Recently discovered and celebrated by “foodies” and street food fans, the 50-year-old bánh mì sandwich is a perfect example of fusion food. This Vietnamese sandwich from Saigon mixes French colonial influences with local traditions and ingredients.
French settlers brought bread, particularly in the form of the baguette to Vietnam. But the Vietnamese version of the baguette has its own characteristics: it is smaller than the French one, and also lighter and crustier thanks to using rice flour. And although – like panini – bánh mì is a word that simply means “wheat bread”, it also denotes a special kind of sandwich.
French tradition, Vietnamese reinterpretation
Bread is not the only French ingredient in the bánh mì sandwich: liver pâté and mayonnaise are generally included, as well as local ingredients such as sweet-sour daikon, cucumbers and carrots, as well as pork cooked in the Vietnamese style. To spice it up, adding cilantro, soy sauce and chili paste is essentials. Once finished, this sandwich is a perfect combination of textures (crusty and tender), tastes (salty, sweet, acid, spicy and umami) and colors. No wonder it became so critically acclaimed!
One base, many variations
If the basic ingredients are always the same (liver pâté, sweet-sour carrots, cilantro, chili, mayonnaise and soy sauce or, surprisingly, Maggi sauce), there are many different kinds of bánh mì invented over time, or imported from neighboring countries. The variations all play on the main ingredient: most bánh mì versions are made out of pork (roasted, meat balls, glazed, grilled, in ragout, all kind of French-Vietnamese delicatessen), but you can also find some versions with beef (lemongrass or grilled), chicken or even sardines in tomato sauce.
Buy it in Ho Chi Minh City without even getting off your scooter
In Vietnam and especially in Ho Chi Minh City, bánh mì is consumed by every social class, from students to workers through white collars. It makes for a very cheap meal, costing between 4000 and 15000 Vietnamese dong (.10 to .55 euros). You can choose to buy one without even getting off your scooter, or go eat it in a restaurant along with an iced coffee, juice or fresh beer. For 50 years, despite the growing foreign concurrence, it still hasn’t been replaced as the king of Vietnamese street food.
How to Prepare the Bành Mį Sandwich
(our version from the video)
- 2 small baguettes
- fresh cilantro
- red or green chilies
- 1 cucumber with skin
- one hand full of shredded red and white cabbage
- pork liver pâté
- cooked/roasted pork belly
For the pickled carrots:
- 2 carrots
- 5 tsp white vinegar
- 5 tsp water
- 2-3 tsp sugar
For the sauce :
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp rapeseed oil
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- a bit of fish sauce
The night before, prepare the pickled carrots: prepare the syrup by combining water, vinegar and sugar. Let the mixture boil for 10 minutes. Then add grated carrots and leave the mix in the fridge overnight.
Mix all ingredients of the sauce in a jar and shake well until smooth. Add some sugar, lime juice or soy sauce to taste.
Open your mini baguette (or half a normal baguette) horizontally, spread with pâté on the bottom side. Then, layer by layer add red cabbage, carrots, cucumber, sliced pork belly, cilantro, white cabbage and sliced chillis. Drizzle the sauce on top, press firmly to close the sandwich and EAT!
Inspired by Sinfully Sabrina’s Rainbow Banh Mi.