In the list of top “15 best street food in the world”, Vietnamese sandwich (known locally and now globally as Banh Mi Vietnam) is a great combination of crispy bread, juicy meats, sweet and sour pickles, hot chilies and fresh herb.
As one of the first things Vietnamese at any age or socio-economic status think of for breakfast, Banh Mi provides energy for both the poor and the rich from biggest cities to smallest town in Vietnam. Low price and tasty flavor of Banh Mi Vietnam are the reasons why big brands of international fast food like Mc Donald and KFC could not sink their teeth into local market here successfully like what they have done in another countries. Compared to expensive hamburgers, Banh Mi Vietnam wins in every game all battlegrounds.
“That’s a symphony in a sandwich” – Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain told the world about Vietnamese sandwich.
Brief History & The Rise of Banh Mi
Follow timeline back to the past, the appearance of Banh Mi in Vietnam was marked in the 17th century together with French missionaries.
Because wheat could not be grown in Vietnam so at first the price of Banh Mi was just within the reach of French people. In this period, Banh Mi was served in the form and with ingredients as they were in Europe. After French troops left Vietnam, Banh Mi was modified to fit with the financial condition of locals: imported butter and pate were replaced by home-made stuffs, veggies were added to balance the fatty taste and made Banh Mi more attractive to Vietnamese residents.
People then realized that it was a cheap snack but still rich in nutrition and energy so carts selling Banh Mi Vietnam popped up all over the Republic of Vietnam. Gradually, as a super convenient Vietnamese food without having to use spoon or chopsticks, Banh Mi becomes more and more prevalent.
Now it appears in almost every corner of big cities such as Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi. Local people here order Vietnamese sandwich for their breakfast, lunch, dinner or a kind of snack at any time in a day.
Top Places to Buy Banh Mi in Vietnam
Honestly, it depends on personal taste. Some people insist that the Vietnamese sandwich near their houses or made by their mothers is the best in the world, but generally, there are some famous addresses to mention:
Banh mi Phuong – Hoi An
- Address: 2b Phan Chu Trinh, Cam Chau, Hoi An
- Opening hour: 6.30 am – 21.30
- Price range: 15.000 VND – 25.000 VND
You cannot miss this super-famous Banh Mi Hoi An store because it is recognizable from distance: A huge crowd of lined-up people waiting patiently can be seen easily at any time frame. Since celebrity chef Anthony visited Banh mi Phuong and paid complimentary generously to Vietnamese sandwich, it has become one of highlight destination in Hoi An.
Although there is many options to choose like pate –bacon – grilled pork – eggs, the recommended one is “all-ingredient-in- one” Vietnamese sandwich with magic sauce, maybe the combination of cheese and some secret sauce. Added veggies and pickles with hot chili are final steps to make best Banh Mi Vietnam you have ever tried.
*Tip: If you do want to queue up or simply are afraid of crowd, head to the East side of the Central Market. You will see a small stand named Banh Mi Phuong. This is the old place of this brand and not fake one. Quality is exactly the same with what sold at new location but and without queues.
Banh mi Madame Khanh, Banh Mi Queen – Hoi An
- Address: 115 Tran Cao Van, Minh An, Hoi An
- Opening hour: 7.00 – 20.00 everyday
- Price range: 10.000 – 20.000 VND
With famous owner called Queen Of Banh Mi who has run her store for 30 years and has experience of 50 years selling street food, Banh Mi Hoi An here is a well-balanced sandwich of pâté, pork char siu, sausage, fried egg, homemade pickles, papaya, carrots, parsley, chili sauce, soy sauce, and a special sauce. The final effect is amazing, both crunchy yet creamy at the same time. Again, home-made secret sauce makes great contribution to the heavenly taste of the final Banh Mi.
*Tip: “All ingredients in one” version of Banh Mi is the best, you may not want to leave anything out because each ingredient is excellent. Please be patient because the Queen will prepare your Banh Mi Hoi An with the slowest and most careful movements she could be able to.
Banh mi Dinh Liet – Hanoi
- Address: 38 Đinh Liet street, Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi
- Price range: 20.000 VND – 30.000 VND
- Opening hour: 7.00 – 22.00 everyday
Offers Banh Mi Vietnam with traditional ingredients such as pate, ham and pork but the bread here is quite tasty with ingredients made in old style of Hanoi. Stop by this place if you are fan of what is called “Authentic taste”. The price is quite low in comparison with another food store in the old quarter (With around 20000 VND – 25000 VND)
*Tip: Vietnamese sandwich in traditional style is definitely worth for trying but another version Banh Mi on hot pan with beefsteak, fried potatoes and tomato is also highly recommended.
Banh mi Nguyen Sinh, Hanoi
- Address: 19 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
- Opening hour: 7.00 – 22.00 everyday
- Price range: 40.000 VND – 200.000 VND
This is a long-standing Vietnamese food brand name dating back to the time of French domination and they pride themselves as one of the very first Western restaurant opened by local people in Hanoi. Nowadays, this is a family run restaurant in French style selling Vietnamese sandwich which is perfectly baked (crunchy outside, perfectly soft on the inside).
But the most highlight feature is the goose liver pate which could not be found anywhere else. The prices are much higher than average but they still make good sales because of outstanding quality.
*Tip: Cold cut platter and liver pate are signature dishes. Beside Vietnamese sandwich, meat lovers may want to try “Vietnamese style beefsteak on a hotplate”, it does taste good.
Banh mi Đình Ngang – Hanoi
- 252 Hang Bong street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
- Opening hour: 7.00- 22.00 everyday
- Price range: 30.000 VND – 50.000 VND
Not very special in terms of both bread and fillings inside but banh mi Dinh Ngang is famous for the sauce that enhances the sandwich baguette, making it exceptionally delicious with great combination of salty, sweet, sour flavors.
*Tip: Famous Bánh Mì Sốt Vang – a Vietnamese version of a French beef stew made with onions, mushrooms and other veggies and served with the bread will be a great choice in a winter day.
Banh mi Huynh Hoa – HCMC
- Address: 26 Le Thi Rieng, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city
- Opening hour: 15.00 – 22.00 everyday
- Price range: 40.000 VND – 60.000 VND
There is a rule of thumb: If you would like to try authentic flavor, seek for a place with a massive amount of local people waiting in front of. This maybe the heavies load of bread you may find in Vietnam.
Along with layers of mayonnaise and pate, there are another 6 or 8 layers of meats and grilled pork and quite a generous amount of dried shredded pork tossed in as well. To make it more completed, they add a few slices of cucumber, cilantro, and a Vietnamese pickles made from carrots. Chili pepper here is super-hot so be careful.
*Tip: Be aggressive and thrown yourself into the crowd, or else you may find you are being pushed further and further to the end of the line.
Banh mi Lanh – Hoi An
- Address: 430 Cua Dai, Hoi An town
- Opening hour: 6.30 – 9.30 everyday
- Price range: 10.000 VND – 20.000 VND
Although less famous than above stores, Banh Mi Lanh is not an ordinary store at all. It is just a tiny stall near the Chua Nam Quang Tu pagoda in Northeast Hoi An, Banh Mi Lanh draws many fans among local residents.
Selling the fatty and creamy pate in fresh baked bread roll, you will realize you have found the exact Banh Mi Vietnam you wish for immediately after your first bite.
*Tip: If being familiar with solid pate, this is another exploration for you. The pate here is soft and creamy, creating a great texture to enhance the taste of the whole banh mi.
Banh mi Hoa Ma – HCMC
- Alley number 53, Cao Thang street, Ho Chi Minh city
- Opening Hours: 6 am – 11 am
- Price Range: 32,000 VND – 50,000 VND
Banh mi Hoa Ma was founded in 1958 by a Hanoian couple and considered as the first Banh Mi store in Vietnam, so literately, this is a historic site. Until now, after 60 years, it is still a tiny store selling Vietnamese sandwich only with the in-house processing area while customers sit along two sides of the alley.
The bread here is crunchy with a typical aroma of flour and milk. The fillings are the same to what you can find in Hanoi, feel free to add pepper, chili sauce, or soy sauce to customize your Vietnamese sandwich.
*Tip: Sit at the back of the alley and observe the morning life of Saigonese people, you will feel like a true local.
Banh mi Nhu Lan – HCMC
- 64 Ham Nghi Street in District 1 and 363 Hai Ba Trung Street in District 3, Ho Chi Minh city
- Opening hours: 5.00 – 23.30 everyday
- Price range: 15.00- 50.000
This is one of the most popular sellers of Banh mi in Ho Chi Minh City. Established nearly 50 years ago, Nhu Lan is famous for ham inside banh mi. Besides its signature ham, a typical Banh Mi Nhu Lan is usually made with pâté, sliced cucumbers, scallions, Vietnamese pickles, and the store’s homemade mayonnaise.
It is easier to find Banh Mi Nhu Lan in Ho Chi Minh city than in Hanoi because the taste is preferred by people in the South than ones in Northern area.
*Tip: There is a huge array of Vietnamese food beside Banh Mi at Nhu Lan restaurant, this is a place for whom who wants to have good meal with reasonable price.
How to Make a Banh Mi Vietnam Style:
Popular because of the low cost, small shops in Vietnam often buy ingredients from big suppliers and just re-sell it to customers but famous brands often prepare their own secret recipes. Below you can find the most popular fillings inside Banh Mi Vietnam:
Pate: Made from chicken or pig liver combined with water and bread crumbs mixing with sugar, pepper, garlic, peeled. Slowly add all the ingredients together in a food processor and puree well until smooth. Finally keep cool in refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
Shredded pork (Ruoc): Place cubed pork into the pan, sprinkle generously with salt then braise the meat over medium to medium high heat for about 45 minutes to an hour. Then place all in a large mortar and pestle to grind it until finely shredded. Finally drizzle fish sauce over the shredded meat, continually stir until the mixture is dry.
Pork Roll (Gio lua): Ground pork is rolled and packed with banana leaves then steamed or boiled
Extra fillings including butter, omelet, fresh herbs, cucumber, pickled vegetable, fired eggs and spices (pepper, chili sauce…).
Apart from above ingredients, a large amount of new ideas and innovations have been made for the filling inside Banh Mi Vietnam, from grilled pork to fish ball or char-siu.
Vietnamese sandwich goes perfectly with:
Coffee/ tea: The fragrance of green tea or black coffee combined with nutritious Banh Mi makes up great combo for breakfast
Soya bean: Another healthy way to start your new day, both rich in protein from meat and seed.
Fruit juice: This is perfect choice for anyone who love to add more vitamins and proteins in their daily lives.
Banh Mi is not just Vietnamese food, it reflects the philosophy of Vietnamese culinary: first, the balance of yin-yang “hot” and “cold” ingredients to make nourishing meals, ensuring a perfectly healthy lifestyle. Then it is the symbol of the locals’ flexibility: From an imported food, Vietnamese sandwich now is an excellent version of baguette with localized ingredients and in the way to find a place in people’s heart all around the globe.
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