In 2011, the word banh mi has been added to the Oxford Dictionary.
Banh mi is the Vietnamese word for a kind of bread and is used as a synecdoche for the sandwich. As same as Pho, banh mi is usually admirably called with its original name, not Vietnamese baguette or Vietnamese sandwich. Unlike the traditional French baguette, "bánh mì" is made of rice flour and wheat flour.
On its origin, "bánh mì" is a product of cultural exchange between the East and the West. It has appeared during the French occupation of Vietnam. At first, it was a French sandwich with major ingredients of butter, meat, pate and other ones and was a dish for the rich. Gradually, Vietnamese chefs have used more local ingredients and popularized it. By the 1950s, banh mi was sold in its modern form by street vendors in Vietnam.
In just a few decades, "bánh mì" is not only just a favorite dish for breakfast in Vietnam, but it is also becoming popular and praised by many foreigners in five continents, Vietnamese expatriate communities as well. A famous UK newspaper has voted for "bánh mì" as one of the 10 most delicious and popular street foods in the world.
"Bánh mì" is a fast food in the morning for students, workers and intellectual class in Vietnam with a reasonable price. Depending on each locality, it can be used as a substitute for main meals at the different times of day. Foreign tourists, who used to enjoy banh mi, will not be easy to forget its wonderful taste. It can be easily found everywhere from the north to the south of Vietnam. With three basic criteria: tasty-nutritious-cheap, "bánh mì" is the most convenient choice of Vietnamese people and foreigners as well.
Banh mi is the most exported Vietnamese specialty, along with pho. It is quite cheap, delicious, and available throughout Saigon. Walking around the streets of Saigon, you will see dozens of glass cabinet full of breads and other ingredients, all you need to do is stop and order.
=> Read more: Top 3 Saigon Street Foods You Must Try
There are many different varieties of "bánh mì", including “banh mi thit” (“thit” means meat) and “banh mi thit nguoi” . Banh mi is sliced down the side, filled with a number of different meats, stuffed with layers of pork, luncheon meats, shredded cured pork skin, “cha lua” (pork sausage), “gio thu” (head cheese), paté, mayonnaise, and often complemented with Vietnamese radish and carrot pickles, a handful of sliced cucumbers, corianders, and finally a bit of chili sauce or spicy peppers. The sum of these ingredients together is what truly makes banh mi such a yummy food.
With its history of formation and development, banh mi has become a special feature of Saigon Street Food in particular and Vietnam in general. You could not enjoy all delicious foods in Saigon without including "bánh mì". If I have to choose one to put into the list of Saigon Must-Eat Street Food, it would probably be this.