When thinking of Vietnamese food, Phở will probably come to mind for most people straight away. The delicious soup is surely the most known dish from the Southeast Asian country. Yet, Vietnamese cuisine has another star that is continuously conquering the menus at street food markets and hip restaurants around the world. While the name Bánh Mì initially just meant “bread”, it nowadays stands for a unique sandwich that consists of a baguette which is split lengthwise and filled with various savory ingredients.
Today, the popular street-side snack – and early representative of the hyped concept of fusion food – is ubiquitous all over Vietnam. You will hardly find a corner without a vendor selling fresh Bánh Mì from their mobile cart. For less than 50 cents you can indulge in the mouth-watering deliciousness. While it used to be a typical breakfast dish, just like Phở, people nowadays eat Bánh Mì at any time of day. And so should you, when you are in Vietnam!
What Makes Bánh Mì So Irresistible?
Bánh Mì is more than just a simple sandwich. It combines typical ingredients from French and Vietnamese cuisine into perfect unison and creates a simply heavenly taste adventure. Compared to French baguette, the Vietnamese version comes with a thinner crust and a fluffier texture, making Bánh Mì a lighter and less bread-heavy snack. The classic comes with heavily seasoned and fried pork, beef or chicken. Though a vegetarian version with tofu or seitan is quite common as well. Pickled carrots, radish, cucumber, cilantro, chili and mayonnaise round off the delicate mix.
The different textures that you experience as you bite into the sandwich are a little culinary sensation itself. First, the crispy crust on the outside that turns into an airy dough. Then the fresh and crunchy vegetables and, finally, the tender and juicy meat. The flavor is a sublime synergy of salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Simply spectacular!
Of course, the Vietnamese classic doesn’t just come in this basic version. There is a merely endless range of variations. So you can be sure to find your personal favorite. As a breakfast dish, for instance, Bánh Mì often awaits with fried egg instead of the meats. And of course, for all you guys with a sweet tooth, there is a dessert version as well with nuts and ice-cream. Yes, you heard right, ice-cream in a baguette.
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A French Baguette In A Traditional Vietnamese Sandwich?
You are wondering where the connection between French ingredients in a Vietnamese street food comes from? Well, in the mid-1900s, colonialists form France started occupying large parts of Vietnam. The country became part of French Indochina for almost a century. With their arrival came many French influences such as art, architecture and, of course, food. Among this were culinary delicacies such as pâtés, pastries, coffee and, likewise, baguette. Thus, also Bánh Mì is a remnant of that era which lasted until 1954.
Though, for most of the time, people would mainly garnish the white bread with plain pâtés as they knew it from back home. A simple version that didn’t have much to do with today’s complex Bánh Mì. It wasn’t until the 1950s, when a distinct sandwich evolved in Saigon. Byadding typical Vietnamese ingredients and flavors, the new snack quickly became a popular street food that started its triumphal march through the country. But already back then, it didn’t stop there. As a consequence of the Vietnam War, Vietnamese immigrants made the sandwich popular in overseas countries like Australia or the USA. There, Bánh Mì is also known as Vietnamese Po’ boy, an Asian version of the Louisiana favorite.
How To Make Bánh Mì At Home
If you can’t afford a trip to Southeast Asia at the moment, there is gladly no need to forgo this luscious staple of Vietnamese cuisine. Although, Bánh Mì requires quite a range of ingredients, it is still a super easy-to-make snack that is great for many different occasions. Simply check out our authentic recipe below and go to food heaven. And of course, you can easily pimp our classic with different other ingredients or swap the meat for tofu or other vegetarian toppings.
Bánh Mì – Vietnamese Sandwich
- 200 g pork belly
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 chili
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp Maggi seasoning sauce
- sunflower oil
- 1 baguette
- 2-3 tbsp Mayonnaise
- 2-3 tbsp liver pâté
- 1/4 cucumber
- 2 carrots
- 1 radish
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 200 ml rice vinegar
- Prepare the pickled vegetables the night before already. Peel the carrots and radish and cut them into fine strips
- Let them rest in cold saltwater for about 30 minutes and then drain and wash them. Fill them into a canning jar, add vinegar and sugar, top it up with warm water and let everything rest over night
- Peel and chop garlic, cut chili into fine rings and cut the pork into bite-sized strips. Marinate the pork with garlic, chili, sesame oil, soy sauce and Maggi seasoning sauce for about 30 minutes in a closed container in the fridge
- Heat up some oil in a pan and quickly fry the pork without letting it dry out
- Wash the cucumber and cut it into very fine slices. Wash the cilantro and pick the leaves
- Cut the baguette in half and split it lengthwise. Spread some mayonnaise on one half and liver pâté on the other
- Now, evenly place the pork strips and cucumber slices on the bread
- Garnish with pickled vegetables and cilantro leaves, fold – et voilà!
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Viet McRib Banh Mi by Andrea Nguyen, licensed under CC BY 2.0