For our journey to dine where the locals dine, I’ve decided to take on one of the most popular and most iconic food items, banh mi (bread, or more precisely, baguette). We have to thank the French for introducing it during their colonial heyday. However, Vietnamese-style banh mi is airier, fluffier and has a much thinner crust compared to its French counterpart. The taste is distinctive, light, crusty and simple.
In Vietnam, banh mi refers to any type of meat-filled baguette. A typical baguette is filled with various Vietnamese style thit nguoi (cold-cuts), pork liver paté, shredded chicken or pork floss. It’s also stuffed with fresh sliced cucumber, cilantro leaves, sliced chillies (for that extra kick), mayonnaise, soy sauce and shredded pickled carrots and daikon. Other fillings, such as grilled chicken, canned sardines and ice cream (yes, ice cream) are also quite common and popular. The beauty about banh mi is that you can have it made to order and wolf it down with an iced coffee, fruit smoothie or, my personal favourite, fresh sugar cane juice any time of the day.
Travel on any street in Saigon and you’re likely to run into a banh mi vendor. But where do you find the best banh mi in Saigon? There are many good banh mi places in the city but it is boils down to personal taste, location and preferences. Here is my recommended list of the popular and delicious banh mi places to start your journey.
Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
26 Le Thi Rieng Street near Cach Mang Thang 8, D1
Open for over 10 years, try their banh mi with cha lua (Vietnamese sausage or pork roll), pork liver paté, shredded chicken floss and butter. Open from 3.30pm to midnight. Average cost is VND 28,000.
Banh Mi Sau Minh
170 Vo Van Tan Street, D3
Open since 1976, try their banh mi xiu mai (soft pork meatballs), which is quite stunning. Open 24 hours. Average cost is VND 22,000.
Banh Mi Bui Thi Xuan
122E Bui Thi Xuan Street, D1
Open for over 20 years, try their standard banh mi thit nguoi (assorted cold cuts). Open from 5.30am to 1.00am. Average cost is VND 15,000.
Banh Mi Phuc Thinh
Nguyen Sieu Street, D1 (in front of Hem 5 near Hai Ba Trung Street, next to the green coloured Mai Linh Taxi building)
A classic street cart, try their breakfast banh mi with two fried eggs (sunny side up), pork paté and shredded pork floss. I prefer it in the morning when everything is much fresher. Open from 5.00am to 7.30pm, Monday to Friday. Cost is VND 15,000 for regular size and VND 20,000 for large.