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All About The Banh Mi Sandwich

All About The Banh Mi Sandwich

I heard you’re craving for a traditional Banh Mi sandwich – I am too! It’s impossible not to crave for one especially when Banh Mi Day is just around the corner. Besides, the sandwiches I've been having recently are either too greasy and plain, so join me and let's switch things up with a fresh-tasting Vietnamese sub!

But did you know that you don’t have to go far and wide just to have that authentic sandwich? A quick trip to your local grocery and a few clicks from Karman Foods can give you all the ingredients to make my Vietnamese Shredded Pork Banh Mi recipe at the end of this blog!

History of Banh Mi

Banh Mi (pronounced BUN-mee) is a sandwich fusion of two cultures. It literally means “bread” in Vietnamese, but when the French colonized Vietnam, the natives were influenced to eat baguettes with butter, cold cuts, cheese, and pate. It was only after the French occupation that the Vietnamese were able to tailor-fit the sandwiches—butter was replaced with mayonnaise, cilantro, and pickled vegetables were even added.

The Banh Mi sandwich was first introduced in the streets of Saigon, and soon enough, food carts and other vendors began selling these sandwiches all across the country. However, it was only after the fall of Saigon in 1975 that this sandwich crossed nations. Refugees fleeing the Vietnam war established new communities in America and Europe, thus introducing Banh Mi to the world.

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What is a Banh Mi Sandwich?

I have been talking about the Banh Mi sandwich for a while now, but what really is this sandwich, and what makes it special? As this is a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisines, the Banh Mi recipe uses ingredients that you might not expect to go well together. The Banh Mi bread used is an airy and crunchy French-style baguette. It is then stuffed with your meat of choice, vegetables, and condiments.

The crunchiness of the bread complements the tenderness of the meat. The vegetables used, like cucumber, carrots, and cilantro, add a dash of freshness to the sandwich, so even if it’s savory, it’s never overpowering. Meanwhile, the condiments or sauces finish off the flavors. It has different textures and flavors that you might think won’t go well. But altogether, these Banh Mi ingredients make for versatile and unique sandwiches with flavors that explode in your mouth.

The Anatomy of a Traditional Banh Mi Sandwich

Though you can customize your sandwich based on your preferences, here are some of the ingredients from an easy Banh Mi recipe that you can follow (And it’s traditional, too!)

Banh Mi Essentials

Baguette - this type of bread is originally from France. It has a thin crust with a crunchy and airy texture that will surely delight any ASMR fans. Bonus points on taste when the buns are warm and toasty!

Veggies - I’m talking about fresh ones here! None of those days old veggies that aren’t even crispy anymore. The best Bahn Mi recipes only use fresh vegetables. They add vibrance to the otherwise plain sandwich and can serve as a palate cleanser too. When you use fresh vegetables, it has a sweet taste that balances the flavor of the meat. Some of the veggies you can add to your Banh Mi sandwich are cucumber, carrots, pickled radish, chili peppers, green onions, and cilantro.

Banh Mi Meat

Cha Lua - Traditional Banh Mi meat includes this pork roll lightly seasoned with fish sauce and boiled or steamed in a banana leaf. It’s a good source of protein and is low in sugar.

Thit Nguoi - It is a Vietnamese salami made of cured pork and fat. If this is not available in the market nearest you, ham or head cheese are great substitutes.

Grilled/Roast Pork Slices - You can make a homemade version of this or you can simply buy this at your local supermarket. However, take note that when you’re on the lookout for the best slices, pork belly is great at absorbing flavors and it’s very rich.

Shredded Pork - Aside from grilled ones, you can stuff your sandwich with homemade shredded pork. In my recipe, I marinated the pork ribs with Kikkoman soy sauce, rice vinegar and different spices before putting them in the oven. Afterward, it becomes so tender that you can even shred it with a light stroke of a fork!

Others - Aside from pork, chicken Banh Mi is also popular for non-pork lovers. You can get creative in how you’re going to season your chicken. And if you’re vegan you can even make a no-meat Banh Mi sandwich. Tofu Banh Mi sandwiches are a thing now, and they’re just as flavorful and protein-filled as its meaty counterpart!

Koreans even stuff their Banh Mis with bulgogi (barbeque beef) and kimchi. As I said, Banh Mi sandwiches are versatile. You just have to get creative and see which flavors go well together

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Banh Mi Spread and Toppings

Pate  - It is made from pork or chicken cooked with spices until it turns into a pasty spread. Most Banh Mi vendors make their own pate because this becomes one of the distinct tastes of the sandwich.

Mayonnaise or Margarine - This has been one of the ingredients Vietnamese substituted with butter. This is spread over the bread to enhance its richness. My Banh Mi recipe that you can find at the bottom features an All-In-One Sriracha Mayo Chili sauce, so we have that richness and spiciness all in one bottle!

Soy Sauce/Maggi Seasoning - These are used to add a kick of umami to your sub. You can use original soy sauce to season your meat in addition to the herbs and spices, or you can use Maggi Seasoning.

Chili Sauce and Chili Peppers - If you love your food spicy as much as I do, you can also add some chili sauce or chili peppers to your sandwich. This is only optional, so if you’re not into spicy food, you may opt this one out.

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How to Assemble Banh Mi

It may sound very tedious to assemble this sandwich because of the number of ingredients it has, but really, all you have to do is put it together like a normal sandwich! Cut the buns in half, then spread your pate or sauce of choice. In my case, I start with the Sriracha Mayo. Add in your meat, and top it with your vegetables. Cover it with the other half of the bun and enjoy!

My Easy Vietnamese Banh Mi Pulled Pork Recipe

Vietnamese Banh Mi is a refreshing departure from regular sandwiches. Not only is it a delight to the palette, it's also very healthy too! The pickled vegetables bring a lovely tang that complements the spicy and savory taste of the meat and sauce. Hungry yet? Try my easy Pulled Pork Banh Mi recipe and get cooking!

Find more curated Vietnamese groceries online at Karman Foods!

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