Vietnam's old standby, banh mi, a new trend

By Ha Nguyen   June 19, 2024 | 07:38 pm PT
"Two a day, no problem," said a recent social media post that sparked even more international fascination with banh mi than there already was.

The Vietnamese baguette sandwich has become popular the world over after at least 20 years developing a reputation as an affordable street food bursting with big but simple flavors.

Khách nước ngoài ghiền bánh mì Việt Nam

Banh mi often features popular fillings such as fish rolls (L) and cold cuts (R). Photo courtesy of TikTok/, TikTok/banhmihoanglam

Banh mi ranked among the top dishes loved by international travelers, as featured on a list of the Top 14 best street foods in the world according to TasteAtlas in 2023, and the Top 23 best sandwiches globally, according to CNN Travel in 2021.

Banh mi is considered a fusion of Asian and European cuisine. Using French-style baguette loaves and a variety of fillings such as pate, pork rolls, sausages, roasted meat, grilled meat, pickles, vegetables, and various sauces including chili sauce.

Foreign diners find it both tasty and economical. A full loaf typically costs just over a dollar. It's one of the popular street foods and often appears on lists of "must-eat dishes when visiting Vietnam" for international tourists.

Recently, a video posted on Instagram by Asiapioneertravelco titled "Spend $1,000 to fly to Vietnam just for a $2 sandwich" received over 80,000 likes and numerous comments.

Tourist Nicky (@nigredo.669) mentioned, "Their price is usually only about VND20,000 around the Ho Chi Minh City area (except for the more expensive District 1), which is about 80 cents. I usually eat at least two a day and can't stop."

CommonTypes of banh mi found in VIetnam. Video courtesy of TikTok/, TikTok/banhmihoanglam

An American tourist recounted visiting Vietnam in 2003 when a sandwich cost 50 cents. "I ate two sandwiches a day for two weeks. When I got back, I had gained 10 pounds, but it was worth it," she said.

Tourist @severus_snapshot reminisced, "I remember a banh mi spot with prices cheaper than a dollar in an alley in Ho Chi Minh City. Customers had to wait a long time, but it was worth it. I bought quite a lot of banh mi and shared it with the hotel staff where I stayed."

Many people cite their favorite as the roast pork banh mi or the pate banh mi, the dish's two most common, famous and popular staples.

Others note that this dish is available at Vietnamese restaurants in Paris, offering an alternative for those unable to visit Vietnam.

The video shows banh mi with various fillings such as fish rolls, cold cut meat, and roasted pork bread, along with many types of toppings. Beyond these basics, visitors to Vietnam can explore unique local varieties like Hai Phong mini breadsticks in the northern order port city, Hanoi-style bread with combo pan in the capital, or banh mi with stewed organs in the southland. Banh mi is an affordable dish, found in almost every corner across the three regions of Vietnam.

And good news travels fast. Now, different versions and styles of the traditional Vietnamese baguettes and banh mi are found in many major global cities, and on every continent in the world, too.

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