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Unfold the secret of Banh Mi - Vietnam's Most Favorite Street Food

Recently, CNN had listed Vietnamese Banh Mi as one of the 23 best sandwiches of the world. Banh Mi is simply a crispy baguette or bun with various fillings from meats, 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. Let's discover how Banh Mi make its way to be Vietnam's most favorite street food.

1. How did Banh Mi arrive in Vietnam?

When the French invaded Vietnam and the Indochina region in the 19th century, Banh Mi was first introduced to the Vietnameses. 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 shipload.


Banh Mi - one of the prime presenters of Vietnam's diverse food culture

But as time passed, the Vietnamese had 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.

2. Why do the Vietnamese love Banh Mi?

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 the sauce you like, then wait for the seller to warm it up - a flavorsome street food is already for you in a few minutes to dive into.


A pack of flavors and energy needed for your morning...

Normally, Banh Mi from a street vendor costs from 15.000 to 20.000 VND (0.5USD 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, that 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. 

3. What makes Banh Mi different from other sandwiches?

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, even from a stall to another stall on the same street.


Banh Mi has a golden crispy crust and a soft, pillowy inside.

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”. Which makes it different from other Banh Mi is its shape, which is a 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's ink, giving it a look as 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 Hoi An, usually filled with cold cuts of meat, pate, pickled carrots, daikon, coriander with deep flavor sauce. Anthony Bourdain once described it as “a symphony in a sandwich” in his show “No Reservations”.

4. Basic ingredients of Banh Mi:

Each region/city in Vietnam has its own recipe for Banh Mi. Yet, the main ingredients can be categorized in following groups:
- A roll of warm crusty bread.
- Meat products: pate, roasted pork, minced pork meatball, 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.


A feast for your eyes and stomaches...

5. Most popular varieties of Banh Mi in Vietnam:

- Bánh Mì Thịt Nguội with 2-3 kinds of pork cold cut slices, mayo and cucumber.
- Banh Mi with fried egg.
- Bánh Mì Bì with shredded pork or pork skin, pate, mayo, soy or fish sauce.
- Bánh Mì Xíu Mại with smashed pork meatballs marinated with tomato, fish or soy sauce.
- Bánh Mì Xá Xíu with caramelized chopped up pork meat in char siu Chinese style.
- Bánh Mì Thịt Xiên with skewered meat and pickled vegetables.

6. Where to find the best Banh Mi?

You can find Banh Mi in 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:

Hanoi

- Bánh mì dân tổ: 32 Tran Nhat Duat, Dong Xuan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Bánh mì Lãn Ông: 8 Cha Ca, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
43 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
3 Hang Bong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Bánh mỳ thịt xiên Hoàng Đức: 55 Chua Lang, Lang Thuong, Dong Da, Hanoi
- Bánh Mì 25: 25 Hang Ca, Hoan Kiem, Hà Nội

Saigon

- Bánh mì Huỳnh Hoa: 26 Le Thi Rieng, Pham Ngu Lao ward, District 1, Saigon
- Bánh mì Bảy Hổ: 19 Huynh Khuong Ninh, Da Kao ward, District 1, Saigon
- Bánh mì Hồng Hoa: 54 Nguyen Van Trang, Pham Ngu Lao ward, District 1, Saigon
- Bánh mì Như Lan: 50 Ham Nghi, Ben Nghe ward, District 1, Saigon

Hoi An

- Bánh mì Phượng: 2b Phan Chu Trinh, Cam Chau, Hoi An
- Banh mì Madam Khanh: 115 Tran Cao Van, Minh An Ward, Hoi An


But you can still find a tasty loaf of Banh Mi everywhere in Hoi An.

But don’t let the seducing flavor of Banh Mi make you forget trying other must-try dishes of Vietnam such as Pho or Bun Cha, … Or you can follow us on this Food Tour to taste all the special highlights of Vietnamese cuisine.

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