Banh Mi Recipe — How to Make Hoi An’s Best Vietnamese Sandwich
Banh Mi recipe? Who needs a recipe to make a Vietnamese sandwich? Well, this isn’t any old sandwich, it’s Hoi An’s best bánh mì, which we watched being made almost every day for three months when we lived there a few years ago.
This Vietnamese banh mi recipe comes straight from the source, Bánh Mì Phuong, where for three months we watched this amazing Vietnamese sandwich or more correctly Vietnamese-style demi-baguette get filled with porky delights and tart pickles several times a week.
Banh Mi Recipe — How to Make Hoi An’s Best Vietnamese Sandwich
In early 2013, before we moved to Siem Reap, we spent three months in Hoi An working on food stories. We lived just around the corner from one of the best banh mi joints in town, Bánh Mì Phuong, when it was in its old location on Hoang Dieu Street.
We made a habit of going out for breakfast daily (generally for cao lau noodles as one of the stories we were researching was on cao lau, and often to our favourite Hoi An noodle shop), and we always dined out for dinner. But unfortunately, because we were working, after all, on most days our lunch was simply a quick trip to this modest ‘sandwich shop’ for these fantastic filled baguettes.
We devoured countless Vietnamese banh mi from myriad stalls in Hoi An, but after a month we found ourselves returning to one of two banh mi shops, Bánh Mì Phuong or Madame Khanh, who was fondly branded ‘the Bánh Mì Queen’ by Neville Dean, who established the Original Taste of Hoi An street food tours.
This classic banh mi recipe that I use at home is inspired by the Vietnamese sandwiches from Bánh Mì Phuong, while a banh mi op la recipe I’ll also share tips a hat to what we dubbed the ‘breakfast banh mi’ by our Bánh Mì Queen, Madame Khanh.
A brilliant banh mi starts with brilliant bread. Bánh mì is ‘bread’ (bánh) and ‘wheat’ (mì), however, the Vietnamese baguette has a little secret, the mix of wheat flour and rice flour in the dough. The rice flour give the baguette a lighter and slightly drier texture, making the baguette less prone to going soggy when filled with all those amazing ingredients. This is also the reason the sandwich is always made to order at a good banh mi place — a soggy baguette is never great to eat.
The bread at this banh mi joint was so critical to the final product that Phuong and the lovely ladies from her family who do shifts running the stall would simply close shop for a couple of hours when they ran out of their own house-made baguettes, rather than buy some in.
They would take a break and then restock their mis-en-place, carving grilled pork slices (thịt nướng), picking coriander leaves, slicing cucumbers and chillies, and turning away customers until the next batch of still-warm baguettes would arrive from their bakery up the road (now part of their new premises).
While you’re probably not going to find the exact same textured baguettes (and unfortunately we can’t find any that come close here in Siem Reap), look for bread rolls that are light with a thin crunchy crust to get the best results. Always warm the baguettes in the oven just before making the banh mi.
At Bánh Mì Phuong, watching the assembly of the banh mi sandwiches was always fascinating to me. Each sandwich was made the exact same way with ingredients put into the sandwich in the same order every single time. If the order was for four baguettes, they would all be lined up on the bench, each getting the same ingredients in order.
There were options and variations at Bánh Mì Phuong — unlike some other stalls — as they had cheese, jambon, chicken, ‘hamburger’ (grilled lemongrass flavoured pork patties), pork, eggs, and pâté. We’d order ‘the lot’ but, but as ‘the lot’ was based on pork there was no cheese, jambon, chicken, and eggs on that one.
When we ordered, the only extra we were asked about, depending whose shift it was that day, was the chilli, which came in two forms here, slices of medium-sized red chillies (still with quite a chilli kick) and a chilli sauce. Other stalls had the fantastic local chilli paste and a chilli sauce that tasted suspiciously like Sriracha.
The actual ingredients for our usual order were home-made mayonnaise, home-made pork liver pâté (made by Phuong’s sister-in-law, who became Lara’s buddy), Vietnamese sausage (a version with peppercorns called chả Huế), thin slices of char siu pork belly, cucumber slices, pickled carrot and daikon strips, fresh coriander (cilantro to our American readers), spicy chilli sauce, sliced chillies, and thinly sliced tomatoes.
Of course, I’m going to tinker with Phuong’s banh mi recipe here. As I’ve been using up a batch of char siu pork (and have been posting different recipes that use that pork, from my Chinese special fried rice to a Hokkien noodles recipe) this banh mi recipe uses thicker slices of char siu and skips the sausage — we’re already using the pâté so we have quite enough protein for one sandwich.
Another reason I like using char siu pork is thanks to a fantastic char siu pork banh mi we had on our last day in Hoi An. A chef friend recommended a particular stall for amazing char siu pork, raving about the banh mi she made as a side business — and the thick slices of char siu pork belly with a crispy skin were indeed amazing!
That’s one more thing that can lift a banh mi to new heights. But that’s for another recipe post…
- 100 grams of carrots
- 80 grams of daikon radish
- 100 ml of rice vinegar
- ¼ cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Slice the carrot and radish into thin batons.
- Place the batons into a clean pickling jar.
- Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and 125 ml of water in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.
- Leave to cool and then pour into the pickling jar.
- Leave to combine for at least a couple of hours before using.
- Store in the refrigerator and use within two weeks.
- 1 demi-baguette
- pork liver pâté
- 1 cucumber, sliced thin
- ¼ bunch coriander
- 1 banana chilli, thinly sliced
- handful of pickled carrots and daikon
- slices of char siu pork (belly or tenderloin or both)
- chilli sauce or chilli paste
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
- Place the baguettes in the oven until warm — usually about a minute.
- Slice the baguette lengthways but don’t cut all the way through.
- Spread the pâté on the bottom half of the baguette and mayonnaise on the top half.
- Add the cucumber slices on top of the pâté and then slices of the char siu pork.
- Add the chilli slices, pickled carrots and daikon and then the coriander.
- Add chilli sauce or chilli paste to your taste.
- Eat immediately!
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