Five Tips for Eating Banh Mi in Saigon

December 20th, 2010
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Going to Vietnam, I was excited more than anything else for the street food. I mean, obviously. After all, I even made a lunch expedition to Chinatown ahead of the trip just to pre-game it at Banh Mi Saigon.
So, while in Ho Chi Minh City – which everyone we spoke to continues to call Saigon – I made a point of seeking out as many of these sandwiches as I could find. In the process, I came up with a few tips for the hungry traveler seeking out this particular deliciousness while in Vietnam.


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1. Ask for a banh mi and they’ll just give you a roll. Banh mi literally translates to baguette, if you ask for that, that’s all you get. I never figured out how to say ‘sandwich’ so I always just pointed to the piles of meat in the cart and back to the bread and they got the idea pretty quickly.
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2. There are banh mi carts, shops and stands everywhere. Before heading to the airport on our last morning in Saigon, I found three carts selling sandwiches while crossing the street to go to the ATM. Naturally, I got one of each for the road.
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3. The sandwiches aren’t that big. This is actually good because it means you can try out sandwiches from different sellers, an important thing since…
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4. No two sandwiches are the same. Every one I had was different. They all included the basics of pate smeared on the inside of the baguette and some other pork stuffed in with veggies. Beyond that though it was up in the air.
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At one place, a pile of pork slabs turned on a spit roasting to be put in sandwiches. The meat was firm and sweet as though cured beforehand, maybe like Filipino tocino. At another, right in front of our hotel the lady filled her sandwiches with ham, pork belly and slices of head cheese lined with crunchy cartilaginous pig ears. She also had the spiciest one, which packed quite the kick – my favorite of them all.
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5. Look out for the little old ladies – they’ve been cranking out the ingredients for their sandwiches the longest and serve some of the tastiest. They’re also appreciative of the patronage. This lady beamed at me after I thanked her for my sandwich.
After all that, I’m hungry for more Banh Mi. I’m going ot have to make another trip to Chinatown soon.

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