Vietnam’s banh mi has achieved well deserved renown as a delicious street food staple, but Saigon offers the quintessentially Vietnamese sandwich with fillings far more appetizing than the standard one.
Even the most jaded palette will be tickled by the six different types of banh mi described below.
Banh mi with shumai
Banh mi with two bowls of broth with shumai and quail eggs. Photo by Khanh Thien
Shumai balls are made with minced pork, spices and other ingredients to achieve a soft, crunchy, and moist texture. The broth it comes in might be sweet and sour or made with fresh coconut water. You can enjoy the shumai with a few slices of cucumber, coriander and chili pepper after dipping the banh mi in the sauce.
Recommended spots: 1/17 Hoang Dieu Street (District 4) or the corner of Hoang Dieu – Nguyen Tat Thanh Street; 397 Phan Xich Long (Phu Nhuan District); and 782 Nguyen Kiem (Go Vap District).
Banh mi with shredded pork skin
A loaf of banh mi stuffed with shredded pork skin, daikon and scallion oil. Photo by Khanh Thien
Banh mi with shredded pork skin has long been considered Saigon’s best breakfast option by sandwich aficionados. The combination of shredded pork skin and sweet and sour fish sauce is unbeatable, foodies say. The delicacy is a mixture of shredded pork skin and roasted rice powder, offering a fragrant, crunchy, flavorful, but not overly rich taste. The seller frequently cuts the banh mi in half and stuffs it with shredded pork skin, pickles, scallion oil and a well-balanced sweet, sour, spicy and salty fish sauce.
Recommended spots: Corner of Ngo Thoi Nhiem and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Streets (District 3); 150 Nguyen Trai (District 1).
Banh mi with shredded fried fish cakes
A loaf of banh mi with shredded fried fish cakes, slices of chili and chili sauce. Photo by Khanh Thien
A loaf of banh mi with shredded fish cakes has become a regular start to a new day for many Saigon residents because it is available across the city. The crunchy, chewy fried fish cake and chili garlic sauce that is stuffed into a hot banh mi is yummy and a perfect start to the day, fans say. To spice things up further, the seller also includes cucumber, Vietnamese coriander, chili sauce, and slices of fresh chili pepper.
Recommended spots: 12 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (District 1); 187 Vinh Vien (District 10); 19 Dao Duy Anh (Phu Nhuan District); 68 Le Van Tho (Go Vap District); 35 Phan Boi Chau (Binh Thanh District); and 115 Nguyen Cong Tru (District 1).
Banh mi with roasted pork belly
A loaf of banh mi with roasted pork belly, chili and coriander. Photo by Khanh Thien
Crispy roasted pork belly is the major ingredient of this dish, of course. Its crispy outer part and fatty inner part never fails to win the foodie over. The vendor adds cucumber, pickles, chilli and a special sauce that makes the dish even more flavorful.
Recommended spots: 3 Nguyen Thuong Hien (District 3); 58 Dong Ho (Tan Binh District); 46 Tran Quy (District 11); 189 Pham Phu Thu (District 6); and 102 Au Co (Tan Binh District).
Banh mi with grilled beef wrapped in piper lolot leaves
A loaf of banh mi with grilled beef wrapped in piper lolot leaves. Photo by Khanh Thien
The main component of this banh mi are the tiny, finger-sized beef sausages wrapped in piper lolot leaves to protect the meat from drying out while grilling. Piper lolot is a green heart-shaped leaf that is sometimes confused with the betel leaf; both are members of the pepper family and are used in many Southeast Asian countries.
This banh mi filling comes with a variety of condiments that rounds the dish off, including cucumber, Vietnamese coriander, pickles, scallion oil and a dash of chili or shacha sauce.
Recommended spots: opposite Vinh Hoi Apartment (District 4); 364 Nguyen Tat Thanh (District 4); and 1150 Le Duc Tho (Go Vap District).
Banh mi with cold cuts
A loaf of banh mi with the basic filling of cold cuts, cucumber slices, chili and some salt and pepper. Photo by Khanh Thien
Perhaps the most popular banh mi in Saigon is the “ordinary” one with ham and pork bologna sausage. In addition to the crusty outer layer, depending on the store, the seller adds pâté, ham, pork, homemade Vietnamese mayo and shredded chicken, not to mention pickled vegetables, coriander and chili pepper.
Recommended spots: 363 Hai Ba Trung (District 3); 68 Ham Nghi (District 1); 26 Le Thi Rieng (District 1); and 402/3 Le Van Sy (District 3).
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