Banh mi is the Vietnamese traditional food. You can easily find a banh mi stall in any street in any region in Vietnam. However, Saigon’s banh mi is what you shouldn’t miss out when you are here because this place is the origin of banh mi.
But wait! What is banh mi?
Banh mi is made from wheat and rice flour. It is usually seen as the combination between sandwich and baguette, so this is also called Vietnamese baguette sandwiches.
The soul of a Vietnamese banh mi lies in the heart of the sandwich: the Viet style fillings. They are typically steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver, pork floss, grilled chicken, chicken floss and Vietnamese sausage. Sellers also offer other types of fillings to satisfy different demands. There are even vegetarian options made with tofu or seitan, to serve vegetarian. They are usually sole near Buddhist temples during special religious events. Because of its various types, people never get bored with banh mi.
Banh mi is not only tasty but also made easily and quickly. These fillings mentioned are usually prepared readily to serve people. After cutting a load of banh mi into two slices, the sellers will put these fillings between the two slices based on customers’ taste. Next, they accompany banh mi with some kinds of vegetables including fresh cucumber slices, cilantro (leaves of the coriander plant) and pickled carrots and white radishes in shredded form. Before being given to customers, banh mi is covered with common condiments including spicy chili sauce, sliced chilies, mayonnaise, and cheese. Now a tasty banh mi is ready to serve you!
Look back at history, when French arrived in Vietnam, they brought their language and their food, including eventually the baguette, the long thin loaf of bread that became popular in France in the early twentieth century. However, time to time, people renovated baguette into loads of bread with 30-40 cm length and created the fillings inside. Almost all of these varieties are innovations made by or introduced in Saigon and they are known as banh mi Sai Gon (“Saigon-Style” banh mi)
Nowadays, banh mi plays an important role to Vietnamese people in general and to Saigon’s people in particular. People with all ages, from teen to the old, and with all classifications, from students to employees, eat Banh mi. It can be used at any time in a day: for breakfast, lunch and dinner, when walking or doing something. Because of its quick process, banh mi is considered as Vietnamese fast food. Personally, banh mi is not only delicious food but also a savior to me as it has filled my stomach several times when I have no time for a formal meal.