Simon Stanley bites into some classic banh mi flavours at this funky new chain, Banh Nam. Photos by Vinh Dao.
It may look modern, with its industrial-style frontage, its clean white walls, hand-painted murals, uniformed staff, and those unmistakable bright yellow accents, but the flavours at Banh Nam are strictly authentic. “Our idea is simple,” says the company’s co-founder Timen Swijtink, “do not change what people love.”
While the Dutch creators of this grab-and-go chain are keen to keep things as traditional as possible, even commissioning their own independent study on the history of the Vietnamese sandwich and its ingredients, they bring a level of hygiene and food safety not often seen at the street-side banh mi carts. “Banh Nam is not trying to reinvent the banh mi,” says Swijtink, “it is just adding cleanliness, convenience, and consistency. But we are, and always will be, authentically Vietnamese.”
As its name suggests, Banh Nam’s menu of sandwiches runs to just five items, allowing for a constant focus on flavour and freshness, with each individual ingredient sourced locally (where possible), and carefully selected for its quality.
Starting at just VND19,000 is ‘the classic’, the banh mi thit cha, laden with traditional Vietnamese hams, homemade paté, mayonnaise, pickled vegetables and coriander. It’s as authentic as they come and packs more than enough fillings given its minimal price tag.
Next is the op la, with layers of fried egg on top of paté. It’s ideal for breakfast and, again, only VND19,000. For vegetarians is the dau hu, filled with fried tofu and mushroom paté (VND25,000). Finally, and both priced at VND29,000, are the heo nuong and ga nuong—grilled pork and grilled chicken, respectively—both rich with smoky, meaty flavours topped by the light zing of the pickles and coriander, and then, of course, the slap of chilli. All sandwiches are made to order, so be sure to ask for no chilli if you’re not a fan of the heat.
The key to any good banh mi is the bread, and here it’s freshly baked every day and hits just the right point on the crispy-soft scale, holding the contents (and flavours) well, without being too dry or crunchy.
3D jelly desserts (VND15,000) and portions of homemade flan (VND9,000) make for affordable afters if you’re particularly hungry. Drinks are reasonably priced too (although combo deals make things even cheaper), with a ca phe sua da just VND15,000, a Larue beer also VND15,000, and homemade milk tea for VND22,000, to name just a few choices.
Banh Nam’s delivery service, available via vietnammm.com, is proving immensely popular too, judging by the online reviews, bringing their sandwiches straight to your door for just VND10,000.