Vietnam Week: Basic Banh Mi Anatomy

Sold from food carts throughout Vietnam, bánh mì is a Vietnamised version of the French baguette.

A crisp and fluffy baguette is filled with a variety of meat, vegetables, herbs and sauce, wrapped in an old advertising flyer or square of newspaper, secured with a rubber band and slipped into a tiny plastic bag. Voilà, the ultimate street snack.

Bánh mì will differ from cart to cart, but you can be assured that each and every bánh mì will be delicious.

For your viewing pleasure, I dissected this VND15,000 (US$0.71/A$0.67) bánh mì bought from somewhere in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 4.

Let me tell you what you’re looking at. (And I wish I knew how to use Photoshop and put groovy arrows and labels on things in this pic.)

The biggest ingredient is the baguette, a crispy-on-the-outside-airy-on-the-inside bread roll made with wheat and rice flour.

The baguette is split open and smeared with a hefty dollop of mayonnaise or butter and a generous serve of pâté

A long slice of cucumber provides some crunch …

Then you get a selection of cold cuts/deli meats. This particular bánh mì had slices of sausage


Vietnamese cold cuts called chả lụa

And something that goes by chả in Vietnamese and the totally revolting name of head cheese in English (blerch, so glad I tried it without knowing its name)…

A serve of pickled carrot and white radish

Your cart lady will smack down a sprig of coriander, otherwise known as cilantro, deliver a squirt of soy sauce and a shake of pepper and your bánh mì will be ready for wrapping.

There are as many versions of bánh mì as there are bánh mì stalls. Some bánh mì makers add a triangle of Laughing Cow (or La vache qui rit) brand cream cheese. Others make bánh mì with roast pork and crackling or roasted chicken. There’s also meat ball bánh mì, sardine bánh mì  and fried egg bánh mì … and all of them are very very tasty.

After my dissection, I reassembled again my bánh mì again (without the pork slices because they were mostly fat) …

And it was absolutely delicious!

(Did anyone notice how I can now type French stuff like La vache qui rit, voilà and pâté? It’s because we are going to France soon and I have to practice French because the other week when I told a French-speaker we were going Marseille she thought we were going to visit the Maasai warriors in Africa. Because my French accent/pronunciation is very very bad. Merde!)

So, the morale of this dissection is that bánh mì is fantastic and all you have to do to enjoy the very best bánh mì is get yourself to Vietnam, put on your very best Austin Powers accent and say “bánh mì, baby!”

Like on Facebook

12 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. There’s a spot in downtown Calgary that sells these, and every day, there’s a line-up of about 30 people…

    They are my fave!!
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Travel Photo of the Week — The Sad Truth About Life

  2. Aledys Ver says:

    This makes me very hungry! It looks perfectly delicious. The sausage in your bánh mì looks like the kind they have here in NL and they call leverworst.
    It pretty much looks as if I would live on the stuff if I were ever to go to Vietnam! 🙂
    Aledys Ver recently posted..Winter food: pastel de polenta y carne (beef and polenta pie)

  3. Denise says:

    I have a question for you since it’s Vietnam week. How do I access FB in Vietnam??? I am there and can’t figure this one out 🙂 Haven’t seen these baguettes yet, but I’m in Hanoi, where they seem to sell bread only.

    • Barbara says:

      Hey Denise,
      There’s a few ways you can get around the Facebook block. You can try Hotspot Shield or Usurf. Just do a bit of Googling to check the security risk associated with downloading these programs. Last time I was in Vietnam I used OpenDNS but I’ve heard that doesn’t work anymore.
      If you don’t have any luck let me know and I’ll find out what other options there are.
      Keep looking for banh mi stalls. They’re usually little silver carts with tiny yellow tins and round packets of Laughing Cow cheese displayed prominently. Good luck!

  4. oh my gosh. i am super hungry now! i love that there are so many variations!
    wandering educators recently posted..Learning a Language Enhances your Travels

  5. This looks delicious, and I would never have expected to find food like this in Vietnam.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Planking: An Aussie Photo Tradition

  6. George Taylor says:

    This thing looks so delicious. I shall definitely try them out once I’m in Vietnam.
    I’m already trying Austin Powers accent – “bánh mì”.

    Thanks for sharing.


  7. LM says:

    This looks fab. When I was in Vietnam most of the food went right through me – but it was so good I didn’t stop eating, just planned accordingly 🙂

  8. Abbie Allen says:

    I have just discovered you via and really enjoyed your Reverse Bucket List blog. Thanks for disecting the Banh Mi. We have discovered this great roll here in Adelaide, Australia over the last 18 months and they can quite easily become addictive! It is great to see that what we are eating here is extremely similar to the ‘real thing’.
    Abbie Allen recently posted..Balance Beam #12 – Gametag

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks for dropping by, Abbie! I think Vietnamese food in Australia is pretty good, but there is nothing like eating the authentic stuff in Vietnam. See if you can find a Vietnamese coffee in Adelaide. Keep your eyes peeled for a restaurant or cafe with a sign advertising the Trung Nguyen brand, then go and ask for a cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with milk). It is amazing stuff!

  9. Stephen says:

    Love how you dissected that. 71 cents! Sounds like a fantastic value. I cannot wait to get to Vietnam.
    Stephen recently posted..Kowloon at Night Stop Motion Video

  10. Jill says:

    Oh, I am now craving crusty bread and real butter…..
    Jill recently posted..Travel…. not what I thought

  11. chris says:

    you pay too much, here near Quang Ngai, you only pay 6,000, for the larger ones, only trouble is they put too much coriander in them, ( as in nearly everything they cook ).

  12. […] life of Vietnamese people. I want to fill him full of Vietnam’s fabulous coffee, phở, bánh mì, bánh bèo, mì Quảng, bánh cuốn and all my other favourite […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge