A month or two back news of a place in Collingwood doing a great vegan banh mi swept Facebook. I stopped by Trang Bakery Cafe to check it out, expecting a tofu roll or something only to be confronted by this menu.
This changed everything - I couldn't do Trang justice with just a single visit, I had to commit to the full experience. So I went back 5 times and fully sampled the menu (sidenote: on my last visit they'd added a vegan prawn option to the list, but my journey was complete).
A Trang banh mi follows a pretty simple formula: some sort of roasted eggplant relish as the base, a pile of fresh vegetables and herbs, generous chunks of your choice of mock meat, fresh chilli, peanuts, and fried shallots plus a couple of mysterious sauces. They're $5 each, made on the spot and they're stuffed to the gills with goodness. The centrepiece below is the mock duck banh mi. It's surrounded by (clockwise from top-left): mock chicken, lemongrass tofu, ham and tempura eggplant.
I've given quite a lot of thought to my order of preference - I think I'm settled on: duck, tofu, eggplant, chicken, ham. They're all excellent though - truly delicious and ludicrously cheap rolls. The word has clearly got out - Trang has had a queue out the door almost every time I've visited. It's not that close to my office, but it's so spectacularly good that I've managed to sneak in five trips in five weeks (actually six trips, but I doubled down on the duck on one of them). Check it out y'all, it's probably the star of Melbourne's cheap vegan eating options.
Trang Bakery and Cafe
382 Smith Street, Collingwood
Accessibility: There's a small step up into a narrow and often crowded space. There are just a handful of seats on the footpath. You order and pay at a high counter.