Banh mi, or bread in Vietnamese, was developed in the 1950s as Vietnam’s own interpretation of baguette. It is a classic marriage between ingredients from both East and West – baguette, pate, and mayo from their French colonial times, and local ingredients such as pork, grilled chicken, or even cilantro.
If you find yourself at Hanoi like we did earlier this year, a freshly made banh mi makes for a great option as breakfast on-the-go.
Banh Mi by street vendor in Hanoi
This vendor selling scrambled egg banh mi set up her “stall” at the market just right outside the Ancient Lane hotel we stayed at Hanoi. We just had to give it a try after walking by and smelling the freshly made dish for the second day in a row.
The scrambled egg was prepared on the spot using her tiny frying pan with ingredients that undoubtedly involved fish sauce and pepper. The whole thing is then stuffed into this lovely baguette that was soft and yet crunchy on the outside, some thinly sliced cucumber, a bit of cilantro, a squeeze of chili sauce, and there you have it – one of the simplest form of banh mi.
Baguette with freshly cooked omelette
It turned out to be a lovely simple breakfast, and one that would go well with some local coffee for sure. Banh mi stalls can be found pretty much everywhere in Hanoi, give it a try, this version cost 15,000 VND if not mistaken.
Continuing with the introduction in Vietnamese street food, today let’s talk about bo kho, or the Vietnamese beef stew.
Thus far, everything dishes in this series is from the same 4-day December 2016 trip to HCMC, and they’re mostly common dishes you can find most anywhere in the city.
a nice big pot of bo kho, Vietnamese beef stew
Kho is a cooking technique in Vietnamese cuisine, while bo is beef. Like most dishes in Vietnam, fish sauce is one of the ingredients in this stew. The result is a more complex taste than the usual Western style stew.
Bo Kho is usually served with either rice noodle or banh mi (baguette in Vietnamese), though you can also have it with rice.
bo kho comes with banh mi (baguette), or rice
The version we had was from a small restaurant a stone’s throw away from the Airbnb at HCMC by the name of Thuc Don. Haze had the version with banh mi (45,000 VND) while I opted for rice (40,000 VND).
The meat was lovely, with really soft flank cut with tendon attached. The stew itself has a rich and complex flavor, made better with those chunks of carrots. I didn’t miss the absence of potato or celery at all.
of course, coffee at Vietnam is always the accompany drink
If you love beef, this is a dish to try in Vietnam, and if you’re not in Vietnam, this won’t be a difficult dish to replicate at home either. I think I’m going to find a recipe and try it at home.
Address: Com – Pho Bo Kho 18A/23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam GPS: 10.786259, 106.700355
Vietnam is the country I traveled to the most times thanks to my previous job, and while I don’t miss that role too much, one thing that I’ve always missed was some awesome Vietnamese cuisine, which seems to be living in Thai food’s shadow when it comes to offerings from South East Asia.
Over the last few years though, it has starting to make headrooms, perhaps in parallel of the country’s economic expansion, definitely a good thing for those of us who loves variety.
Pho Vietz at Atria Shopping Gallery, almost always packed
One of the latest Vietnamese restaurant that is fast gaining popularity is Pho Vietz at Atria (and now also at Empire Mall Subang). The place is almost perpetually packed, and it’s not difficult to see why, they serve pretty good food in a modern and comfortable setting while being reasonable in price.
Most importantly, it is also one of the very few proper Vietnamese restaurant that offers pork.
traditional spring role, baguette, banh mi
The menu is pretty extensive, there’s snacks such as spring roles, banh mi (baguette), several types of pho, vermicelli, ho fun, and different rice plates with curry, pork/beef stew, and clay pot dishes.
We’ve been to the place twice and tried several of their dishes. The prawn role (RM 8.50) was decent but I found the skin a bit too tough for my liking.
Banh Mi, or baguette (RM 9.90 or 10.90) with pork was an absolute treat with really crispy exterior and soft, airy bread within. It is like Subway but twice as good, especially if you love the mixture of yummy pork and those slightly sweetish sauce with plenty of vegetable. You can also have the baguette separately to go with beef stew (RM 17.90).
pho, stew beef with baguette, spring role with vermicelli
The standard pho (RM 17.90) here had a good soup base and pretty fresh, delicious slices of beef. We asked for more basil and bean sprouts and the restaurant gladly supplied a full plate of greens. That being said, I wished they had beef tendon though.
For those who wants even more greens, the Vietnamese Spring Role Vermicelli (RM 14.90) will not disappoint. There’s basil, mint, cucumber, carrot, bean sprout, and all sorts of healthy bits in the bowl.
caramel sliced pork belly with rice, KY, Haze, Johnson
On my second visit, I had the Caramel Sliced Pork Belly with Rice (RM 19.90) which quickly turned out to be one of my favorites. The “3 layer” belly was properly marinated and perfectly cooked, it was rather strong tasting so finishing the whole bowl of rice is a definite plus. If you’re a pork lover, you’ll definitely enjoy this.
If you’re a fan of Vietnamese food, this is definitely a decent hang-out, just don’t go there during peak lunch/dinner hours and expect to have your food served quickly (or get a table immediately for that matter).