Recently, CNN listed Vietnamese Banh Mi as one of the 23 best sandwiches in the world. Banh Mi is simply a crispy baguette or bun with various fillings from meats, and vegetables to sauces that you can freely choose based on your personal taste. It might look simple, but don’t underestimate the heavenly taste that you could never forget once you get a bite. Along with Pho and Bun Cha, Banh Mi is a must-try food on every Vietnam Food Tour.
Let's discover how Banh Mi makes its way to Vietnam's most favorite street food.
When the French invaded Vietnam and the Indochina region in the 19th century, Banh Mi was first introduced to the Vietnamese. Firstly, it was only recognized as a snack for light meals because of the high price. The main ingredient - wheat flour, and other fillings like cheese and cold cuts also needed to be imported by the shipload.
But as time passed, the Vietnamese developed their own recipe with local ingredients to suit their tastes. Pate and meats are seasoned differently with Vietnamese spices. Pickled vegetables such as carrots, radishes, fresh cucumbers, and some cilantro are added to spice up the taste.
Nowadays, Banh Mi is so loved by the locals that it has become the highlight of Vietnamese cuisine. No matter what time of the day, even at midnight, you can always find a small stall on the street side selling Banh Mi. Choose the meat, vegetables, and sauce you like, then wait for the seller to warm it up - flavorsome street food is already for you in a few minutes to dive into.
Normally, Banh Mi from a street vendor costs from 15.000 to 20.000 VND (0.5 USD to 1 USD). Adding a cup of coffee, you already have a pack of flavors and energy needed for your morning for such a cheap price, which is nearly 2 USD. That’s why Banh Mi is always the first thing in mind when the locals are in a hurry but need something tasty to fulfill their cravings.
Appearing on the food map of Vietnam as a foreign delicacy, nowadays, Banh Mi is a familiar part of Vietnam's culinary picture, and one of the prime presenters of the country’s diverse food culture. Different from the original western baguettes, Banh Mi has a golden crispy crust and a soft, pillowy inside. Without a fixed recipe, the fillings vary from region to region, from city to city, and even from one stall to another stall on the same street.
While the traditional Banh Mi with pate, ham, cold cuts, and cilantro can mostly be found in Hanoi, Hai Phong is famous for its “Banh Mi Que”. What makes it different from other Banh Mi is its shape, which is 30cm long and only 1 finger wide. Banh Mi Que has pate as the main filling and the city’s special chili sauce.
In 2022, Ha Long in the province of Quang Ninh, a coal mining province, introduced a new kind of Banh Mi: “Banh Mi Than”. The bread is coated with a black color, that is made from bamboo charcoal and squid ink, giving it the look of a piece of coal. This special look makes Banh Mi Than become popular in a short period of time, yet it’s a bit pricey (45.000 VND ~ 2 USD).
Whereas, “Banh Mi Phuong” is the beloved version in the ancient town of Hoi An, usually filled with cold cuts of meat, pate, pickled carrots, daikon, and coriander with deep flavor sauce. Anthony Bourdain once described it as “a symphony in a sandwich” in his show “No Reservations”.
Each region/city in Vietnam has its own recipe for Banh Mi. Yet, the main ingredients can be categorized into the following groups:
- A roll of warm crusty bread.
- Meat products: pate, roasted pork, minced pork meatballs, sausages, cold cuts, etc.; or fried eggs.
- Vegetables & herbs: cucumbers, pickled carrots, and radishes, basil, cilantro, coriander, onion, etc.
- Sauce/seasoning/spread: chili sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, pepper, mayonnaise, sweet sour sauce, etc.
The Vietnamese are very creative. Banh Mi is an example. From the small crispy bread, they create a variety of delicious kinds of Banh Mi just by changing the filling. Below are popular Banh Mi
- Banh Mi Thit Nguoi with 2-3 kinds of pork cold cut slices, mayo, and cucumber.
- Banh Mi with a fried egg.
- Banh Mi Thit Xien with skewered meat and pickled vegetables.
- Banh Mi Chao: Banh Mi with beef steak, french fries, and egg is served on a metal hot pan (Pan is Chao).
- Banh Mi Bi with shredded pork or pork skin, pate, mayo, soy, or fish sauce.
- Banh Mi Xiu Mai with smashed pork meatballs marinated with tomato, fish, or soy sauce.
- Banh Mi Xa Xiu with caramelized chopped-up pork meat in char siu Chinese style.
You can find Banh Mi on every corner of Vietnam, from the small vendors on the side of the street to luxury restaurants. Here are the finest places with the tastiest Banh Mi to satisfy your hungry tummy:
- Banh Mi Dan To: 32 Tran Nhat Duat Str.,
- Banh Mi Lan Ong: 8 Cha Ca Str., 43 Hang Dieu Str., and 3 Hang Bong Str.,
- Banh Mi Hoang Duc : 55 Chua Lang Str.,
- Banh Mi 25: 25 Hang Ca Str.,
- Banh Mi Huynh Hoa: 26 Le Thi Rieng, Pham Ngu Lao ward, Dist 1.,
- Banh Mi Bay Ho: 19 Huynh Khuong Ninh, Da Kao ward, Dist 1.,
- Banh Mi Hong Hoa: 54 Nguyen Van Trang, Pham Ngu Lao ward, Dist 1.,
- Banh Mi Nhu Lan: 50 Ham Nghi, Ben Nghe ward, Dist 1.,
- Banh Mi Phuong: 2b Phan Chu Trinh Str.,
- Banh Mi Madam Khanh: 115 Tran Cao Van Str.,