Sat, 18 Oct 2014. Last updated Sat, 15 Nov 2014 11:33
David Farley, a writer specializing in travel and cuisine has recently posted an article in BBC with a subject "Is the Banh Mi the world's best sandwich?” In the article, Farley described his trip in Vietnam with an experience of tasting a Banh Mi. When a taxi stopped in a bustling street of Vietnam - Pho Hue Street, he got off the taxi and walked into "Banh Mi Pho Hue" store, a bakery named after the street it sits. According to Farley's friends, this bakery has been operated since 1974. It is quite famous for its Banh Mi and often closes anytime when the cooks run out of ingredients. Thereby, Farley was so happy because as he arrived around 7.00 pm, the store still opened.
"Banh Mi Pho Hue" is made from the diverse combination among pork, pate and some types of vegetables such as cilantros, cucumbers and carrots. All these ingredients will be put in a soft and crunchy bread. According to Farley, the difference among three big regions in Vietnam will create of the variations for Banh Mi. Specifically, in different regions, people will add its regional pork sausage, head cheese, and diverse herbs. Vietnamese bread is said to be a product of culturally and culinary blend containing the elegance of oriental and western cuisine. This dish appeared in French colonial period. At that time, French living in Vietnam just only slathered butter and pate inside bread. After that, in 1954, when Vietnam was no longer a French colony, people in the country made the new variation of sandwich by adding pork, herbs, and cucumber to create a Vietnamese hamburger.
The world had no idea about the existence of this type of sandwich until Vietnam wars ended in 1975. At that time, as Vietnamese people in the southern region immigrated to the United States, Europe, and Australia, they brought the recipe of Vietnamese Banh Mi to these countries. This explains for the fact that when you eat a sandwich or a hamburger in other countries, the hamburger is often bigger with more vegetables. Actually, these hamburgers and sandwiches are influenced in the Vietnamese southern cuisine. According to Farley, few years ago, he tried eating a Saigon Banh Mi and it was not as his expectation. Hence, in this visit in Vietnam, he was determined to find out an answer for a question: "Is Banh Mi the best sandwich in the world?"
Arriving in Banh Mi Pho Hue store, Farley met Geoffrey Deetz, a chef and culinary expert in Vietnam cuisine, who has lived in Vietnam for 15 years. Farley bought a Banh Mi and asked Chef Geoffrey Deetz about indigents of a typical Banh Mi in Vietnam. Taking the Banh Mi from the hands of Deetz, Farley pulled back its side to take a look of its ingredients. He shared that inside a bread included saw pork deli meat, fatty char siu pork, pork floss, creamy pate, Chinese 5 spice, curiously, and butter. A Banh Mi is finally perfect only when pouring pork-chili gravy inside. There was no herbs spilling out the bread as in southern region in Vietnam or in anywhere in the world, Farley interestingly described. He was enchanted to enjoy the bread. The crispy bread mixed with the perfect taste of meat and spices inside makes the bread truly exceptional.
Chef Deetz said to him that Banh Mi in Hanoi is simpler than other places in Vietnam. Hanoi people do not like complicated food. If you give someone here a load of bread with full of meat and vegetables, they would probably throw up. Deetz also added that all ingredients inside a Banh Mi have its own role "the pork floss soaks up the sauce, the pate adds moisture and the fact that the baguette is lightly toasted keeps it from getting soggy in this immense humidity.”
In the article, Farley also shared that during 2 weeks, he visited 3 big regions in Vietnam and tasted 15 different flavors of Banh Mi. He felt so lucky because all Banh Mi he tasted are the best ones ever. The most interesting experience is in Hoi An. When visiting Hoi An, he also tasted a load of bread in Phuong Banh Mi Store, which is known as the best bakery in Hoi An. According to him, Hoi An Banh Mi is soft and sweet but still crispy. Especially, Hoi An Banh Mi is added with tomatoes and pickles (made from papaya). He thought that he enjoyed a very wonderful Banh Mi. For him, fresh herbs with pork stuffed in a crispy loaf are the best sandwich in the world that he had tried.