The Vietnamese Sandwich In-depth: Top 10 Banh Mi Types

02 May, 2024 | Amazing Bite

Explore the diversity of Vietnam’s Banh Mi types beyond the dictionary, from sizzling Banh Mi Chao to sweet and salty Banh Mi Muoi Ot

Every foreign visitor knows the Vietnamese name of this sandwich, ‘Banh Mi’. But have you ever expected Banh Mi to possess much more diversity than its English definition? It’s hard to give an exact number of how many Banh Mi types Vietnam offers since the bread goes well with lots of different things and each region has its way of ‘playing’ with it. If you’re already familiar with the famous, scroll down to discover the top 10 lesser-known Banh Mi types in Vietnam!

How Banh Mi evolved

Among many things the French left behind in Vietnam after colonizing the country from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, there were their baguettes. Initially a ‘fancy’ Western dish only for the elites, the bread became more accessible to the public as bakers replaced wheat flour partly with cheaper rice flour. That also made Vietnamese baguettes softer and more airy. After gaining independence from the French, Vietnamese people were free to add their own unique touch to the bread and shifted more to local ingredients, paving the way for Banh Mi. 

Wrapped up in this humble street food dish is an ongoing process of creativity, adaptation, and preservation of the cultural essence of Vietnamese people. From the French baguettes to earning a place in the Oxford dictionary in 2011, Banh Mi has taken on a distinctly Vietnamese character, weaving its way into every corner of the S-shaped land.

Top 10 Banh Mi types beyond the dictionary

Before diving into the list, let’s break down the classic Banh Mi or in other words, the one in the dictionary. This Banh Mi type typically features omelets, cold cuts, pate, pickled vegetables, and some sauces. Vietnamese people call it Banh Mi Thap Cam, meaning ‘everything included’. But looking at the diversity of Vietnamese noodle dishes, you can somewhat perceive that Banh Mi does not just stop here. 

1. Banh Mi Chao (Frying Pan)

Along with the French introduction of beefsteak in Vietnam, Hanoians have opted for a more budget-friendly alternative. Banh Mi Chao is bread served with a small pan of pate, eggs, and sausages that are still sizzling. Instead of the toppings being inside the bread, they are served separately.

Serving choices come in quite a variety, as they pretty much consist of anything that tastes good fried. Beefsteak is usually the more premium addition to this Banh Mi type. You can tear the bread into small pieces and dip them into the sauce to know why this dish is so beloved. The sauce is typically a mixture of oil, tomato, butter, and some spices (each vendor might have their own recipe). 

Concept aside, Banh Mi Chao is rather aesthetically pleasing. It looks like a full-course meal, all the while just enough for breakfast or a light meal. 

Recommendation
Bamichao - Vua Banh Mi Chao: 1 Thanh Hà, Đồng Xuân, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội (From 35,000 VND)

2. Banh Mi Que/Hai Phong (Breadstick)

It is said that this ‘skinny’ Banh Mi type first appeared somewhere in the 1980s in the harbor city of Hai Phong. They were ‘invented’ to only consist of pate and pork fat due to a lack of ingredients back then, and the perfect way to enjoy bread with pate was born. Hai Phong-style pate is also renowned for its outstanding quality. 

The bread is thin and very crunchy; so every bite is overpowered by the fatness of the pate, and when combined nicely with some spiciness, it makes you pull out your wallet to buy some more. There is typically an optional accompanying (mildly) spicy dipping sauce, which is also Hai Phong-style. 

Recommendation

Bánh mì que Hải Phòng Zozo: 29 Nhà Chung, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội (From 5,000 VND)

Tiệm Bánh Mì Cay Ông Cuông: 184 Hàng Kênh, Lê Chân, Hải Phòng (From 3,000 VND)

3. Dessert Banh Mi

For those having a sweet tooth! If you've heard of Hanoi's iconic egg coffee, Banh Mi Kem Trung (Egg Cream) replaces coffee with bread. The egg yolks, along with sugar, are whipped into a creamy texture. 

This Banh Mi type is an amazing combination of straightforward creaminess from the egg and crunchiness from bread that can justify your weight gain from overindulging. 

Recommendation

Kem Trứng Bà Khanh: 55B Hai Bà Trưng, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội (From 25,000 VND)

If you do not like egg cream, a pretty similar way to enjoy this dessert is to dip bread in sweetened condensed milk (sua dac). This version is popular among the youth, but it is sold elsewhere; rather, you can easily buy condensed milk from a mini-mart and bread at a supermarket or vendor. Similar to Banh Mi Chao, it’s best to tear the bread into small pieces.

4. Banh Mi Sot Vang (Red Wine Beef Stew)

Having its roots in the French dish ragoût de bœuf au vin, Banh Mi Sot Vang is considered a more exquisite Banh Mi type. It is often served at weddings or other formal feasts but is just as common as street food. 

After being marinated with red wine and various spices, the beef will be stewed with carrots, potatoes, and tomato sauce. Dip a piece of bread into the sauce and let its rich and savory flavor make your day. Being cooked this way also makes the beef incredibly tender and juicy. Even before tasting it, the scent emanating from the stew pots is sure to spark your appetite.

Recommendation

Bánh Mì Trâm: 30 Đình Ngang, Cửa Nam, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội (From 60,000 VND)

5. Banh Mi Bot Loc (Tapioca Dumpling)

Hue foods serve both the mouth and the eyes, and Bot Loc is one of those. While these doughs are common nationwide, Banh Mi Bot Loc can only be found in the imperial city and some neighboring provinces. It is light and delicate rather than fatty like a few other Banh Mi types. 

(Credit: Báo Lao Động)

Bot Loc is made from tapioca flour rolled with sautéed shrimp and minced pork. Tapioca flour being steamed also gives Bot Loc a translucent appearance. Fish sauce is poured into the fillings to complement the flavors of shrimp and pork. Does the soft and chewy Bot Loc go well with bread? It absolutely does!

Recommendation

Quán O Giàu: 109 Lê Huân, Thuận Hoà, Huế (From 10,000 VND)

6. Banh Mi Ga (Chicken Floss)

While the coastal city of Da Nang might be renowned for its seafood, its signature Banh Mi type also deserves the spotlight. You might mistake it for a hamburger but the bread is actually still made the Vietnamese way. 

(Credit: Vinpearl)

For those unfamiliar with floss, this dish is made by grinding and then roasting the meat. The floss is slightly chewy and feels like cotton. Fatty mayonnaise is evenly spread on the inside of the bread to envelop all the fillings. 

Recommendation 

Bánh mì Gà Cô Chi: 48 Phan Đình Phùng, Hải Châu 1, Hải Châu, Đà Nẵng (From 15,000 VND)

7. Banh Mi Cha Ca (Fish Cakes)

When you visit a country with a 3260-km coastline, seafood is a must-try. And speaking of fish cakes, the beach city of Nha Trang holds the top spot. Nha Trang fish cakes are typically made from redtail fusilier, barracuda, or sardine based on the season.

You can clearly taste the essence of the sea when biting into a piece of Nha Trang’s Banh Mi Cha Ca. The saltiness of fish, when enjoyed with bread, strikes a perfect balance of flavors. This Banh Mi type invites you with its mouthwatering filling and makes you return with its quality.

Recommendation 

Bánh mì chả cá Thanh Thanh: 14 Yersin, Vạn Thắng, Nha Trang (From 16,000 VND)

8. Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Shumai Meatballs)

Coming to ‘the land of thousands of flowers’ - Dalat, you’ll get treated to this gentle and elegant Banh Mi type. Crafting a bowl of Shumai soup is a meticulous and elaborate process. Before being rolled into meatballs, the ground pork is mixed with chopped vegetables, fish sauce as well as various other spices. The broth is simmered from pork bones to bring about the most authentic flavor.

The bread soaks up the broth’s flavor, and each bite of the meatball melts in your mouth. Amidst the chilly weather of Dalat, enjoying a hot, steaming Banh Mi Xiu Mai is right on point. 

Recommendation

Bánh Mì Xíu Mại 79 - Cô Trúc: 119c Nguyễn Văn Trỗi, Ward 2, Đà Lạt (From 20,000 VND)

9. Banh Mi Pha Lau (Animal Organs)

The concentration of the Hoa people in Saigon has brought an exotic Banh Mi type to this multicultural city. Besides pork, the filling also features ripe, ears, liver, spleen, sausage, etc. These parts tend to have a softer texture than regular meat and are slightly chewier. 

(Credit: Báo Lao Động)

But the soul of Banh Mi Pha Lau lies in its sauce. With coconut cream and white wine as the main ingredients, this sauce has a blast of flavor. Don’t worry that the dish will be overly fatty since it comes with pickles, coriander, cucumber, and herbs. Animal organs are filling so this dish could definitely make a main meal. 

Recommendation

Bánh Mì Phá Lấu Xá Xíu: 27 Nguyễn Văn Đậu, Ward 6, Phú Nhuận, Hồ Chí Minh City (From 26,000 VND)

10. Banh Mi Muoi Ot (Chili Salt) 

Originating from An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, Banh Mi Muoi Ot has made a splash all over Vietnam in the past few years. The making of this Banh Mi type is very distinctive as the bread is flattened out, evenly spread with butter, salt, chilly powder, and Shacha sauce, and then grilled over charcoal. The result is crispy, sweet (The Mekong Delta people love sweetness), salty, and a little spicy bread.

(Credit: VietNamNet)

The bread is then sliced and mixed with shredded pork, sautéed pork skin, scallion oil, quail eggs, peanuts, and sometimes cheese. Pair it with iced, refreshing kumquat juice and you’ll have a great snack for a wandering night. 

Recommendation

Bánh Mì Nướng Muối Ớt Cô Liên: 50 Lò Sũ, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội (From 15,000 VND)

Bánh mì nướng Cô Năm: 281 3 Tháng 2, Ward 10, District 10, Hồ Chí Minh City (From 20,000 VND)

Explore these Banh Mi types in Vietnam

The marriage between French baguettes and Vietnamese cuisine over the years has brought us completely new and diverse taste experiences. To explore the flavors of many Banh Mi types, plan your Vietnam trip with Exotic Voyages!

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