Vietnamese banh mi arrives in Hunter Street Mall
Newcastle, get excited – after achieving roaring success as a stall at the Newcastle City Farmers Market, The Big Banh Mi now has their own store, serving up their signature range of banh mi along with other more-ish Vietnamese treats.
The Big Banh Mi’s success has only skyrocketed since opening on Hunter Street in early March, and co-owners Eddie and Ethan aren’t slowing down any time soon.
Hailing from Sydney, cousins Eddie and Ethan saw a gap in the market in Newcastle for Vietnamese food. After selling out every fortnight at the farmers market, the guys decided after a few months that they wanted to take it to the next level and open a store.
After searching high and low across the Hunter for the right space, the perfect spot popped up in Hunter Street Mall.
“I love it because it’s a corner block, it has nice big windows, and here I feel like there’s not many lunch options around here where you can get something fast and cheap,” Eddie said.
A pharmacist by trade, Eddie handles the logistics of running the business, whereas Ethan is head chef and manages the day-to-day operations, drawing on his experience working in a Vietnamese bakery in Sydney.
The guys have clearly tapped into the right market and location, with community interest in the venture high even before opening.
“Even while we were setting it up and fitting out the shop, people were walking by to tell us how excited and keen they were to have a Vietnamese restaurant close by.”
“Day one, opening day, was the busiest day I’ve ever had in my life. It was non-stop for the whole day. People were so excited to come and try something new.”
The fresh shop fit out was a process that took several months, from planning to undertaking renovations that have given the space its funky, relaxed look.
Parts of the exterior and interior are adorned with retro artwork of Vietnamese streets, and the shimmery blue front counter stands out against the timber flooring.
“We really wanted to differentiate ourselves from the typical French hot bread shops. We wanted a nice chill vibe where you can just come to hang out,” Eddie said.
As for the food, the menu at The Big Banh Mi is a carefully-curated line-up of Vietnamese staples, characterised by traditional flavour profiles with modern twists.
The menu creation has very much been a family affair, with Ethan’s in-laws, who own a banh mi shop in Vietnam, pitching in their recipes, along with recipes from Eddie’s mum.
“Ethan, his mother-in-law, his father-in-law and myself all sat down together to taste everything and picked the best of everything that we liked.”
“The Bun Bo Hue [spicy beef noodle soup] that’s coming to the menu is a family recipe, and the Pho and the Pork Spring Rolls are both my mum’s recipes.”
There are six different banh mi on offer at The Big Banh Mi. The Classic Pork Banh Mi is the OG banh mi that everyone knows and loves, with Vietnamese deli meat and BBQ pork. The other pork-based banh mi include Crispy Pork, with roast pork and crunchy pork crackling, and BBQ Pork, featuring more of that BBQ pork goodness.
For something different, try the Lemongrass Chicken or Lemongrass Beef banh mi.
Vegetarians don’t have to miss out either, with a Tofu and Mushroom Pate banh mi on the menu! Made with a sweet and salty marinated tofu and sauteed mushroom pate mixture, it’s been a popular order with hungry vegos.
Don’t feel like a banh mi but still want a taste of those fresh, zingy Vietnamese flavours? The Big Banh Mi also does Bun Thit Nuong (or BTN), a big bowl of goodness.
It includes vermicelli noodles, your choice of protein, and all the trimmings – we’re talking lettuce, coriander, shallots, mint, pickled carrots, pickled radish, roasted peanuts balanced with a house made nuoc mam sauce and scallion oil.
The guys have also got Pho coming shortly, as well as Bun Bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup with lemongrass, chilli, shrimp paste and fresh herbs. They’re also hoping to introduce Vietnamese rice paper rolls to the menu down the track, so keep an eye out!
Need a drink to wash down the spice?
“We also have Vietnamese iced coffee, which I don’t think many people have tried,” Eddie said.
“The difference between regular iced coffee and Vietnamese iced coffee is that it has some sweetness to it, which comes from condensed milk. People love it.”
There’s also house-brewed iced tea, if you’re not a coffee drinker.
What makes all of this delicious food taste even better is knowing that it is all made in house, with 80% of The Big Banh Mi ingredients sourced from local suppliers like Slick Chicks and Hunter Valley Meats.
Is your mouth watering yet? Time to head to The Big Banh Mi! You might be surprised to find out that banh mi is traditionally eaten for breakfast in Vietnam – a great excuse to grab one for any meal of the day.