Put some Pate on It : The Banh Mi and Where to find the best In Saigon
The Banh Mi has become a Phenomenon across the globe over the last few years. In London alone, you can find approximately 26 shops selling their own versions of the Banh Mi for 4-6 on average. America is being swept up by its own wave of Banh Mi enthusiasts who are not even blinking while shelling out an expected $6 dollars for a quality Banh Mi.
What is it that makes this sandwich so fantastic that its notoriety is spreading across the world so quickly? As a cook and foodie, I appreciate the balance of the sandwich. It touches every sensation on my tongue perfectly and leaves nothing more to be desired from such a humble and simple sandwich. Layered with meat, smothered in pate and mayo, and topped with fresh herbs, pickles, and chili creates a texture and flavor party that leaves the masses standing in line with their hands open begging for more night after night in Saigon.
The Vietnamese Baguette is a special type of bread that is unique and different from a standard French Baguette you might find at a French bakery. Not only used for sandwiches, the Banh Mi has found its way onto many different Vietnamese dishes as a necessary side. One of the most notable being the French influenced Vietnamese dish Bo Kho, which requires the Banh Mi for soaking up the meaty rich broth making for an excellent breakfast. A very popular Goat Curry restaurant in Saigon, provides its guests with a stack of Banh Mi at each table used to soak up the rich curry gravy which provides a unique substitute to the Naan Bread that is typically placed alongside curry dishes.
The bread itself is much debated online in various forums given to the difficulty for finding a legitimate recipe that uses Rice Flour to create the Banh Mi. The complexity comes from the nature of Rice flour not containing any of the necessary proteins that help create gluten which assists the leavening agents to capture pockets of gas. Also that rice flour, depending much on the granule size of the flour itself, is slower to absorb liquids than wheat flour but will also absorb more liquid. This is a mystery that should be left to solve with someone that has an oven inside of their apartment, which would not be me at the time of this article.
The Banh Mi sandwich has very different forms depending on where you are in Vietnam. There is the Infamous Banh Mi of Hoi An that was visited by Anthony Bourdain. This Banh mi is dubbed the “Deluxe” and along with fresh salad, pickles, and 4 types of pork is topped with a fried egg. Just a little bit up the road in Da Nang, you can find a specialty in the dehydrated pulled chicken sandwich called Banh Mi Ga. In Hanoi, you can find a grilled pork in a spicy sauce with fresh vegetables. Other variations found all over Vietnam include Fish sauce marinated grilled pork, Grilled Pork Patties with a sweet sauce, Meatballs in tomato sauce, and a morning favorite of fried egg. These are just a few of the variations, not even mentioning what foreign chefs and cooks are now doing with the humble Banh Mi.
Our favorite Banh Mi in Saigon
Where is it?
At Banh Mi Huynh Hoa located at 26 Le Thi Rieng, There are two carts stacked with 9 different types of meat, fresh pate, and homemade mayo pushed up against the right wall of the building. On the left side, there will be a man who is constantly heating up baguettes inside of a low heat oven. Depending on the time that you have chosen to get a Banh Mi, there will be a mob standing on the outside of the store, which is helpful in identifying the shop if you are not familiar with Ho Chi Minh City.
How to order
You want a Banh Mi? You are going to have to get through the mob. Now, don’t be intimidated or offended by people cutting in front of you and ignoring you when you enter the mob. This is just Darwin’s Theory at work, only the strong will get a sandwich!! Politely, but confidently push your way to the front as you feel that your turn is coming. The Banh Mi maker will be slathering bread and placing meat onto sandwiches at the speed of light. When it comes your time to order, be ready! Just use your fingers to indicate how many sandwiches you want. This lady is busy and has no time to provide excellent customer service. The Banh Mi will do that. If she asks a question just shake your head “Yes”. Most likely she asked if you want Chili or not. The sandwich is now getting made! Get excited! The Banh Mi will be passed down the line to be finished with pickles and vegetables. It will then be passed to a man who stands on the left side of the first sandwich maker. This will be the man you will pay.
Vietnam is not the easiest place for travelers especially when trying to experience it like a local. You just located and purchased the best Banh Mi in Saigon without speaking any Vietnamese, Well done! Now please enjoy!
What am I eating?
I thought you might be curious on what you now have holding in your hand. This is a Banh Mi Thit, which translates into Wheat Bread Meat Sandwich.
- Light and crispy Vietnamese Baguette
- 6 types of deli meat made from pork, with ranging textures. Some are smooth like Bologna and others chunky like head cheese with lots of fat.
- 2 types of roasted pork
- Pork Floss, which is much like a dehydrated pulled pork that is packed with flavor
- Homemade Mayonaisse
- Homemade Pork Liver Pate
- Pickled Carrots and Daikon
Well, that covers the best Banh Mi Thit in Saigon in our opinion. If you disagree, please let us know. We want to hear what your favorite is!