Banh Mi – Vietnamese Sandwich

Posted: November 29, 2012 in food

There is essentially one sandwich in Vietnamese cooking and it started out very simply, with a baguette smeared with liver pate.  Very French, you might think, and so it was – and the French Colonial legacy in Vietnam remains strong, as it does in Morocco, despite 50 odd years of independence.


What we know today as banh mi is a light, crispy small baguette that is split and hollowed, filled with mayonnaise, sliced chili pepper, coriander leaves, cucumber, and a drizzle of soy sauce. The tangy-sweet daikon and carrot pickle (do chua) is traditional, but you can cheat by grating some carrot, radish, white cabbage, spring onion, or whatever comes to hand, and mixing with a little sugar and white wine vinegar, plus fish sauce to taste.

The classic version, “banh mi thit nguoi” includes a smearing of homemade liver pâté and thin slices of various Vietnamese cold cuts. Other filling options include, but are not limited to, roasted chicken, grilled pork, Chinese char siu pork, and tofu. For a quick sandwich, use cooked chicken breasts from a rotisserie chicken – but I prefer to take some thinly sliced fresh chicken or pork, and quickly stir fry in sesame oil with a bit of rough chopped onion/garlic and a sprinkle of five spice powder for extra oomph!

Banh Mi Sandwich

1. Slit the bread lengthwise, and then use your fingers or a bread knife to hollow out some of the insides, making a trough in both halves. Discard the insides or save it for another use, such as breadcrumbs. If necessary, crisp up the bread in a toaster or oven preheated to 325ºF, and then let it cool for a minute before proceeding.

2. Generously spreading the inside with mayonnaise, adding some Sambal Oelek if you like it spicy. Start from the bottom portion of bread to layer in the remaining ingredients. (As with all sandwiches, you’ll eventually find your favourite way of combining, to maximize the interaction between flavours and textures.) Top with some roughly torn coriander leaf and drizzle in some soy sauce. Close the sandwich, cut it in half crosswise for easy eating, and enjoy.


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