Banh mi (bun me) translates to “bread” or “wheat cake” in Vietnamese but throughout the Western world, it’s known as a small crispy baguette stuffed with rich pate, slices of pork, fresh vegetables, and handfuls of coriander.
However, this is only one kind of a banh mi found in Vietnam. There are dozens of variations to be enjoyed throughout the nation with many regions boasting their own combinations.
Banh mi is a traditional Vietnamese dish which found its origins during the 60-year period of French colonialism.
During this time, the French introduced Vietnam to baguettes, pates, and processed meats which were mostly enjoyed by wealthy French people as part of a breakfast platter.
But of course, the mostly poor and heavily exploited Vietnamese people couldn’t afford luxuries such as butter, ham, and pate. Instead invented their own version of processed meats and found cheaper substitutes for ingredients.
To this day, many banh mi vendors across Vietnam still substitute mayonnaise for butter, pack more vegetables in each baguette than meat and very rarely sell stuffed baguettes bigger than 20 centimeters long, all to save costs and cater to Vietnamese tastes.
And as for this traditionally French breakfast platter making its way into a baguette, you can thank the Le family in Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon) who packed all the ingredients into a baguette in the late 1950s, so it could be enjoyed on the go.
Vietnam never looked back.
While some restaurants still serve the ingredients on a platter, most only deal in the favored banh mi which is commonly enjoyed as any meal of the day and even as a snack in between.
Here are a few of places where can you try the best banh mi Hanoi has to offer.
Bami An Bread
For an alfresco banh mi experience accompanied by an eclectic mix of anthems and super friendly staff, head to Bami An Bread.
The extensive menus are handwritten and beautifully illustrated which is only a sign of the deliciousness served up here.
We suggest trying their unique pork floss banh mi which has all the usual components of the beloved sandwich with an extra sprinkling of cotton-like pork and crispy onions on top.
Enjoy your sandwich with a fresh smoothie, juice or local beer and finish the experience with some silky coconut ice cream.
- Address: 88b Trần Hưng Đạo, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
- Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 7am – 10pm.
Banh My P
Perhaps not a whole lot to look at from the outside, but there’s certainly a lot to taste at Banh My P.
The hole-in-the-wall restaurant is fronted with a slim kitchen where the chef grills up Banh My P’s famous lemongrass beef before it’s packed into the crispy baguette alongside pickled daikon, carrot, cucumber, and coriander.
The lemongrass flavor goes well with a drizzling of the chili and garlic sauces found on the tables at the back.
Banh My P is also open until 2am every day and proves to be a great place to grab a sobering-up snack after one too many Saigon beers.
- Address: 12 Hàng Buồm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
- Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 7am – 2am.
Banh Mi 25
The authentic combinations of pork, chicken, or beef banh mi are matched with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options for those who often find themselves missing out on this delicious sandwich.
Each is packed full of fresh and pickled vegetables with the amount of chili sauce left to the eater to decide – watch out, it’s super spicy.
Don’t let the long queue outside Banh Mi 25 put you off. You’ll be served quickly and given the option to take out or sit across the road in their quaintly decorated restaurant.
We suggest taking a few moments out of exploring the Old Quarter to sit down and fully appreciate one of Hanoi’s best banh mi.
- Address: 25 Hàng Cá, P, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 7am – 9pm.
Banh My Tram
This is a place well worth waiting in line for, albeit a very short queue given the efficiency and encouragement to table-share at Banh My Tram.
It’s one of the hottest places to grab a bahn mi in Hanoi but locals often opt for the deconstructed sandwich which can be eaten as a platter or stuffed into a baguette.
Make sure you try their sticky orange sauce which has gained critical acclaim in Hanoi. It’s served with almost everything on the menu, so you shouldn’t miss out.
- Address: 252 Cửa Nam, Hà Nội, Cửa Nam Hoàn Kiếm Hanoi, Vietnam.
- Opening hours: Early until late.