Savoury, spicy, tangy, crunchy, fresh – all elements of the perfect banh mi sandwich. It honestly has to be one of my favourite sandwiches out there, ever since the first moment I took a bite of one. A few months ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam – the birthplace of the banh mi. Sadly, travel all around the world is on hold for the time being due to COVID-19. But if you wanted to escape for a bit or plan for your eventual travel, I’ve written a couple guides on Vietnam that you can find here and here. And in the meantime, you can recreate the flavours of Vietnam in your own home through this recipe!
Fun facts: “Bánh Mì” in Vietnamese means bread. While French colonists introduced the Vietnamese to the baguette in the 1860s, this popular street food wasn’t created until the 1950s, when it eventually became a staple food. It originated in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), but anyone who has traveled to Vietnam will tell you that the best banh mi can actually be found in Hoi An.
I may not be Vietnamese, but having been eating this sandwich for years, I definitely have my thoughts on what goes into making the perfect banh mi. And today, I’m sharing those with you. Keep scrolling to the end for the recipe.
1. Toast your Baguette
Don’t loaf around! One of the most important elements of a banh mi sandwich is the bread – specifically, baguette. You must (and I repeat, MUST) toast your baguette because part of the experience of eating a banh mi is the crunch! In terms of size, it’s not recommended to buy a long French-style baguette from the grocery or a bakery. Instead, look for the smaller size baguettes which are juuuuuuusst right.
2. Get the Bread to Ingredient Ratio Right
It is also very, very, very important to remove some of the bread from in the middle of the baguette because the correct bread-to-ingredient ratio is key. Think of the bread as your vessel for the sandwich and to provide a beautiful crunch (point #1 above). But too much of it and the flavours of some of the other ingredients may be lost. Remove some of the inside after you’ve toasted the bread and have let it cool. Instead of discarding, you can find other ways to use the insides (e.g. croutons, bread pudding, or maybe to dip in cheese fondue).
3. Make Your Own Char Siu Pork
This may sound like a laborious task, but it really isn’t. Making char siu pork at home doesn’t take long, and you only need a few ingredients, which you probably already have in your pantry. Plus, the pork can be consumed on its own or with other things later.
4. Pickle Your Own Veg
A banh mi isn’t really a banh mi without pickled carrot and daikon (called “Đồ Chua” in Vietnamese). If you aren’t familiar with daikon, it’s a Chinese or Japanese radish that can be found at your local grocery store or Asian food store. Pickled carrot and daikon will last in your fridge for several weeks, can be used on other things, and are good for your gut health!
5. Maggi Sauce!
When my husband and I were in Vietnam, we went on a hunt for the best banh mi in Hoi An (you can read all about that here). There was this certain je ne sais quoi about the winning sandwich – this wonderful umami that we couldn’t quiet put our fingers on. We saw a brown sauce being slathered on the bread when being prepared, but we didn’t know what it was. The answer came from watching Andrea Nguyen’s YouTube video on banh mi, where she revealed that Maggi sauce is the secret weapon! Maggi is a brand of dark brown seasoning sauce and it is delicious. If you can’t find Maggi sauce at your supermarket or Asian food store, there are similar products you can use instead. Bonus tip: use Sir Kensington’s mayonnaise, specifically, on your bread and apply the Maggi sauce over top. Sir Kensington’s is so much more flavourful than any other mayo I’ve tried.
Dive right into to this sandwich when you’re done, or wrap with some parchment paper and twine for a picnic later! Here is the full recipe.
Thưởng thức bữa ăn (enjoy your meal)!