Talking about Vietnamese food, you may hear about the tasty sandwiches Banh Mi then wants to try it once. But where can we find the best Banh Mi in Ho Chi Minh city? What are special in those bread shops? What are the differences between the places?
Understanding that, I will help calm your nerves with my reviews.
Let’s talk a bit about the history. Why Banh Mi, a French colonial product becomes more popular than the French baguettes. To make Banh Mi distinguished, the Vietnamese locals not only learn from the French baguettes but also collect cuisines from the neighbor countries.
“The Banh Mi sandwich is really the only good argument for colonialism.”
– Calvin Trillin
Along with Italian Sandwiches, French toast, Beirut in Brazil and Middle East Pita bread, Banh Mi of Vietnam is selected as one of five best sandwiches on earth according to the Huffingtonpost.
In such a busy city like Ho Chi Minh City, this sandwich is among the top picked as a fast breakfast, lunch, and even dinners.
If you’re traveling to Vietnam, it’s easy to find them on every street, in restaurants or trolleys on the road. But, it’s not that you can find good loaves of bread at every restaurant. Famous names are working on this food for years, and they kept the taste like in the beginning. Some make it taste average.
So, how could we tell the best Banh Mi in Sai Gon?
We consider two aspects of the food.
The bread tastes almost the same as baguette but in the smaller size. It contains no butter for flat flavor. The bread before being used for sandwiching must be crispy outside and soft inside.
To keep the texture, people can bake the bread on fired charcoal or keep the newly baked bread in a heat persistence box. Nowadays, they have an oven or a pan for help.
The cover is thin but strong enough to wrap all meats and vegetables inside. It must not be so chewy, so people do not feel like eating wrapping bag.
And the soft bread inside will grab all ingredients in position. The dough will mix with the others to become a harmony filling.
Andrew Lam– a Huffpost writer once admitted:
“At once spicy, salty, sour, savory, sweet, and aromatic: a bite into a well-stacked banh mi is always a moment of rapture.”
All those flavors, I think I found in the ingredients of these amazing sandwiches.
The filling inside bread is the deciding factor to tell a tasty Banh Mi. Therefore, they are all doing the best. They made different mixtures, develop their cuisines, and had homemade kinds of stuff.
So, there is nothing taste the same among different Banh Mi stalls.
The core of bread is meat, but it could be barbecued pork, Vietnamese sausage, homemade pate, bacon, jambon, and more.
It is tough to find the best vegetarian Banh Mi in Ho Chi Minh city because people focus on fillings with meat.
To make the food get nutrition balanced, they add some vegetables. Popular greens used for Vietnamese Banh Mi is cucumbers and salad. However, some people make pickled veggies or sweet-sour papaya and carrot mix. The sourness will make the taste much fresher.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the primary taste is spiciness. Therefore, sauce in bread is buttery and hot. The good sauce will be a nit condensed and smelly.
Sauces are all homemade, so I can’t tell the exact recipe.
Finally, I think Andrew was right about his assumption “Banh Mi Sandwich is the perfect marriage between East and West”(public in Huffpost).
If you continue to talk about the popularity of this place, it becomes boring. There are many articles about Vietnam cuisine talking about the popularity of Huynh Hoa bread in Saigon. Every day, when you pass by it at 3 pm, there is supposed to be a long line of people queuing in front of the food stall.
Multiple layers of fillings favor Banh Mi Huynh Hoa. The cook puts hams such as bacon, jambon, sausage, salted shredded meat. Besides, they also offer two other kinds of Vietnamese sausages to elevate the eastern taste.
Especially, Huynh Hoa has their butter and pate homemade, so the filling tastes so fresh and signature.
All ingredients are well organized in a glass container so everyone can see how they made the bread. Usually, the store will finish selling in a day so there will be no leftovers.
Speaking about Banh Mi Huynh Hoa, Saigonese usually calls it by a funny name- “half-a-kilo bread” and it is the best banh mi Ho Chi Minh City District 1 so far.
Well, a loaf of bread does not weigh that much, but it is a huge meal that will keep you full until dinner. So, buy it when you are starving. In my case, I have to share it with a friend.
This food stall has existed on this street with locals every day for 80 years. It’s a common place for all Saigoners to come enjoy Banh Mi.
Stopping at the line of people in front of the food stall, you will smell inviting aroma of butter.
Inside the plain bread, there are delicious homemade pate, meat, sausage with salad, onion, and cucumber to make the bread taste balanced.
What makes the food here unique is the signature spicy sauce, which does toning up the fillings.
In comparison with other banh mi kiosks, Banh Mi Bay Ho offers more affordable snacks. If you want a breakfast under 20000 VND with amazing spicy sauce.
Banh Mi Bay Ho is also honored to appear in the Asian Street Food Show of Netflix. The owner must be proud of her family tradition.
Into the lane numbered 37 on Nguyen Trai street hides a small banh mi place which is nameless. It is a small space opened on the path of the road, so people mentioned it with the name “Banh Mi Nguyen Trai.”
This bread was once mentioned by the prestigious American Condé Nast Traveler magazine in the top 12 best street foods of the world. When the late chef Anthony Bourdain still alive, he ate at this place during his visit to Vietnam. His visit helps bringing Banh Mi Nguyen Trai well-known among locals and travelers.
If you are not interested in pate or jambons but something more sophisticatedly cooked, these barbecue sandwiches will please you.
They made the meatballs grilled fresh then put inside the bread with vegetables and spicy sauce. They bake the bread with meatballs for a crispy cover. Usually, customers need to waste at least 30 minutes to get the hot meal served.
They combine thin crispy plain bread with juicy and a-bit burnt pork to create a simple but very impressive Vietnamese flavor.
Their sauce is made condensed and well-seasoned. It tastes sweet and spicy.
Every single sandwich tastes so satisfying. Someday, if you want freshly cooked meat instead of hams, come here. But, you must be quick because it is just open for 2 hours and a half every day.
Among many strollers of bread in this city, there is a place where you can eat banh mi differently.
Banh Mi Hoa Ma is a 60-year-old restaurant in Saigon which serve bread in a western way but in street style. This place appears on the street with tables and chairs arranged along the wall every morning.
This restaurant has contributed to the morning scene here, and I see it as a sign of Vietnamese culture. Only people who wake up early enough can join this atmosphere.
They have got newly baked plain bread with an always-hot-steel-pan of hot omelet, bacon, fried sausage, salad. You can ask for a pax with your choice of favorite toppings. The price will be adjusted according to your pax.
In Saigon, you should enjoy this culture – having breakfast served on the street. You will feel the people rushing around while munching your breakfast, breathing morning air and scent of butter and pate.
The restaurant was founded in 1942 and named after the second son of the owner. At that time, this is the first western dining place for elites of the city. Signature foods here are all types of hams served with bread.
It was the first restaurant for French people at the time; thus, ingredients here are well selected and all high-quality.
Nowadays, there are many western restaurants which serve better steak or appears in more luxurious space. Yet, Nguyen Sinh restaurant is an old spot for Saigoners who want to seek flavor of the past.
Everything from facilities to how they do plating foods is kept unchanged for 70 years.
Unlike sandwiches from street food stalls, you have so many options here. Especially, pate here is homemade.
The cook plates bread on a separate dish and meats on another. Customers use knives and pork like westerners. Hams or hot meat will be served with salad, sliced tomatoes, and fresh cucumbers.
If you are curious about the elite eating habit of Saigon many years ago, Nguyen Sinh is a good place to enjoy. Moreover, it has delicious offers.
In the early 90s, there was a small push-cart selling banh mi in a narrow lane of Saigon. It is not the first strollers delivering breakfast, but it was the only one at that time making breads with pig-skin fillings.
It will be a special Vietnamese bread that you could not find in other areas but only Saigon. In 20 years, the way they serve food gets changed, but the taste is always unique with unchanged fillings and memorable sweet-and-sour fish sauce.
The cook made fine-cut pig-skin with lean pork. Vegetables are cucumbers, Chinese parsley, and sour salad.
The reason you should try Banh Mi Bi here is the unique charming taste coming from the fried onion oil and mixed fish sauce. All of them are homemade so you cannot find the same feeling in any other restaurant.
Shumai, a kind of dim sum, is a traditional Chinese dish, but it has appeared in Vietnam cuisine for a long time, especially in the meals of Saigon.
Shumai is a meatball with a super-thin cover made from flour. Commonly, people will cook it with tomato sauce or stock.
But a cook of this food stall has created a new way to eat these meatballs with bread.
The bread is always hot and crispy. They put shumai inside after dressing a layer of vinegar and soy sauce. Because the owner here is half-blood Chinese so he has the genuine cuisine for shumai that no restaurants can offer.
You need to know in advance that this banh mi has no vegetables or salad inside. Thus, some people will find it weary. But if you can handle a meal without veggies, this bread tastes fantastic.
No one did it before, so the dish became famous because of unbelievable taste. That food stall has appeared on this street every morning for 40 years. And, it keeps its fame so well.
I do not live in the center of Saigon, but district 5. Ironically, most good Banh mi places gather in District 1. It takes me a lot of time to find the best banh mi near me, which is this one.
Once you read about Vietnamese history, you might know that cuisines here are strongly influenced by Chinese taste. Pha Lau is one of the dishes that migrated from China. They cook the dish from tongue, ear or internals of pig.
Is it too scary for you to know the ingredients? Don’t worry! People here are experienced in handling these kinds of foods. And Pha Lau has appeared in the Vietnamese breakfast menu for hundreds of years.
Because of the different textures in the soup, it is joyful to eat Pha Lau for three meals a day. And, the sauce made from 5 spices is perfect to deep bread with. That’s how people usually eat Pha Lau.
But, this restaurant makes banh mi with Pha Lau.
Only when the owner takes orders from customers will they slice the meat and jam in the middle of the bread. By doing so, the filling always tastes fresh and juicy. They sneak in some cucumber slices and salad to balance the fat. Finally, they pour in a syrupy dressing to finish the bread.
You can take a bite immediately to feel the crispy hot bread covering fillings inside or wait a minute until the dressing absorbed.
You should eat it when the food is still hot inside. Spiciness, sourness, and crunchy pork altogether make an exquisite feast inside your mouth. It’s different from getting single bites like the traditional way.
If you want to try Pha Lau differently, why not this?
Banh Mi Hong Hoa is a food stall opened all day long, but the busiest time might be in the morning when people are rushing to work.
Two points that this food counter does better than other Banh Mi places in Sai Gon are the bread and the speed.
They keep the cover always fluffy and crispy – the texture that we only find in newly baked bread in the morning.
The counter serves a long line of customers at opening time, but they handle orders quickly and precisely.
A typical serve includes cooked pork, mayonnaise, parsley and cucumber with a pate layer. Pate is a homemade product, so it is always tasty in its own way.
Another filling I like about Banh mi here is the jambon. They made the jambon by themselves, so it tastes distinguished. Unlike other bread with slim slices of meat, here they put only two but thick pieces. Thus, when you bite one, you will feel a crunchy and meaty slab.
Signature pate in a sandwich, what do you want more?
In Hanoi, I need to pay VND 40,000 for a bread sandwiching beef barbecue, but here in Sai Gon, I just need to pay half to get the same food with even better quality.
Vietnamese bread can be with many kinds of fillings, but most are made from pork. Beef on Vietnamese people’s meals are an expensive ingredient, so it’s hard to find street food like this.
The beef here is chopped into small cubes then they roasted with butter. Bread is covered by butter and baked until crispy then they serve all with papaya salad and chili sauce.
The food is that simple, but I swear you could not stop eating.
This cuisine is from Cambodia, so it is pretty new to people here. Be quick if you do not want to wait until the next day.
The place is open until 21:00, but usually, they close earlier because the food sold out early.
Banh Mi Nhu Lan is a bakery with the interface looking like a traditional bread kiosk. You can find it easily in the area near the Bitexco building.
The brand is famous enough that there is another two “Banh Mi Nhu Lan” in America and Australia. The original Nhu Lan’s owner who is in her 70s states that she hadn’t opened the restaurants overseas.
This place is famous for paté and roasted pork fillings. Pate is homemade carries a unique taste. The pork here is roasted at home, and it always appears with mouth-watering shiny brown skin.
Banh Mi made by Nhu Lan includes some slices of fermented veggies to keep the taste balanced.
If you want to taste premium roasted pork fillings, there is no such stores doing better than Nhu Lan.
Every street food in Saigon has its charm. I cannot say which is the best of all because they are from different regions, prices and sometimes personalities of the owners.
Ho Chi Minh City is the area with a combination of western and eastern cuisine so, foods, especially bread here, are made differently from the rest of the country. The Cost of banh mi in Saigon varies, but it is affordable to most people.
You can find the best bread in Ho Chi Minh City, no matter how much money you have or what types of sandwich you want.
Let’s go out, watch for a local space, and enjoy pieces of banh mi! I hope you find the best bites to taste. In case you want a local tour guide to take you for the local food hunting, check the Evening Food Tour with your #GirlPower Riders team for the adventure!
Saigon Kiss Tours is a women-empowerment that does tours in Vietnam. Our girl team rides scooters, Vespas and takes travelers on the back of our bikes to explore the hidden gems and local food. Reach us if you visit Vietnam.