I have been reading about Báhn Mì’s for about a year now… maybe even longer. These Vietnamese sandwiches are all the rage in the US.
I have heard about them during the first season of The Great Food Truck Race via the successful Nom Nom Truck from Los Angeles. They were selling these sandwiches like there was no tomorrow… And even in Serious Eats, Kenji went on a dissertation of what makes a Báhn Mì a Báhn Mì and he even went on a search for the best Báhn Mì in NYC.
Báhn Mì’s are a Vietnamese sandwich that originated as a fusion of cultures when Vietnam was under French rule… According to Kenji, the main aspects of a Báhn MI are:
- Bread – French-baguette type bread usually made using rice flour for added crunch and lightness
- Main Ingredient – we will concentrate on vegetarian, tofu-based Báhn Mì’s for the purposes of this vegetarian blog post
- Sauce – the traditional Báhn Mì has a spreading of mayonnaise or butter cut with mayonnaise. These sandwiches are considered vegan, so there were no spread included. However, we should introduce these Báhn Mì people to Vegenaise. I think it would add a certain something- something closer to the traditional offerings.
- Vegetable toppings – usually made of pickled daikon radishes, pickled carrots and cucumbers all cut into small thin sticks. Cilantro stems and some sort of spicy chili pepper. Some people put Sriracha sauce on theirs, but according to expert Kenji, this is neither typical nor respectable in the Báhn Mì world.
In the search for my first Bahn Mi, I deferred to Kenji, the expert in the matter and decided to head to Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich located at 369 Broome Street, New York NY; 212-219-8341. Saigon was rated third best sandwich in Manhattan so I knew it would be a good choice over all and was easily reachable by subway. Something I liked about them as well, they had 4 vegetarian options on their menu… so we had plenty to choose from.
Mom and I were super hungry and decided to try two of their tofu sandwiches – the Bánh mì chay đạc biêt – House Special Vegetarian (with tofu, mushroom, pickled carrots and radish) and a Bánh Mì Chay Đậu Hũ, Xả Ớt Rau with Vegan chicken (tofu) with lemongrass.
I tried both versions… and my favorite was the House Special Vegetarian. Way more flavorful and interesting than the tofu lemongrass in my opinion. The House Special Vegetarian has a delicious sweet/salty peanut sauce that made the sandwich. As for the cilantro, I can certainly do without the stems. Only a few leaves on mine, please!!! I added a few drops, literally, 2-3 drops of sriracha to mine and the heat level was too much for me. I am still a spicy wimp… sorry!!!
The verdict… I loved the Báhn Mì. And if I have it again in Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich, I will order the House Special and not bother with anything else. I will try to bring some Vegenaise to use on mine… I will try to scope out other places to get a more complete sense of what a true Vietnamese báhn mì is… but for now, the intrigue is OVER!!!
Have you had a vegetarian báhn mì before??? Where are your favorite spots???