COVID-19 restrictions, here are five of the best that deliver.

Tony's Bakery, Cabramatta

The family-run sister store to Cabramatta's much loved KK Bakery is open for crispy pork rolls filled with delicious, bronzed crackling, plus a fragrant lemongrass chicken banh mi brand new to the menu. Order through Uber Eats.

Great Aunty Three, Enmore

Michael Le's Enmore Road eatery celebrates its 10th birthday this year and remains open for work-from-home rice paper rolls and its signature slow-roasted roast pork banh mi. Order through Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

Delish Pork Roll & Juice Bar, Marrickville

The eternally popular Marrickville Pork Roll isn't delivering at the time of writing, but Delish is on hand to add extra soy sauce and chilli to its extensive banh mi options. A lunch of barbecue chicken rolls and fresh pineapple juice is a great time in any universe. Order through Uber Eats, Deliveroo or DoorDash.

Ho's Bakery, Sydenham

At your service for a straight-up, no-funny-business banh mi chock-full of cha lua sausage and coriander. Also note the pork chop roll seasoned with sweet-and-sour fish sauce. Order though Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

Banh and Bobo, Chatswood

Popcorn chicken is certainly one of the more left-field banh mi fillings in Sydney, but here it is at this Taiwanese bubble tea shop. A more traditional pork belly roll is available from the delivery carte too. Order through Uber Eats, DoorDash or Menulog.