Getting a Banh mi in Vietnam is like ordering a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia, it’s just something you have to do. Afterall, how can you say know to dirt cheap, delicious local food?
This quintessential Vietnamese dish was a product of French Colonialism in the 1800s as the French were looking to maintain their own European diet. However, the Vietnamese people were unable to afford the pricey imported bread, meats, and cheeses, and therefore it represented repression and divide. When the French left and Vietnam divided into two in 1954, the Vietnamese replaced the expensive meats and cheeses with local vegetables, mayo, spices, and herbs to make a cheap, calorie dense dish that catered to the hustling Vietnamese life. Banh mi spread to the rest of the world as millions of Vietnamese people fled the country with the fall of Saigon in 1975, and now you can find it just about everywhere.
On long travel days of exploring for hours and hours, a banh mi is the perfect snack that will give you an energy boost on the go without slowing you down or breaking the bank. Here is my banh mi journey from my recent time spent in Vietnam!
Nha Trang , Banh Mi 1
After an hour of walking around Nha Trang in the sticky heat, my eyes lit up when I spotted a corner Banh Mi cart in the distance. I got a crusty sandwich in exchange for 15,000 VND ($.65USD) and certainly got what I paid for. The baguette had a couple spears of cucumber, a light drizzle of a soy sauce of sorts, and some spam. I took a couple bites, dug out the cumber, and pitched the rest. Not my best find, but the energy I needed to keep my pace up.
Nha Trang, Banh Mi 2
Another two hours of walking earned me another Banh Mi. This time I went into a trendier establishment that caught my nose before my eye. I got the “roasted pork bread” for 25,000 VND ($1.08 USD), and was thrilled when she asked me “Spice?” I took my sandwich to the beach to enjoy my snack with a view. The bread was nice and toasted, the herbs were fresh, and there was a tasty balsamic dressing. The skimpy portion of pork, however, was too fatty and ended up in the trash. While it wasn’t a defining culinary moment in my life, it was descent enough.
Hoi An, Banh Mi 3
There is a big debate in the Vietnam food community as to which Hoi An Banh Mi reigns supreme, Banh Mi Phuong or Madam Khahn- The Banh Mi Queen. I intended on going to both, but ended up at neither given the fact they were closed due to the New Year holiday. Outside the shacked up Banh Mi Phuong there was a long line leading to a neighboring Banh Mi cart. Lines usually mean the respective item has some sort of hype, so Jeremy and I waited. At 30,000 VND ($1.29 USD) each, the Banh Mis were perfectly average. The bread was fine, there was a good amount of meat, and a flavorful chili sauce, but it was missing fresh herbs and greens. I don’t know why there was a line so long for such an average sandwich, but at such a low cost point, who cares!
Da Nang, Banh Mi 4
I was in need of a bathroom, food, and internet, and spied I Love Banh Mi. Perfect! It was by far the #trendiest Banh Mi stop yet with bright colors and cutesy decorations, which translated to a higher price tag of 60,000 VND ($2.59USD) . I order a chicken banh mi and set up camp at the upstairs, outdoor bar looking down on the street. It was finally the banh mi experience I wanted. A beautiful toasted baguette held fresh herbs, cucumber, a tasty sauce, and chunks of tender, lightly fried chicken was placed in front of me, and I dug in.
Usually, I opt for a street food cart over a restaurant. But in this spontaneous banh mi journey, the established venue takes the gold!