Guidebook Banh mi is love at first bite

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Banh mi is love at first bite

“Banh mi is the Vietnamese version of a baguette,” explains Fodors, “one of the most obvious culinary legacies of the almost 100 years of French rule.” There are a few different varieties, the most popular being banh mi thit, “a crisp-on-the-outside and fluffy-on-the-inside baguette with pâté, slices of Vietnamese sausage, strips of cucumber, pickled carrot and radish, fresh herbs, and slices of chili.” Then there’s banh mi op la, “a great on-the-go breakfast, filled with a fried egg, soy sauce, and strips of cucumber,” and also banh mi heo quay, “a roast pork and barbecue sauce version.”

“When I'm exploring Vietnam, a thousand street snacks beckon, but I inevitably seek out banh mi, the ubiquitous Franco-Viet sandwich. I order the dac biet, ‘the special.’ The vendor slashes open a crisp baguette, moistens it with mayonnaise and soy sauce, adds garlicky pork liver pate and Vietnamese cold cuts—silky gio lua sausage, marbled headcheese, rich pork shank—and finishes it with daikon and carrot pickles, chile slices, cucumber, and cilantro. My expectations are met at first bite: crisp, earthy, bright. The bread, condiments, and meats are the legacy of French and Chinese colonialism, but banh mi dac biet is 100 percent Viet.” - Andrea Nguyen in Saveur

It’s the sandwich that ate the world, writes Simon Stanley in Roads and Kingdoms. “France brought all manner of new and exotic items to Vietnam during its colonization of the region, from beer to bread, carrots to coffee, but didn’t hand them over willingly,” he explains. The story of the modern banh mi -- “the sort of banh mi you can pick up today at a farmers’ market in London, or from a food truck in Los Angeles”-- recounts 160 years of Vietnam’s history “in one single, fiery package.”

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