Battle of the Banh Mi at Mount Lavinia Hotel

Tuesday, 6 September 2011 00:45 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Vietnamese bánh mì has two main meanings. One, banh mi in general means a loaf/slice/piece of bread, most often related to the French baguette, but banh mi can also be used to describe sliced bread and other breads. It basically means bread of any kind. Two, banh mi refers to the bread stuffed with a variety of meats and Viet pickles. It is what most North Americans know as the submarine sandwich. In a Viet sandwich shop, you can buy not only the whole baguette banh mi, but also order the bread stuffed with meat sub sandwich kind of banh mi.

Bánh mì is made with both wheat and rice flour, its known as a type of sandwich traditionally made. There are many global and regional variations of the sandwich, but the most common version features, thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon (known as đồ chua), cucumbers, cilantro, chili peppers, pâté, mayonnaise and various meat fillings or tofu. The sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, pâté and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients like cilantro (coriander leaves), hot peppers, fish sauce and pickled carrots. It may have started as a ‘kitchen sink’ recipe in Vietnam, where various leftovers would be tossed into a sandwich to finish them up (like a po’ boy). Bánh mì is now sought after by many for its unique and delicious flavors. In the United States, Banh Mi is sometimes referred to as a “Saigon Sub”, a Vietnamese Sub, a “Vietnamese Po’ boy” (in the New Orleans area), a “Vietnamese Hoagie” (in Philadelphia) or a “Vietnamese Sandwich”.  

The soul of a Vietnamese bánh mì lies in the heart of the sandwich: the Việt style fillings. Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches have an endless variety of options for fillings. Popular bánh mì fillings include roasted or grilled pork, steamed or roasted pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, chicken, head cheese and ham. The bánh mì sandwich stems from the French countryside “salad sandwich” which consists of lettuces, tomatoes and sometimes vegetables as well as dressing served on a baguette.

It is customary to use a toasted French baguette or French bread, because of the textures these breads provide: It’s easy to understand the Saigon sub’s appeal.

 It’s got flavor and textural contrasts that elude most others in its category. It’s got a roll that traditionally incorporates rice flour to make it extra-light and crackly, especially when toasted. It’s got fatty meats, pickled carrots and daikon, fragrant cilantro, cool cucumber, and hot sauce or hot peppers or both.

“The contrasting flavors and textures of the sandwich and the combination of flavours in every bite make this a popular item. If you have never had a Bánh Mi sandwich, you must seek one out.

Creaminess from the mayonnaise, freshness from cilantro, a bit of sweet and sour from the pickled vegetables, some coolness from the cucumbers, and a bit of salty heat from the grilled pork and peppers, give this sandwich a shot next time you are in the mood for something wonderful , and you can only get it at MLH,”  Chef Indika said.