The step by step guide to finding a great Banh Mi in Saigon.
The ubiquitous Banh Mi is both unpretentious and scrumptious. The baguette style bread and liver pate, is the little evidence remaining of french influence on Vietnamese cuisine. Yet it is embraced by everyone, for a mere 15000VND you can get a fully loaded Banh Mi with all the trimmings and toppings, which will fill you up properly until dinner time.
The simple truth however: The only place with jaw droppingly good Banh Mi is undoubtedly Hoi An. If you really want a great Banh mi go there, and it doesn’t need a “ultimate Banh Mi guide”. Any place will do, whether it’s the tourist trap “banh mi queen” or the place next door selling out of street stand with no one in line. The bread is buttery and fresh, the pate is sumptuous, and the unidentifiable gravy sauce which coats the pickled veggies and meat slices is phenomenal. Danang, and Dalat also boast great Banh mi, our theory is that these places bake their own bread and pate, whereas HCMC Banh Mi sellers buy it wholesale, and all the Baguettes taste the same.
“The simple truth however: The only place with jaw droppingly good Banh Mi is undoubtedly Hoi An.”
So Here is your self guided tour of the best options for Ho Chi Minh City, where finding a Banh Mi close to being as good as Hoi An is a near impossibility. However here is our advice and a couple decent options:
Step one, take a good hard look at the PATE. There are two types of Pate used by the Banh Mi stands around the city, home made and industrial. Obviously the home-made is leaps and bounds better, and the industrial should be avoided at all costs.
Step two, hope that the Bread is fresh. If it has a smooth crunchy looking exterior, its probably fresh enough, but the rest is up to you, it is quite a gamble to find the right bread.
Fresh bread and home-made Pa Te are the essentials in the building blocks of the Best Banh mi, after this you can ask for “thit” which will be an assortment of cold pork meats. Or Op La, which will be fried eggs, and all come with an assortment of veggies, including pickled radish and carrots as well as a garnishing layer of cilantro adorning the center, with a healthy dose of soy sauce, and you got yourself one of the world best sandwiches.
How to Identify the right and wrong Pate?
Home-made, is simply darker in color and usually sits in a metal bowl. Sometimes its a bit crumbly, sometimes its mushy. But the trick here is the dark color, which comes from that of the liver, which it is supposed to be made of. And this is the closest thing in taste to the original french Pate.
Industrial, is pink in color, and usually comes from a green plastic package. It tastes dry and unpleasant.
Streatery’s recommendations for the the best of Saigonese Banh Mi:
1. Banh Mi Ut Kiem – Binh Thanh
This place is out of the way on a horribly busy highway, but well worth the visit. It’s one of the only places that serves fresh bread baked in-house, home-made Pa Te and the eggs (if you order Banh Mi Op La) are not overcooked, and you have the yoke blend nicely with the rest of the ingredients. DISCLAIMER: the quality of the Banh Mi as a whole depends on which member of the family is serving you. The teenage boys tend to be the worst (shocking, I know). The young girl in her 20s is the master, if you can order from her the eggs will cooked just right, with just the right amount of pate, coriander and pickled veggies.
Our favorite two are:
Banh Mi Thit – Pork
Banh Mi Op La – Fried eggs
2. Banh mi lan mi – District 4
Address: 125 Tôn Đản, phường 14, Quận 4
Hours: after 12:00
These are the biggest most packed Banh Mis that Dong can buy. They also fit the previous requirements in terms of Fresh Bread and PaTe. Comes in two sizes: regular and large. The large one can feed two people easily.
We recommend the Dac Biet, house special. Comes with an assortment of meats, including pork and chicken floss. Although you can also do the usual, and point at the meat you desire and they will happily put it together for you.
3. Banh Mi pa te.
Hours: After 16:00
Speaking of Pate, this street stand offers Pate as their specialty. Order the Pate sandwhich and watch them scoop this homemade deliciousness from their massive bowl, containing a mountain of the good stuff. They only have Banh Mi Pa Te, it comes with the usual trimmings and its the best in town.