When it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, few dishes are as iconic as the famous Banh Mi. It is the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich and a snack you just can’t miss if you’re heading to the country. Whilst it is easy to get lost in the flavours of this delicious baguette, Banh Mi also has a fascinating history, which has cemented its importance in Vietnam’s evolving food scene.
Last year, I met a bunch of Aussies in Prague, and we bonded well. They were big foodies. I remember discussing different cuisines with them, and a big part of our conversation revolved around a mutual love for Vietnamese street food, and in particular for Banh Mi (Bánh Mì in Vietnamese).
Vietnamese street food is some of the best in the world! Photo credit: Miroslaw Podyma
This got me thinking about how much I enjoyed chowing down on a tasty Banh Mi during my time in Vietnam. Whether it was in northern Hanoi or southern Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh City); I remember eating Banh Mi every single day and loving it! In my opinion, Banh Mi is right up there with Pho as an essential Vietnamese food and you’d be crazy to miss it on your trip!
What is Banh Mi?
Banh Mi literally translates to bread, meaning a baked food containing wheat. However, this term has also become the go-to name for the famous Vietnamese sandwich, served in a French baguette with a mix of meats and vegetables.
Bánh Mì Ingredients
Crusty French baguette
The bread itself is made of wheat flour, but it can also contain rice flour. You usually have the option of getting your Banh Mi toasted. In my opinion, the Banh Mi must be toasted to acquire the best taste!
A popular condiment in French cuisine, pâté is sometimes added to the Banh Mi, along with mayonnaise and chilli.
Cuts of meat
Most stalls sell Banh Mi with varying meat options including pork, beef or chicken. It is also possible to buy vegetarian Banh Mi too!
White radishes are often pickled with the carrots in a shredded form. This mix is called đồ chua in Vietnamese.
They often pack Banh Mi full of coriander. Photo credit: David Kiwi
Fresh cucumber slices are often included in Banh Mi sandwiches.
Maggi Seasoning Sauce
Some places use Maggi seasoning sauce to help flavour the Banh Mi. Those from India are usually familiar with this sauce, however, Maggi is easy to buy in mainstream supermarkets across the world.
The reason these sandwiches stand out is because of the use of seasonal local ingredients. The stall owners shop twice a day and put fresh vegetables and herbs inside the dense baguettes. The freshness is real, unlike the food in some of the famous fast-food restaurants!
How to Make Bánh Mì
Making Banh Mi is probably simpler than you think. The key is finding high-quality ingredients and bread with the perfect soft interior and crunchy exterior. Check out the video below for a crash course in how to make Banh Mi with grilled pork!
Banh Mi Goes Global
Through speaking to my new-found Aussie friends, I learnt that many Vietnamese immigrants who moved to Australia popularised the sandwich through Asian bakeries across the states of New South Wales and Victoria.Vietnamese cuisine has also grown in popularity across North America and Europe. Whether it comes in the form of a trendy food truck at a music festival or in a high-end shopping mall, you’re sure never to be too far from Banh Mi!
Banh Mi has become one of Vietnam’s most popular street foods! Photo credit: Lizzie Duffell *(taken at Banh Mi Queen in Hoi An).
Cost of Bánh Mì in Vietnam
Most stalls selling Banh Mi on the streets of Vietnam charge under one dollar for a sandwich. I don’t know any other food that gives you such high quality for that price! These are particularly great if you have overspent and are looking for cheap but filling food to conserve your travel budget!