Vietnamese food has been more and more recognized in the world with its many mouth-watering delicacies.
Vietnamese bread, in particular, has gained the attention of many foreigners. Let’s see how it came to be and how it has been modified to suit the tastes of both locals and visitors. Then, you will understand more about Vietnamese culture and cuisine.
1. About Vietnamese bread
1.1. The origin of Vietnamese bread
Vietnamese bread, or Vietnamese baguette (or banh mi in Vietnamese) was brought to Vietnam by the French in the 1980s along with other baked goods such as pâté chaud. During World War I, many French soldiers were sent to Vietnam. The shortage of wheat forced local bakers to mix inexpensive rice flour with wheat, which also made the bread fluffier. Hence, the ordinary Vietnamese then could afford the once-luxurious bread and other French staples.
In 1954, Vietnamese bread was brought to Saigon by millions of migrants from the North. Two migrants, namely Le Minh Ngoc and Nguyen Thi Tinh, opened a small bakery named Hoa Ma in District 3. In 1958, Hoa Ma became one of the first shops to offer “banh mi thit” (bread with pork). Around this time, other migrants from the North began selling “banh mi cha” (bread with grilled pork paste) and stuffed it with Cheddar cheese, which was gotten from French food aid.
After 1975, Vietnamese banh mi became a luxury commodity when state-owned pho (beef noodles) shops often served bread as a side dish. This led to the present-day habit of dipping quay (crispy bagel twists) in beef noodles. In the 1980s, market reforms made Vietnamese baguette popular again as a street food. At the same time, Vietnamese Americans introduced Vietnamese bread to various areas in the US.
1.2. The position of Vietnamese bread in the global food map
Since the 1990s, Vietnamese migrants have been popularising Vietnamese food to the world, including the presence of Vietnamese bread and pho in London. Many foreigners now enjoy Vietnamese baguette as a staple food in their daily diet.
Vietnamese bread was featured in the 2002 PBS documentary titled “Sandwiches that You Will Like”. The word ‘banh mi’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on March 24, 2011. In 2017, Vietnamese baguette was included in some 2% of restaurant menus in the US, which was a fivefold increase from that in 2013. On March 24, 2020, Google introduced Vietnamese banh mi in the Google Doodle. CNN has listed Vietnamese bread among the best 23 sandwiches in the world.
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2. The ingredients of Vietnamese bread
Vietnamese bread is a short baguette with thin, crisp crust and soft, airy texture. It can be made from either wheat flour or rice flour. It can be eaten plain or alongside dishes from meat such as beef stew, offal stew, or curry. It can also be dipped in condensed milk.
Vietnamese baguette can be opened lengthwise and filled with many fillings, such as pork sausages, coriander leaves, cucumber, pickled carrots, pâté, and red chilli. The fillings may vary according to localities.
3. The variations of Vietnamese baguette across the country
There are many kinds of Vietnamese bread throughout the country thanks to the creativity of local chefs.
3.1. Vietnamese baguette in Hanoi
It is said that Vietnamese baguettes in Hanoi have simpler fillings than those in other places. Hanoi’s people prefer fewer kinds of fillings, which may include butter, liver pâté, fried pork, ham, char siu, coriander, cucumber, and chilli sauce. The fillings match well with the crunchy bread outside.
Vietnamese banh mi is an ideal breakfast for Hanoi’s people (Source: Collected)
- Banh Mi Pho Hue
Address: 118 Pho Hue, Bui Thi Xuan Ward, Hai Ba Trung District
Opening hours: 6.30 am - 9.30 pm
- Banh Mi Pho Co
Address: 38 Dinh Liet, Hang Dao Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Opening hours: 7 am - 12 am
- Banh Mi Ba Dan
Address: 34 Lo Su, Ly Thai To Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Opening hours: 6 am - 10 pm
3.2. Vietnamese bread in Hai Phong
Vietnamese baguettes in Hai Phong are much smaller than those in other places. The fillings are often some liver pâté and lots of chilli. The small bread is often baked hot, which results in a crunchy crust blended well with soft and spicy fillings.
Below are some recommended shops to enjoy Vietnamese baguette in Hai Phong:
- Banh Mi Cay Ong Cuong
Address: 184 Hang Kenh, Le Chan District
Opening hours: 6 am-11 pm
- Banh Mi Cay Ba Gia
Address: 57 Le Loi, May To Ward, Ngo Quyen District
Opening hours: 7 am - 7 pm
- Banh Mi Cay Ong Gia
Address: 181 Hang Kenh, Le Chan Ward
Opening hours: 7 am - 7 pm
3.3. Vietnamese bread in Da Nang
Vietnamese bread in Central Vietnam’s Da Nang is inspired from those in the South and the North. The bread is of medium size, with a crunchy crust and various fillings such as fried pork, salted shredded chicken, and minced beef paste.
Below are some recommended shops to enjoy Vietnamese baguette in Da Nang:
- Banh Mi Ong Ti
Address: 189 Trung Nu Vuong, Hoa Thuan Tay Ward, Hai Chau District
Opening hours: 3 pm - 11 pm
- Banh Mi Ba Lan
Address: 62 Trung Nu Vuong, Hoa Thuan Tay Ward, Hai Chau District
Opening hours: 6.30 am - 10.30 am and 3 pm - 11 pm
- Banh Mi Ga Co Chi
Address: 45 Phan Dinh Phung, Hai Chau 1 Ward, Hai Chau District
Opening hours: 6 am - 10 am and 2.30 pm - 7pm
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3.3. Vietnamese baguette in Hoi An
Local street stalls and shops in the ancient town of Hoi An offer delicious Vietnamese banh mi at reasonable prices that attract many foreign backpackers. The bread here is of medium size, with a very crispy crust and lots of fillings. The fillings can include up to ten ingredients, such as ham, sausage, grilled pork, chicken, egg, and cheese. If you come to the nearby Tra Que Vegetable Village, its herbs will bring an even more excellent flavour to your Vietnamese baguette.
Below are some recommended shops to enjoy Vietnamese baguette in Hoi An:
- Banh mi Phuong
Address: 2B Phan Chu Trinh, Cam Chau Ward
Opening hours: 7 am - 8 pm
- Banh mi Co Lanh
Address: 430 Cua Dai, Cam Chau Ward
Opening hours: 6 am - 10 pm
Banh Mi Madam Khanh - The Banh Mi Queen
Address: 115 Tran Cao Van, Minh An Ward
Opening hours: 6.30 am - 7.30 pm
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3.4. Vietnamese bread in Da Lat
Da Lat is a city in Central Vietnam which has cool weather all year round. The weather may make you get hungry faster than in other warmer areas. Hence, trying Vietnamese bread here may be even more exciting. The bread here is a little thicker, which is served with a cup of thick sauce and pork meatballs. You should break the loaf of bread into small pieces and dip them in the sauce. The dish is accompanied with lots of vegetables, such as cucumber, white radish, carrot, cilantro, and chilli.
Below are some recommended shops to enjoy Vietnamese baguette in Da Lat:
- Banh Mi Thit Vien Hoang Dieu
Address: 47 Hoang Dieu, Ward 5
Opening hours: 6 am - 3 pm
- Banh Mi Ngon
Address: Nguyen Van Cu Street, Ward 1
Opening hours: 6 am - 10 pm
- Banh Mi Chao 27
Address: 105 Nguyen Luong Bang, Ward 2
Opening hours: 6 am - 1 pm
3.5. Vietnamese baguette in Saigon
Vietnamese bread in Saigon has a crispy aroma and rich fillings of meat, pâté, fish, butter, along with fresh vegetables. Thus, the locals can also have banh mi as the main dish. Saigon’s people have created many variations of bread, such as fried baguette, baguette with roasted pork, baguette with omelet, baguette with char siu, baguette with beef steak and baguette with meatballs.
Below are some recommended shops to enjoy Vietnamese baguette in Saigon:
- Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
Address: 26 Le Thi Rieng, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
Opening hours: 1 pm – 11 pm
- Banh Mi Co Diep
Address: 238 Vo Thanh Trang, District 11, Tan Binh District
Opening hours: 5 am – 12 am
- Banh Mi Coc
Address: Outside No. 38, Nguyen Thai Son Street, Ward 3, Go Vap District
Opening hours: 5 am – 8.30 pm
Vietnam cuisine is the fruit of the hard labour and surprising creativity of the locals, in which Vietnamese bread is a typical example. The dish originated in France and has been flexibly modified to suit the increasing demands and diverse tastes of customers. After learning about Vietnamese baguette, you may find it even more tasty when you try it on your Vietnam trip.
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