Come rain or shine, these five Saigon banh mi stalls draw crowds

By Nguyen Quy   November 23, 2019 | 07:23 pm PT
Five Vietnamese sandwich (banh mi) stalls in Saigon have entered the global food map through just word of mouth.

The simple Vietnamese sandwich, a baguette stuffed with anything from grilled pork, cold cuts and cucumber slices to cilantro, pickled carrots, liver pâté, and a swipe of mayonnaise, is arguably one of the first things you should try if you want a true taste of Vietnam.

The banh mi was listed in the top 20 street foods that one must try around the world by the world’s largest travel site, Fodor’s Travel, in 2016. The U.S.-based publisher described banh mi as "a mouthwatering sandwich that might best be described as a Vietnamese hoagie."

Here are five popular places serving it in HCMC that have won acclaim from food bloggers. Long lines of customers are a telltale sign that the banh mi served here are delicious.

Banh mi Huynh Hoa

The shop at 26 Le Thi Rieng Street in District 1 stands out with long lines of tourists and locals waiting their turn. It is open between 3 p.m. and midnight.


Customers queue up in front of Huynh Hoa banh mi shop. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

The banh mi here is among the most expensive in the city at VND44,000 ($1.89), but still has loyal customers for its layers of meat, cold cuts and generous sprinkling of pork floss. Some also love its unique mayonnaise mix.

The shop is recommended by many top food bloggers as the best in the city, and possibly in Vietnam. "It was incredibly good, and incredibly meaty and rich," American blogger Mark Wiens, who is based in Bangkok, said.


Banh mi at Huynh Hoa stall. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

[A video shows customers queuing up to buy banh mi at Huynh Hoa stall on November 22, 2019]

37 Nguyen Trai banh mi 

In the alley at 37 Nguyen Trai Street in District 5, also in the downtown area, you will find another crowd surrounding a lady serving banh mi from a pushcart.

The round pieces of pork, fragrant and slightly burnt, are taken directly from hot coal in a small oven. Regular customers say they love how the grilled pork there has remained tasty for so many years, and people are willing to wait for half an hour to be served.

Come rain or shine, these five Saigon banh mi stalls draw crowds - 2

The sandwich includes five or six pork patties and coated in a sauce that smells and tastes nearly like yakitori sauce. On top of the pork patties is a generous amount of cucumber, cilantro, green onion, Vietnamese pickles, and finally some sweet chili sauce.

The stall opens at around 5 p.m, and the sandwich costs VND20,000 ($0.86).

Bay Ho banh mi

Another pushcart at 23 Huynh Khuong Ninh Street in District 1, this one has been going strong for nearly 80 years. It used to open only in the afternoon, but now also opens in the morning.


A woman stuffs a Bay Ho banh mi with fresh ingredients. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Vinh.

Most of the fillings are made using secret family recipes, including the pâté which is steamed and grilled. The ingredients are prepared just before serving and so customers can leave with a piping hot baguette.

Customers often have to wait for 10 to 15 minutes to get their turn. Prices start at VND15,000 ($0.64).

Hoa Ma banh mi 

Hoa Ma at 53 Cao Thang Street in District 3 has gained fame for its signature dish: banh mi served in a sizzling skillet and loaded with fried eggs and an assortment of meat.


Banh mi with a sizzling pan at Hoa Ma. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

The shop opened in 1958 and moved to its current location two years later. It is around 15 minutes by motorbike from Ben Thanh Market. 

Take a seat on a tiny plastic chair in a small alley to sample the dish. It opens from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. The banh mi costs around VND40,000 ($1.72).

Four-generation banh mi in Phu Nhuan

Come rain or shine, these five Saigon banh mi stalls draw crowds - 5

This pushcart at the start of Huynh Van Banh Street in Phu Nhuan District has been open from morning to night for around 60 years.

Unlike the cold cuts you find elsewhere, the banh mi here is stuffed with slices of pork thigh stewed in herbs and seasoning to give a taste similar to curry though not as spicy.

A banh mi filled with stewed pork thigh on Huynh Van Banh Street. Photo by VnExpress/Thien Chuong.

A banh mi filled with stewed pork thigh on Huynh Van Banh Street. Photo by VnExpress/Thien Chuong.

The cart has been passed down through four generations of women in the family, starting with Huong who is now more than 80 and a great-grandmother. Expect to pay VND15,000 ($0.64) for a baguette.

Videos by Hoang Huy, Chau Dong 

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