Posted in Restaurant Hopping, The Flavors of Asia

On the Subject of Bánh Mì

For most Filipinos, Vietnamese food consists of either one of two things: spring rolls (either the fresh goi cuon or the more popular deep-fried cha gio) and pho. This, in my personal opinion, is a real pity.

The French occupation of Vietnam did a great deal to add oomph to that nation’s already stellar cuisine. Bò kho – the rich and meaty local take on beef stew – reminds diners of classic boeuf Bourguignon and comes to the table with a sliced baguette on the side for dipping. Then there’s paté chaud, a filling meat pie made with flaky puff pastry. And, of course, there’s bánh mì.

Bánh mì is, for all intents and purposes, a sandwich. Now, you may say “I’ve had sandwiches all my life. What makes this different from everything else?” Let’s get down to the details, shall we?

A standard-issue bánh mì starts out with a small baguette. It should be noted at this point, that Vietnamese bread is more like a cross between a baguette (in form, if nothing else) and the softer-crumbed and sweeter pan de mie. The bread is then split and buttered – or, more likely, slathered with Vietnamese “mayonnaise”, a delectable spread made with hard-boiled eggs, butter, and a variety of spices. Atop a fresh lettuce leaf, one’s protein source of choice is then layered on. Finally, a selection of pickled vegetables is placed on top – usually sweet-pickled carrots and singkamas (jicama) – to add color and crunch. Et voila: c’est un bánh mì!

My very first bánh mì experience came when I was a kid in high school and my father brought home what was called a “Vietnamese sandwich” at his office cafeteria. It was fabulous: crunchy tangy veg, smooth pork pate, and smoky-savory roast pork. Alas for me, I didn’t have another sandwich till about recently.

What you see at the top of this post is a bánh mì thịt nướng from Pho Hoa, or more colloquially: a bánh mì made with grilled pork. It was every bit as delicious as that long-ago sandwich and I seriously recommend it to anyone who’s craving for Vietnamese food. After all, one can get bored with noodles and spring rolls. 😉

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Author:

Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended earlier this year. These days, she works for a corporate governance advocacy in Makati. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel.

2 thoughts on “On the Subject of Bánh Mì

  1. I LOVE Bò kho!! I also love that beef stew noodle in Pho Hoa… Their Banh mi is also good.
    But you know when Garandee and I went to Vietnam a couple of years back we didn’t really like the Banh mi sold by the street vendors scattered all over Hoi An. I guess it was the patis that they used…?

  2. I can’t believe I’ve never had banh mi although I’m well aware of it! We have quite a few good Vietnamese restaurants nearby but Pho Hoa has recently opened here (Minnesota). I wish any of the Filipino national chains would do the same and open more stores in the US Midwest, not just the East or West Coasts!

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