With cheap and tasty sandwiches, Banh Mi & Bros engineers a fresh take on a regional favourite. Writer Joanna Mayhew and photographer Lucas Veuve sample the classic Vietnamese fare.
While Banh Mi & Bros has chosen to do just one thing, it seems to be doing it well. Located in bustling BKK1, the eatery, café and bar offers eight banh mi variations, incorporating everything from curry shrimp to eggplant interpretations of the sandwich.
With the signature snack hailing back to the French colonial period in Vietnam, it seems only appropriate that the four owners, who have been friends since secondary school in France, represent both French and French-Vietnamese.
The sandwich shop, opened in April, aims to bring high-quality ingredients to what has traditionally been a street food offering, according to partner Sebastian Rodriguez. “The top quality, but not so expensive,” he adds.
The eatery’s signature Saigon-inspired banh mi – The Special Brothers ($3.80) – is loaded with thick cold cuts of pork tenderloin and ham, both imported from Vietnam each week, as well as pâté, salad, pickled vegetables, mayonnaise and cilantro. While the processed meat is an acquired taste, it is the chicken liver pâté that makes the sandwich. Made in-house each week, the spread uses thyme, tarragon, nutmeg, fried shallots and cognac and is fried with bay leaves and peppercorns.
The chicken satay version ($2.80) sees the moreish oven-cooked chicken combined nicely with sweet chilli sauce and similar fixings. All sandwiches use fresh French baguettes, delivered daily from La Patisserie by Christophe, and are accompanied by a salad.
While the eatery has only a few mains aside from banh mi – including the classic French croque monsieur and croque madame – the beef stew ($3.95) is a standout offering, with slow-cooked tender beef and thickly diced carrots and onions. Providing excellent value for money, the French-Asian fusion dish is similar to a ragout, but the rich, twice-cooked broth includes star anise, cinnamon and fish sauce and is topped with red chillies.
The desserts, too, take in Asian and European influences, with pandan jelly, flan caramel and crêpes on offer ($1-$2.80). The just-crisp-enough crêpe has a thick spread of Nutella and a hint of orange, and pairs perfectly with the Vietnamese-style café sua da sweet iced coffee.
Decked out with industrial-style rafters and dropped bulb lighting, the restaurant still manages to remain cosy, with wood-panelled walls, tiled flooring and warm wood tables and chairs.
From the décor to the time prescribed to warm the bread (1 minute, 10 seconds), consistency and replicability are key ingredients for the foursome, boding well for the shop’s future. As of the time of printing, Banh Mi & Bros was set to open another branch in Toul Tom Pong this month. The owners say they expect to soon open a third shop as well, further spreading the love – and pâté – throughout the capital.