Hoi An's Best Bahn Mi
Banh Mi Wars
Image: Phoung Banh Mi, Hoi An
The traditional components of the bánh mì sandwich may be straightforward—pickled carrots or cucumbers, daikon, savory pork and a slick of mayo—but there's far more to Vietnam's favourite export. So what is about the humble banh mi that brings out the porcine in us all?
The bread: A true banh mi connoisseur places the utmost importance on every ingredient. In Hoi An the bread must be crisp and soft yet chewy, representing the perfect balance of wheat and rice flour. This is the one ingredient a vendor will buy ready-made elsewhere, re-ordering at regular intervals during the day and giving it a final blast over charcoal when served to ensure optimal crisp.
The Mayo/Butter: As with all the other ingredients listed from now each vendor will have their own 'secret' recipe. The base ingredients for the mayo are egg yolk and vegetable oil, with a fresh batch being prepared every morning. On it's own the mayo is bland: the secret to a good mayo is the addition of a generous spoonful of fatty pork juice or in some cases a 'wet' pork pate.
The Pig: A traditional banh mi contains four types of pork: slices of roasted pork loin, ham, pork sausage (cha lau) and a pork liver pate - the best vendors will also have a cauldron of ground pork soaking in all its delicious fatty juices to add to the flavour.
The Sauce If you thought cau lao was Hoi An's biggest culinary secret you've never asked a bahn mi vendor for her sauce recipe!
The Trimmings: Traditionally a vendor would add a small clutch of regional, fresh herbs, sliced cucumber and a small amount of pickled daikon and carrot, leaving a pot of Quang Nam chili sauce on the bench for those that favour an extra smoky, spicy hit. Salad and sliced tomatoes are a relatively new addition favoured at more touristy places - a dumbing down of flavours that we think should be avoided.
THE TOP FOUR BANH MI
Image: Madame Khanh Banh Mi Hoi An
Madame Khanh has long held the crown as Hoi An's Banh Mi Queen and having been featured in many an international publication (https://munchies.vice.com/en/articl...) could very well be the towns most famous octogenarian, and for very good reason: Her humble little stand deserves a Michelin star.
115 Tran Cao Van Street. Open: 6 a,m – 6:30 p.m
Image: Phuong Banh Mi, Hoi An
Banh Mi Phoung
Long considered the grande dame of Hoi An’s bánh mì shops, everything from the crispy-chewy bread that’s baked in-house next door, to the decadent pate is addictive. Meat options include the requisite pork, but for the non-carnivores, there’s also the tofu banh mi chay (vegans should hold back on the mayo).
2B Phan Chau Trinh street, near the crossroad of Phan Chau Trinh and Hoang Dieu. Open: 6 a.m – 10 p.m
Image: Banh Mi Lanh, Hoi An
Banh Mi Lanh Lanh serves traditional bánh mì preparations from a small cart on Cua Dai Street. The sandwiches here are slathered with an addictive house-spiced mayo and maintain a nearly perfect ratio of meat to veggies. The pate is phenomenal, and the charming “Vietnamese aunt” who constructs them wins almost as much praise.
Nr Nam Quang Pagoda, Cua Dai Rd (Hoi An end) 6am-10pm
Image: Banh Mi Thit Nuong, Hoi An
Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng
Under the giant Banyan tree on Tran Cao Van St, a small bun thit nuong (pork noodle) stall swings into action at around about the same time as Madame Khanh shuts up shop (that's 18:30). Alongside the most succulent grilled pork, bun noodles and satay style dipping sauce they offer bahn mi thit nuong (all the above ingredients minus the noodles packed lovingly into a bahn mi) making for a delicious alternative. Regulars know to leave room for an avocado shake (sinh to bo) for dessert.
Tran Cao Van St (opposite Cafe Zoom) from 18:30 till late.