Bánh mì or bánh mỳ is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread. Bread, or more specifically the baguette, was introduced by the French during its colonial period. The bread most commonly found in Vietnam is a single serving (a roll) resembling a torpedo, therefore the term bánh mì is synonymous with this type of bread. The bánh mì is usually more airy than its western counterpart, so as a result, has a thinner crust.
The sandwiches made from it include meat and soy fillings such as steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver pâté, pork floss, grilled chicken, chicken floss, canned sardines in tomato sauce, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce, head cheese, fried eggs, and tofu. Accompanying vegetables include fresh cucumber slices, coriander leaves and pickled carrots and daikon in shredded form. Common condiments include spicy chilli sauce, sliced chillies, mayonnaise, and cheese.
Although the term bánh mì only means bread without any fillings, the term is used to refer to a type of meat-filled sandwich found in Vietnamese bakeries abroad, especially in US, Canadian, Australian, and French communities with substantial Vietnamese immigrant communities. In the Vietnamese language, the term bánh mì is not enough to describe the type of meat-filled sandwich. Therefore, additional words are added to describe the kind of fillings. For example, bánh mì pâté thịt means a sandwich with pâté and meat, usually pork bellies, since it is the most common kind of meat. Bánh mì pâté cha thịt means a sandwich with pâté, Vietnamese sausage and meat. However, even in Vietnam, “a bánh mì for breakfast” implies a meat-filled sandwich for breakfast, not just bread.
Banh mi was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on March 24, 2011. This sandwich is considered one of the world’s best street foods.
General Ingredients for Banh Mi – Vietnamese Sandwiches
The sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, pâté and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients, such as coriander, hot peppers, and pickled carrots.
The classic version, bánh mì thịt nguội, sometimes known as bánh mì đặc biệt or “special combo”, is made with various Vietnamese cold cuts, such as sliced pork or pork bellies, chả lụa, and head cheese, along with the liver pâté and vegetables.
Some restaurants also offer bánh mì chay, a vegetarian option, made with tofu or seitan. In Vietnam, vegetarian sandwiches are rarely found on the streets. They are usually made at Buddhist temples during special religious events.
Another option is the breakfast bánh mì, either with scrambled eggs served in a baguette; the version eaten more widely for breakfast in Vietnam is eggs fried sunny-side-up with onions, sprinkled with soy sauce or Maggi sauce, and eaten with a fresh (and sometimes buttered) baguette.
Bánh Mì with Red-Cooked Pork
For the red-cooked pork
- 450 g pork shoulder, bone-in or boneless, rinsed and patted dry
- ½ cup Shaoxing, Chinese rice wine
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce , i.e. regular soy sauce
- 3 whole star anise
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons sugar
For the pickled vegetables
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups julienned carrots, about 3 mm thick
- 1½ cups julienned daikon, about 3 mm thick
To finish the sandwiches
- 2 thin-crusted baguettes, partially split lengthwise (leave the spine uncut)
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 115 g country-style French pork pate, beaten until spreadable (add butter, if needed, to soften)
- 1 small cucumber, cut into 3 mm julienne strips
- 6 leaves green leaf lettuce
- ¼ cup julienned spring onions, white and green parts, cut into 5 cm lengths
- ¼ cup pork floss, optional
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
- 16 sprigs coriander
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
Make the red-cooked pork
- Place the pork in a 2 litre saucepan. Add the Shaoxing wine, dark and light soy sauces, star anise, cinnamon, and enough water to cover the pork.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and skim any scum from the surface. Simmer the pork, uncovered, until almost tender, about 1 hour (it shouldn't be so tender that it's falling apart). Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the pork cool to room temperature. Reserve the simmering liquid.
Make the pickled vegetables
- Whisk the vinegar, sugar, and salt together until dissolved.
- Add the carrots and daikon and toss well. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to one day.
- Drain the pickles well before putting them in the sandwich.
Make the sandwiches
- Spread 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise on the top half of the baguettes. Spread the pate on the bottom half of the baguettes.
- Slice the pork on a slight diagonal as thinly as possible into bite-size pieces. Divide the pork evenly between the two baguettes.
- Top the pork with the well-drained pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, lettuce, spring onions, pork floss (if using), jalapeños, and coriander.
- Combine 6 tablespoons of the pork's simmering liquid with the fish sauce. Drizzle the liquid over the sandwich filling. Cut each baguette crosswise into halves or thirds and serve.
Cooks Notes & Variations
Video – How to make Bánh Mì with Red-Cooked Pork
Learn to make the Vietnamese sandwich known as Banh Mi, stuffed with red-cooked pork, pickled vegetables, and pate.