Bánh mì or banh mi (/ˈbɑːn ˌm/,[1][2][3][4] /ˈbæn/;[5][4] Vietnamese: [ɓǎɲ mî]) refers to a kind of sandwich that consists of a Vietnamese single-serving baguette, also called bánh mì in Vietnamese, split lengthwise and filled with various ingredients. A Vietnamese baguette is airier than a Western baguette, with a thinner crust.

A typical Vietnamese sandwich is a fusion of meats and vegetables from native Vietnamese cuisine – such as chả lụa (pork sausage), coriander, cucumber, and pickled carrots and daikon (đồ chua) – and condiments from French cuisine – such as pâté, jalapeño, and mayonnaise.[6] However, there is a wide variety of popular fillings, from xíu mại to ice cream.

The baguette was introduced to Vietnam in the mid–19th century, when Vietnam was part of French Indochina, and became a staple food by the early 20th century. During the 1950s, a distinctly Vietnamese style of sandwich developed in Saigon, becoming a popular street food. Following the Vietnam War, Overseas Vietnamese popularized the bánh mì sandwich in countries such as the United States.


Loaves of bánh mì

In Vietnamese, the word bánh mì is derived from bánh (which can refer to many kinds of food, including bread) and (wheat). It may also be spelled bánh mỳ in northern Vietnam. Taken alone, bánh mì means "bread" but is understood to be the Vietnamese baguette. Via synecdoche, it may also refer to a sandwich, with the term bánh mì kẹp being used to disambiguate. In particular, bánh mì often refers to the sandwiches made on Vietnamese baguettes, which may be called bánh mì Sài Gòn, after the city in which they were popularized. However, even in Vietnam, "a bánh mì for breakfast" implies a meat-filled sandwich for breakfast, not just bread.

A folk etymology claims that the word bánh mì is a corruption of the French pain de mie, meaning soft, white bread.[7] However, bánh or its Nôm form has referred to rice cakes and other pastries since as early as the 13th century, centuries before French contact.[8]


The baguette was introduced to Vietnam by the French during the colonial period, along with other baked goods such as pâté chaud.[9] Northern Vietnamese initially called the baguette bánh tây, literally "Western bánh", while southern Vietnamese called it bánh mì, "wheat bánh".[10][11] Nguyễn Đình Chiểu mentions it in his 1861 poem "Văn tế nghĩa sĩ Cần Giuộc". Due to the price of imported wheat at the time, French baguettes and sandwiches were considered luxury items. During World War I, an influx of French soldiers and supplies arrived. At the same time, disruptions of wheat imports led bakers to begin mixing in inexpensive rice flour (which also made the bread fluffier). As a result, it became possible for ordinary Vietnamese to enjoy French staples such as bread.[12][13][11]

A bánh mì stand in Ho Chi Minh City

Until the 1950s, sandwiches hewed closely to French tastes, with ham and cheese sandwiches and pâté spreads being common.[12][13] The 1954 Partition of Vietnam sent over a million migrants from North Vietnam to South Vietnam, transforming Saigon's local cuisine.[10] Among the migrants were Lê Minh Ngọc and Nguyễn Thị Tịnh, who opened a small bakery named Hòa Mã in District 3. In 1958, Hòa Mã became one of the first shops to sell bánh mì thịt.[12][14][15] Around this time, another migrant from the North began selling chả bò (beef patty), chả lụa, and chả bì (pork skin patty) sandwiches from a basket on a mobylette,[16] and a stand in Gia Định Province (present-day Phú Nhuận District) began selling phá lấu sandwiches.[17] Vietnamese communities in France also began selling bánh mì.[11]

After the Fall of Saigon in 1975, bánh mì sandwiches became a luxury item once again.[10] During the so-called "subsidy period", state-owned phở eateries often served bread or cold rice as a side dish, leading to the present-day practice of dipping quẩy in phở.[18] In the 1980s, Đổi Mới market reforms led to a renaissance in bánh mì, mostly as street food.[10]

Meanwhile, Vietnamese Americans brought bánh mì sandwiches to cities across the United States. In Northern California, Lê Văn Bá and his sons are credited with popularizing bánh mì among Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese Americans alike through their food truck services provider and their fast food chain, Lee's Sandwiches, beginning in the 1980s.[11] Sometimes bánh mì was likened to local sandwiches. In New Orleans, a "Vietnamese po' boy" recipe won the 2009 award for best po' boy at the annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival.[19] A restaurant in Philadelphia also sells a similar sandwich, marketed as a "Vietnamese hoagie".[20]

Banh mi was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on 24 March 2011.[21][22]


Loaves of bánh mì at Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery in New Orleans

A Vietnamese baguette has a thin crust and white, airy crumb. It may consist of both wheat flour and rice flour.[12]

Besides being made into a sandwich, it is eaten alongside meat dishes, such as kho (a beef stew), curry, and phá lấu. It can also be dipped in condensed milk (see Sữa Ông Thọ).


Assembling a bánh mì

A bánh mì sandwich typically consists of one or more meats, accompanying vegetables, and condiments. Common fillings include steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver pâté, pork floss, grilled chicken, chicken floss, canned sardines in tomato sauce, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce (xíu mại), head cheese, mock duck, and tofu. Accompanying vegetables typically include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro (leaves of the coriander plant) and pickled carrots and white radishes in shredded form. Common condiments include spicy chili sauce, sliced chilis, Maggi seasoning sauce, mayonnaise, and Laughing Cow cheese.[9][11]


The most popular variety of Vietnamese sandwich is bánh mì thịt, thịt meaning "meat". Bánh mì thịt nguội (also known as bánh mì pâté chả thịt, bánh mì đặc biệt, or "special combo") is made with various Vietnamese cold cuts, such as sliced pork or pork belly, chả lụa (pork sausage), and head cheese, along with the liver pâté and vegetables like carrot or cucumbers.[23][10][24][25]

Other varieties include:

  • Bánh mì bì (shredded pork sandwich) – shredded pork or pork skin, doused with fish sauce
  • Bánh mì chà bông (pork floss sandwich)
  • Bánh mì xíu mại (minced pork meatball sandwich) – smashed pork meatballs
  • Bánh mì cá mòi (sardine sandwich)
  • Bánh mì pa-tê (pâté sandwich)
  • Bánh mì xá xíu or bánh mì thịt nướng (barbecue pork sandwich)
  • Bánh mì chả lụa or bánh mì giò lụa (pork sausage sandwich)
  • Bánh mì gà nướng (grilled chicken sandwich)
  • Bánh mì chay (vegetarian sandwich) – made with tofu or seitan; in Vietnam, usually made at Buddhist temples during special religious events, but uncommon on the streets
  • Bánh mì chả (fish patty sandwich)
  • Bánh mì bơ (margarine sandwich) – margarine and sugar
  • Bánh mì trứng ốp-la (fried egg sandwich) – contains fried eggs with onions, sprinkled with soy sauce, sometimes buttered; served for breakfast in Vietnam
  • Bánh mì kẹp kem (ice cream sandwich) – contains scoops of ice cream topped with crushed peanuts[26]

Notable vendors

Inside a Lee's Sandwiches location. Sandwich fillings for sale in the foreground; sandwich menu visible in the background.

Prior to the Fall of Saigon in 1975, well-known South Vietnamese bánh mì vendors included Bánh mì Ba Lẹ and Bánh mì Như Lan (which opened in 1968[12]).

In regions of the United States with significant populations of Vietnamese Americans, numerous bakeries and fast food restaurants specialize in bánh mì. Lee's Sandwiches, a fast food chain with locations in several states, specializes in Vietnamese sandwiches served on French baguettes (or traditional bánh mì at some locations) as well as Western-style sandwiches served on croissants. In New Orleans, Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery is known for the bánh mì bread that it distributes to restaurants throughout the city. After 1975, Ba Lẹ owner Võ Văn Lẹ fled to the United States to found (along with Lâm Quốc Thanh) Bánh mì Ba Lê. The Eden Center shopping center in Northern Virginia has several well-known bakeries specializing in bánh mì.[9]

Mainstream U.S. fast food companies have also attempted to incorporate bánh mì and other Vietnamese dishes into their portfolios. Yum! Brands operates a chain of bánh mì cafés called Bánh Shop. The former Chipotle-owned ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen chain briefly sold bánh mì.

See also


  1. ^ "banh mi". OxfordDictionaries.com (British & World English). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  2. ^ "banh mi". OxfordDictionaries.com (North American English). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  3. ^ "banh mi". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Banh Mi". Merriam-Webster. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  5. ^ "banh mi". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  6. ^ Daniel Young. "East Meets West in 'Nam Sandwich", New York Daily News, 25 September 1996.
  7. ^ Lorenzo, Sandra (April 21, 2013). "Banh Mi : le sandwich vietnamien qui va pimenter votre pause déjeuner". HuffPost (in French). Retrieved April 3, 2018. 
  8. ^ Trần Nhân Tông (13th century) (in Vietnamese). Wikisource link to 居塵樂道賦 第九會 Cư trần lạc đạo phú, đệ cửu hội. Wikisource. 
  9. ^ a b c Nicholls, Walter (6 February 2008). "The Banh Mi of My Dreams". The Washington Post. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Eckhardt, Robyn (30 July 2010). "Saigon's Banh Mi". Wall Street Journal. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Lam, Andrew (2015). "The Marvel of Bánh Mì" (PDF). The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. American University in Cairo (18): 64–71. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Hương Giang (September 10, 2016). "Bánh mì Việt Nam và hành trình chinh phục cả thế giới". Người Lao động (in Vietnamese) (212). Retrieved April 3, 2018. 
  13. ^ a b Lê Văn Nghĩa (June 11, 2017). "Chuyện xưa – chuyện nay: Bánh mì Sài Gòn trong thơ" [Then and now: Saigon sandwiches in poetry]. Tuổi Trẻ (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union. Retrieved April 3, 2018. 
  14. ^ Phong Vinh (November 21, 2015). "Bánh mì Hòa Mã 50 năm ở Sài Gòn" [Hòa Mã bakery at 50 years in Saigon]. VnExpress (in Vietnamese). FPT Group. Retrieved April 3, 2018. 
  15. ^ "5 quán ăn lâu đời nhất Sài Gòn" [The 5 oldest eateries in Saigon]. Barcode (in Vietnamese). Indochine Media Ventures Vietnam. August 8, 2016. Retrieved April 3, 2018. 
  16. ^ P.V. (June 5, 2013). "Vào hẻm tìm ăn bánh mì cụ Lý" [Searching the alleys for grandpa Lý's sandwiches]. Thanh Niên (in Vietnamese). Vietnam United Youth League. Retrieved April 3, 2018. 
  17. ^ "Xe bánh mì phá lấu 60 năm tại góc phố Sài Gòn". Ngôi sao (in Vietnamese). VnExpress. August 8, 2016. Retrieved April 3, 2018. 
  18. ^ Trịnh Quang Dũng (22 January 2010). "Phở theo thời cuộc" [Pho in the present day]. Báo Khoa Học Phổ Thông (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City Union of Science and Technology Associations. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  19. ^ "The Vietnamese Po-Boy". WWNO. July 15, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Vietnamese Hoagies Now on the Menu". Archived from the original on 1 October 2015. 
  21. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary retrieved 2011.03.24
  22. ^ Andy Bloxham. "Heart symbol enters Oxford English Dictionary". The Daily Telegraph, 24 March 2011.
  23. ^ Andrea Nguyen. "Master Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe", Viet World Kitchen, retrieved 2010.04.03
  24. ^ "Bánh mì Sài Gòn ở Mỹ". baomoi.com. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  25. ^ "Bánh mì Sài gòn nức tiếng thế giới" Archived 28 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine., TuanVietNam, 2012/10/20
  26. ^ "Sài Gòn: Mua 'vé về tuổi thơ' với bánh mì kẹp kem siêu rẻ" [Saigon: Purchase a "ticket to childhood" with super-cheap ice cream sandwiches]. Trí Thức Trẻ (in Vietnamese). Hội Trí thức Khoa học và Công nghệ Trẻ Việt Nam. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 

External links