Vietnamese Bánh mì Sandwich (Vietnamese Sub) Recipe


000555Bánh mì sandwiches (pronounced BUN-mee) have become a true super star in the sandwich world and their popularity has grown steadily in the last 30 years to the point that one can find them in most every major city in North America.

The origin of the bánh mì sandwich stems from the French “salad sandwich” which often consists of lettuce, tomatoes and sometimes vegetables as well as dressing served on a baguette. The popular Vietnamese version of this sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients introduced by the French (baguettes, pâté and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients like cilantro, hot peppers, fish sauce and pickled vegetables.09878

Introduced in the early part of the 20th century, the first Bánh mì were just bread with ham or pâté — much like the traditional, minimalist Parisian style of the french salad sandwich mentioned earlier. Then, things became more interesting when sandwich makers in the city of Saigon began adding the variety of local garnishes that lifts this sandwich from being basically good to truly great. The Bánh mì popular in North America are in the style of those made in Saigon(now Ho Chi Minh City) and are filled with variations on cured and cooked pork, pâté,, fresh herbs, sweet pickled vegetables, hot chili peppers and a thin coating of mayonnaise. All the components for the Bánh mì are then enfolded in a crisp, slim baguette. 89768

In Vietnam, eating Bánh mì is all about the meats and the crispy rice flour blended baguette, both of which the vendors often make fresh themselves. The original version was fairly small in comparison with what we now see locally, having much less filling. As so often happens, when Bánh mì came to North America, they became supersized, stuffed with much larger amounts of meat and vegetables in order to satisfy our more is better belief. In most of the west Bánh mì is generally served in small family run shops and at many of the numerous phở noodle eateries opening in large cities. These shops can be found in many countries, especially in any cities with a sizable Vietnamese immigrant community. The contrasting flavors and textures of this great sandwich (along with its relatively low-cost) make it a very popular dish everywhere you find it. In North America, Bánh mì is sometimes called a “Saigon Sub”, a “Vietnamese Sub”(in Alberta), a “Vietnamese Po’ boy” (in New Orleans), a “Vietnamese Hoagie” (in Philadelphia) or a “Vietnamese Sandwich”. These tasty fusion treats are so rich in history, complex in flavor and full of contradictions that they make other sandwiches seem boring in comparison.

My personal experience with Bánh mì began while working in downtown Calgary in the early 1990′s. One of the Vietnamese cleaning girls in the building where I worked became my friend and would often bring homemade food into work for me to try. One of the things she would make for me was what she called a “Vietnamese Submarine”, it was an 8″ crispy demi baguette filled with pâté, meat and vegetables that was absolute heaven on a bun. The flavors of the ground meat, mayo, peppers, and fresh veggies all combined in a way I’d never before experienced and I was hooked.

The popularity of Bánh mì is so great that the number of fillings that can be found are growing at an incredible rate, aside from the few common versions you can experiment with any number of things. There are BBQ pulled pork versions as well as those that use normal over the counter deli meats. The only real things that shouldn’t change are the baguette and the vegetables that make this one of the world’s great sandwiches.

The following recipe is for the more traditional Saigon version that is often refered to as a “special” or Bánh mì Dặc Biệt.  Following this are my personal favorite style of modern/western Bánh mì, the satay beef version that I often make myself and sometimes buy from Thi Thi in downtown Calgary, the Vietnamese meatball one that is also very popular and a BBQ pork version.

There are links to recipes for the Baguettes, Mayo, Chả lụa, Do Chua, Pâté and Satay sauce in the following recipes if you want to do more yourself or cannot find some of these items in your area.

Open a printable version

Saigon style Bánh mì Dặc Biệt

Makes 3 portions

Ingredients

  • 3 Demi-baguettes or 1 full length baguette, split lengthwise (to be cut in thirds when finished)
  • Whole fat mayonnaise to coat baguette half (for a simple homemade mayo recipe click HERE)
  • 6 thin slices of Vietnamese steamed pork roll (chả lụa) Click HERE for the recipe.
  • 6 slices of Vietnamese style ham
  • 6 slices of Head Cheese (Basic deli style will do and be aware the real Việt version will be a combination of  ears, tendons, skin, fats and other meats from the head).
  • Do Chua (Vietnamese sweet pickled carrot and daikon) Click HERE for the recipe
  • 1/4 – 1/3 of an English cucumber, peeled and sliced into 6 sheets
  • Vietnamese pork liver pâté to coat second half of the baguette (any pork liver pâté will do but the one used for Bánh mì has both liver and pork which creates the texture,  see my recipe HERE)
  • 9 or so sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 9 fresh red Thai/ bird chilies, stems removed and sliced in half (optional)
  • sprinkling of fish sauce (Nước mắm) or maggi seasoning. (I combine the two)

Assembly

  1. Using a spoon or spatula coat top half of each demi baguette with a thin layer of mayo, coat the bottom with pâté.
  2. Place 2 slices of cucumber inside each demi.
  3. Place 2 slices each of the Chu lua, head cheese and ham inside each demi and sprinkle with Maggi seasoning or fish sauce.
  4. Add chilies if desired.
  5. Place a good amount of do chua into the sandwich, being sure to lightly squeeze liquid from it to avoid a soggy sandwich.
  6. Add 3 sprigs of cilantro, close (slice into 3 if using full baguette) and enjoy.

John’s satay beef Bánh mì

Makes 2 large portions

Ingredients

  • 1 full length baguette, tips removed & split lengthwise (to be cut in half when finished)
  • Whole fat mayonnaise to coat baguette halves (for a simple homemade mayo recipe click HERE)
  • 1 tray of thinly sliced beef, 400 grams or so (check your local Asian market, I use short rib from T&T in Calgary)
  • Do Chua (Vietnamese sweet pickled carrot and daikon) Click HERE for the recipe
  • 1/4 – 1/3 of an English cucumber, peeled and sliced into 6 sheets
  • 6 sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 4 fresh red Thai/ bird chilies, stems removed and sliced (optional)
  • 1 whole red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1/2 medium onion sliced thin
  • 4 slices of processed mozzarella cheese (or the real thing, your choice)
  • sprinkling of fish sauce , maggi seasoning or just soy sauce.
  • satay sauce for beef (the store-bought paste version will do or use my recipe HERE)

Method

  1. Prepare satay sauce per recipe or instructions on store-bought product.
  2. Fully cook beef  (be sure to separate it), onion and bell pepper in satay sauce making sure to reduce moisture somewhat as you don’t want runny satay, cover and keep warm (the slices cook quickly so no problem with under cooking)

Assembly

  1. Using a spoon or spatula coat both top and bottom halves of baguette with a thin layer of mayo.
  2. Place cheese slices inside baguette
  3. Place slices of cucumber inside.
  4. Place the warm satay beef mixture into the baguette and sprinkle with Maggi seasoning or fish sauce.
  5. Place a good amount of do chua into the sandwich, being sure to lightly squeeze liquid from it to avoid a soggy baguette.
  6. Add chilies if desired.
  7. Add cilantro, close, slice in half and serve.

Bánh Mì Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Bánh Mì)

makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 demi- baguettes, split lengthwise (can be opened and toasted under broiler just prior to assembly)
  • Do Chua (Vietnamese sweet pickled carrot and daikon) Click HERE for the recipe
  • 12 or so sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 8 red Thai/bird chilies, stems removed and sliced in half (optional)

Meatballs (nem nuong)

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup minced green onion
  • ½ cup minced jicama
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ tablespoon  flour
  • ½ tablespoon fish sauce
  • ½ tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black pepper

Sauce:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ tablespoon fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces canned tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Light sprinkling of garlic powder
  • Light sprinkling of onion powder
  • Light sprinkling of ginger powder

Method

  1. Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix/knead by hand until well combined. Form into 1 inch meatballs,
  2. Place meatballs in a steamer and cook over boiling water for about 40 minutes.
  3. For the sauce, in a small bowl, mix the water with the cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, salt and tomato sauce. Stir to combine well and set aside.
  4. Over high heat warm oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, add the water and tomato sauce mixture and stir until the sauce has thickened.
  5. To assemble a sandwich, slice the meatballs in half and place inside a split baguette. Spoon the tomato sauce on the
    meatballs. Finish with some Do Chua, 3 sprigs of fresh cilantro and some chile slices.

Bánh Mì Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Barbecued-Pork)

Yield: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 full length baguettes, tips removed & split lengthwise (to be cut in half when finished)
  • Whole fat mayonnaise to coat baguette halves (for a simple homemade mayo recipe click HERE)
  • Do Chua (Vietnamese sweet pickled carrot and daikon) Click HERE for the recipe
  • 12 or so sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 8 red Thai/bird chilies, stems removed and sliced in half (optional)

For pork:

  • 1/2 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1/8 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/8 cup  soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup  rice wine or sake
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

To prepare pork:

  1. remove and discard any sinew and trim off large pieces of fat on the exterior.
  2. Cut pork across the grain into 1/4-inch (1/2-cm) thick slices (if you’re having trouble with this, it helps to partially freeze the meat first).
  3. Transfer pork to a large sealable plastic bag.
  4. Stir together remaining ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.
  5. Add to pork and turn bag to coat, then squeeze to eliminate as much air as possible and seal.
  6. Marinate pork in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  7. Put a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425°F.
  8. Remove marinade and bring to a boil in a small saucepan (it will look curdled) until it has reduced to a thick syrup. Remove from heat and set aside.
  9. Place pork strips in oven 1 inch apart on a wire rack set above a foil-lined roasting pan.
  10. Brush some marinade over pork and roast for about 10 minutes. Generously baste meat again with marinade, turn each piece over, and baste again.
  11. Roast pork for 15-20 minutes more, basting 2 or 3 more times with remaining marinade until cooked through, glistening and caramelized around the edges.
  12. Cool slightly, and trim into pieces that will fit inside the baguettes.

Assembly:

  1. Using a spoon or spatula coat both top and bottom halves of baguettes with a thin layer of mayo.
  2. Place the warm pork into the baguettes.
  3. Place a good amount of do chua into the sandwich, being sure to lightly squeeze liquid from it to avoid a soggy baguette.
  4. Add chilies if desired.
  5. Add sprigs of cilantro, close, slice in half and serve.
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3 responses to “Vietnamese Bánh mì Sandwich (Vietnamese Sub) Recipe

  1. Hi,
    I absolutely love the sandwiches you write about and often get the chicken one. On a rare once in a lifetime occasion i even got a vegetarian Viet sub, it had some tasty tofu. I asked if this tofu style sub was common is Vietnam. He said it was. I have never been able to find another vegetarian Viet sub again. I live in Vancouver you’d think I could find another but nope. Also all except one sandwich had mayo. I love the mayo on the subs i think they make the sandwich.

    Anyways my question is do you have a chicken Viet sub recipe? Also any places u can recommend in Van to go to ?

    - ds

  2. Just had the Pork Banh Mi at a vietnamese restaurant and it was AWESOME! Wish I had known about it when I was in Viet Nam in 67-68. Also had a bowl of Pho. It was GREAT too.

  3. How delicious these vietnamese sandwich are!

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