…And maybe the greatest sandwich I’ve ever had, period? It’s right up there, that’s for sure.
Banh mi, for the unaware, is a Vietnamese sandwich served on a version of a baguette. I’ve had a few since arriving in Vietnam. They’re typically served in roadside stalls like this one.
Or this one.
That last one featured a banh mi that was filled with grilled meat patties. It was quite tasty, but the patties were a bit too dry.
One of the better ones that I’ve had (up until the mind-blowing best ever that I’ll get to in a moment) is from a place called Banh My Lan Ong in Hanoi.
They’re famous for their freshly-made pate (you can even buy it in little plastic tubs from the restaurant), and rightfully so. That pate is absolutely amazing; a little bit chunkier than the norm, with a very mild liver flavour that’s balanced perfectly by the pate’s unique spicing (it has quite a strong cinnamon flavour).
But the bread itself was a bit overly crunchy; one of the great things about a banh mi baguette is the very light, crackly exterior and the fluffy interior. This one was aggressively crunchy — it’s the type of bread that’ll tear up the inside of your mouth if you don’t eat it carefully.
The greatest banh mi of all time, oddly enough, was a random discovery. I was just walking around in Hanoi and saw a very impressive line for a place called Banh My Pho Hue; if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know that I absolutely cannot resist a line for food. And even if that had never paid off for me, it still would have been worth it a billion times over for allowing me to discover this place, because oh man. Oh man, this sandwich.
It’s so simple: a slathering of butter, a heaping spread of pate, a little bit of pork floss, a few slices of cold cuts, and a few slices of plain cucumber. There’s none of the pickled veggies or herbs that you find in a lot of other banh mi, and you don’t miss it.
You can add on a little bit of the zingy chili sauce they have on the side (and you should definitely do this), but other than that it’s a pretty basic sandwich.
The bread is ridiculous; it’s satisfyingly crispy on the outside, and fluffy as a cloud on the inside. You can eat this sandwich as aggressively as you want — you’re not going to cut your mouth. And yet that outer crisp is still very much there, it’s just amazingly delicate.
The pate, like at Banh My Lan Ong, is a bit chunky, and absolutely amazing. It’s easily the star of the show, and is complimented perfectly by the creamy butter, the cold cuts, the pork floss, and the fresh crunchiness of the cucumber.
It’s a simple sandwich, but all of the components are so delicious and work together so well that it’s a revelation. If I were to list the top five sandwiches that I’ve ever eaten, it’d be on there for sure.