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Banh Mi Boys: Vietnamese Food in Toronto

Banh Mi Boys: Vietnamese Food in Toronto

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Vietnamese Food in Toronto

If you’re looking for Vietnamese fast food at a great price in Toronto, look no further than Banh Mi Boys.

Banh Mi Boys-goers are addicted. Their kimchi fries, a huge favorite by devout customers, consist of fries topped with pork, kimchi, green onions and house mayo. Banh Mi offers items like their 5-spice pork belly banh mi, braised beef cheek banh mi, duck confit, and fried chicken steamed bao. The jicama-papaya salad is available if you’re looking for something a little lighter, and the generously portioned sandwiches go for around $5.99.

The food, though quite belly busting (the kimchi fries come in at 1,183 calories and 86 grams of fat), is quick and savory, reminiscent of Vietnamese classics. Banh Mi is also looking to add a shrimp dish to their lineup. Check out what they have to offer at either their 392 Queen St W or 399 Yonge Street locations.

How New Orleans Birthed A Vietnamese Po' Boy Movement

“I didn’t get into the po’ boy business to stare at tomatoes out of season, iceberg lettuce, and Hellmann’s mayonnaise all day,” the new-wave sandwich sage Cam Boudreaux tells me, referring to the traditional dressings that top the iconic New Orleans sandwich. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” he’s quick to add.

When Boudreaux opened Killer Poboys with his wife, April Bellows, in the back of a French Quarter Irish bar five years ago, he envisioned a sandwich shop that muddled with tradition. The roast beef po’ boy—the sloppy, workaday sandwich of slow-cooked chuck roast debris and gravy—became a Guinness-braised beast dabbed with a horseradish sauce. Because the restaurant’s shoebox kitchen lacked a fryer, the city’s classic, but now obscure fried potato po’ boy evolved into a roasted sweet potato variation canvassed in braised greens and a black-eyed pea and pecan schmear.

But Boudreaux’s biggest change came with his choice of bread. Instead of relying on the city’s time-honored French bread—an uber-baguette of sorts, with its glass shard-crispy crust and airy, almost melt-on-the-tongue interior—he turned to the similar but distinct Vietnamese loaves called bánh mì.

For all its progressiveness and small-town metropolitan pretensions, New Orleans and its residents regularly resist change, especially when it comes to our food. In 2014, no less than four statewide media outlets covered the online outrage directed at Esquire magazine’s “new” po’ boy: panfried oysters with a bacon and apple slaw on a brioche bun. (More recently, New Orleanians all but threatened to riot in the streets after Disney dare reimagine our beloved gumbo.)

Image via First We Feast Original

Boudreaux’s bread-centric bait-and-switch might be considered a scandal if not for the familiarity of Vietnamese cuisine to New Orleanians. The first wave of Vietnamese refugees who arrived in Louisiana following the fall of Saigon in April 1975 opened restaurants and groceries, especially in the suburban enclaves of New Orleans East and the towns just opposite the Mississippi River from the city. These new Vietnamese Louisianians quickly made major inroads in the shrimping and oyster industries. They opened boulangeries and bodegas, which sometimes sold pho, more often shrink-wrapped trays of spring rolls, but always, conceding to neighborhood market tradition, po’ boys.

More recently, especially in post-Katrina New Orleans, Vietnamese food has moved from the periphery to the center. Three restaurants popped up almost simultaneously along the chic Magazine Street uptown shopping district. There is a Vietnamese food truck. A pitmaster stirred up a sambal, hoisin, and soy barbecue sauce. Coffee shops served cà phê sữa đá alongside iced lattes. Non-Vietnamese chefs worked with farmers to bring unfamiliar mints and basils into their kitchens. A two-decade old suburban stalwart named Nine Roses opened a location in the middle of the French Quarter.

As in most of America, pho and bun and nuoc mam have joined the culinary vernacular. And then there’s Vietnam’s favorite sandwich, the bánh mì. Sharing a name with the baguette that serves as its vessel, the New Orleans bánh mì, like bánh mìs from Hoi An to Orange County, is layered with cold cuts and pâté, grilled beef or chicken slathered with mayonnaise dressed with pickled veggies, fresh jalapeño, cucumber, and cilantro and finished with a few umami-bomb dashes of Maggi seasoning sauce. But because the po’ boy’s gravitational pull is stronger than most local foods, the bánh mì (literally: ‘bread made from wheat’) has long been sold and consumed under the moniker “Vietnamese po’ boy.”

"As Vietnamese cuisine joins the pantheon that is the New Orleans foodscape , can the bánh mì stand on its own in po’ boy town?"

Whether savvy marketing or a capitulation to convention, the bánh mì enjoys a unique position in New Orleans—pho, for instance, has never been advertised as ‘beef noodle gumbo.’ Though the rise of the bánh mì poses no threat to the city’s po’ boy hegemony—that role belongs to a noxious franchise (Free Smells!) locally owned by a certain Super Bowl hero-turned-sandwich shill—the po’ boy’s ubiquity could imperil the culture and history of the Vietnamese sandwich. As Vietnamese cuisine joins the pantheon that is the New Orleans foodscape, can the bánh mì stand on its own in po’ boy town?

It’s hard to pinpoint when the bánh mì first landed in New Orleans, but it was a restaurant called Pho Tau Bay that first exposed most non-Vietnamese locals, including Cam Boudreaux and myself, to the sandwich.

Opened in 1982 by Karl and Tuyet Takacs, Pho Tau Bay is a spinoff of sorts from a popular Saigon pho franchise of the same name. As a young GI stationed in South Vietnam, Karl Takacs obsessed over the pho tai, or rare beef noodle soup, at Pho Tau Bay—once eating seven bowls in a single sitting. He soon fell in love with the restaurant owner’s daughter, Tuyet. They married and relocated her family to Louisiana, opening a flea market pho stand, eventually replaced by a brick-and-mortar, in the nearby town of Gretna.

Though pho has always centered Pho Tau Bay’s menu, it was the bánh mì that helped the mini Pho Tau Bay empire expand to six locations when Katrina struck. (T he floods closed all but the flagship, which was uprooted by a Walmart in early-2015. In May 2016, the Takacs family reopened a storm-shuttered location in downtown New Orleans.) A decade or so into the business, Karl, Sr. began advertising in the local alt-weekly. A predominately Vietnamese customer base was replace by a non-Vietnamese clientele, so he altered the menu to read, “banh mi / vietnamese style po-boys,” a description still in place today.

Image via First We Feast Original

“As a reference, to someone who never had bánh mì, it’s a Vietnamese po’ boy,” Takacs, Jr. explains, before amending that “it’s nothing like a po’ boy.” Though both sandwiches are quick, inexpensive, and filling descendants of the French baguette, the breads diverge enough to deserve their own categorization. “The bread is completely different,” he says. “It has density. It’s airy, buttery. It has flavor unlike your typical po’ boy from New Orleans.”

The fundamental similarity, Takacs, Jr. contends, is the world contained outside the bun: the sandwiches’ working-class immigrant roots. Back in the day, before Pho Tau Bay became a darling of the New Orleans food world, Vietnamese fishermen would order bánh mì by the sackful. They’d show up at 8 am, he remembers, slurp a bowl of pho, and “order 20 or 30 bánh mìs for the boat.” Road-tripping Vietnamese families would stop en route to the beaches of the Florida Panhandle or to visit cousins in Houston for a few dozen portable, wax paper-wrapped meals to go.

New Orleans, like all great sandwich cities, owes its sandwich culture to its blue-collar immigrants. Local lore credits Sicilian immigrant Salvatore Lupo, proprietor at Central Grocery, for inventing the muffuletta: the oil-slicked stack of cured meats and aged cheeses topped with a cauliflower and carrot-studded olive salad and stuffed into a round, sesame loaf. The iconic po’ boy, according to the most oft-told tale about the sandwich’s nebulous origins, was coined during a summer-long streetcar strike in 1929. The enterprising Martin brothers, Bennie and Clovis, former conductors-turned-lunch counter owners, fed the hungry transit picketers with complimentary sandwiches. “We fed those men free of charge until the strike ended,” Bennie recalled years later, “Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’ ”

What the Martins stuffed into those ur-po’ boys remains lost to history—fried potatoes smothered in roast beef gravy drippings is the most likely guess—but we do know that John Gendusa, a first-generation Sicilian, supplied the bread. As corner groceries and sandwich counters specializing in po’ boys—it’s the rare stickler who insists on calling them poor boys—proliferated in every city neighborhood, the majority of French bread loaves emerged from the ovens of German immigrant-owned bakeries: Binder, Reising, Bacher, Klotzbach, and Leidenheimer.

Originally trafficking in the dense brown loaves of his native Deidesheim, the tiny bakery that George Leidenheimer built in 1896 has since gobbled up most of its competitors to become synonymous with the city’s premier sandwich. “Sink ya teeth into a piece of New Orleans cultcha—,” the company’s omnipresent delivery trucks encourage in the local working class dialect, “a Leidenheimer po-boy!!”

The origin of the New Orleans bánh mì is no different. In the far eastern reaches of the city, perched on the banks of the Bayou Sauvage, is the neighborhood officially known as Village de l’Est but colloquially called Versailles, after the public housing project that originally sheltered the area’s first Vietnamese refugees. Along the desolate highway that connects Versailles with the world, the parking lot of Dong Phuong Oriental Restaurant and Bakery bustles with locals and tourists hurrying overstuffed paper bags to their cars. Most, unwilling to resist the temptation, sit on the curb, laps covered in crumbs, the asphalt below their feet littered with threads of pickled carrot and daikon, as they quietly contemplate the last bites of their foil-wrapped bánh mì.

Inside, past the racks of meat pies, egg tarts, and steamed taro, a pair of women—three during the weekend lunch rushes—work the sandwich counter with a silent velocity, an automated proficiency that appears as if they can make a sandwich before a customer has completed his order. “They are very fast,” Linh Tran Garza, the owner of Dong Phuong Bakery, beams with pride, “I think they can take anybody as far as speed.”

Image via First We Feast Original

Garza’s parents, De and Huong Tran, opened Dong Phuong in 1981, the region’s first Vietnamese bakery. Huong, the daughter of a famous Saigon baker, built the business crafting moon cakes, flaky pastries filled with mung bean, sweet red bean, durian, or lotus seed paste and traditionally eaten around the Autumnal Equinox. While De, a South Vietnamese Air Force veteran and aspiring engineer, spent nearly a decade tinkering with a bánh mì recipe. He studied baking books, compared po’ boy loaves, and forced his children to eat bun after unacceptable bánh mì bun.

“He brought a lot home for us to try,” Garza remembers. “We were like, ‘No!’—it was not quite as good. We were always the test, the guinea pigs.” By 1991, De had perfected his bánhmì. They started with the #1 combo special, called đặc biệt, or pork liver pâté and cold cuts. From there, sixteen additional sandwiches, from #2 (patê chả lụa, Vietnamese ham) to #17 (lạp xưởng, Chinese sausage), have been gradually added to the menu. Non-Vietnamese rushed to order sandwiches in a part of town lacking in po’ boy shops.

“We don’t have a lot of older generation Vietnamese coming over anymore,” Garza concedes. “The younger generation—we try to bring our parents to try other foods and things, so. a lot of the traditional foods might be slipping away,” she says, noting a decline in sales of her mother’s moon cake. But the bánh mì, sandwiches and loaves, are more popular than ever. After Katrina, Dong Phuong unleashed a fleet of delivery vans onto the streets of New Orleans, helping spread the cult of the bánh mì, in addition to the bakery’s cultish king cake during Carnival season. Today, those vans deliver to over 100 area accounts.

With more than enough accounts to service, at least three Vietnamese-owned bakeries—Chez Pierre, Golden, and Dong Phung’s longtime rival, Hi-Do—make and distribute their own bánh mì buns. And then there’s chef-owner Mike Gulotta of MoPho, a restaurant that entwines Vietnamese and South Louisiana flavors, who commissioned breadmaster David Weiss of Weiss Guys Bakery to invent a bánh mì-po’ boy hybrid. “I wanted this happy medium,” Gulotta says. “I didn’t want it quite as crunchy as the Leidenheimer, and not as dense as a Dong Phuong.” Together, they formulated a pistolette that harmonizes with MoPho’s menu of sandwich offerings, many of which combine typical po’ boy fillings (fried shrimp, fried oyster, or pulled pork) with the traditional bánh mì dressings (pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, and jalapeño). “I’ll probably go to Hell for this,” Gulotta laughs. “[That sandwich] is a full bastardization.”

But the bánh mì’s best hope to advance beyond its “Vietnamese po’ boy” status is at Banh Mi Boys. A petite canteen attached to a Texaco gas station at a busy highway intersection in the suburb of Metairie, Banh Mi Boys levels the playing field by offering separate menu listings for bánh mì, served on Dong Phuong bread, and po’ boys, delivered via a ten-inch Leidenheimer loaf.

“My parents are traditional,” chief Banh Mi Boy Peter Nguyen tells me. “They wanted a for-sure thing” when they decided to build out the space adjoining the family business. His mother wanted to open a simple po’ boy shop, much like the one they owned down the street before Katrina took it away. “I wanted to do Vietnamese, because we’re Vietnamese,” Nguyen says. “And I didn’t want to do another pho place. I wanted to focus on bánh mì.”

" Just over a year old, Banh Mi Boys acts a site of tremendous convergence, a place where the po’ boy and bánh mì stand side-by-side."

It was a battle—po’ boys fought for menu space with spring rolls, mom feuded with son. Nguyen with zero professional kitchen experience, experimented all the while with sandwiches: the Vietnamese dish of grilled steak and egg, called bò né tossed on a bánh mì a smothering of Oysters Rockefeller, a New Orleans specialty since 1899, crammed into a po’ boy loaf. Instagramming customers arrived, mom relented (she serves po’ boys again in a suburb on the other side of the city).

Just over a year old, Banh Mi Boys acts a site of tremendous convergence, a place where the po’ boy and bánh mì stand side-by-side. Customers raised on roast beef or wary of liver pâté sandwiches are “relieved that we have both,” Nguyen says, “but I’ve turned a lot of people on to bánh mì.” Now frequent visitors mix and match breads and dressings. Want to trim your hot sausage po’ boy with picked carrots and fresh cilantro, Banh Mi Boys can do that. Vietnamese meatball (xíu mại) daubed in mayonnaise and garnished with pickle slices, why not? The permutations are endless.

On my most recent visit to Banh Mi Boys, Peter Nguyen pulled me aside and offered me a plastic clamshell overladen with his latest experiment, a spin on a local specialty: bread pudding made from day-old loaves of Dong Phuong bánh mì. “I couldn't do a regular bread pudding,” he shrugged as I sank my spoon into this newest bite of New Orleans culture.

Vegetarian Viet Nam cookbook goes beyond pho and banh mi

When Kitchener-born chef Cameron Stauch and his family moved to Hanoi, he didn’t know much about Vietnamese cuisine outside of the popular pho, banh mi and fresh roll dishes. He was soon blown away by the variety of culinary offerings and was particularly drawn to the vegetarian fare that masterfully manipulated tofu and fresh seasonal produce.

The chef, who spent a decade cooking at the governor general’s residence in Ottawa for Adrienne Clarkson, Michaëlle Jean and David Johnston, moved to Hanoi in 2012 when his diplomat wife Ayesha Rekhi got a job at the Canadian embassy in Vietnam.

“A year after we arrived, my young son decided to become a vegetarian,” Stauch says. “At the markets, it was easy to find out where the produce came from and how it was grown, but it was harder for meat, so we as a family decided to eat less meat and seafood.”

At the same time, his vegetarian friends travelling around Vietnam were asking for advice. They didn’t know what to order or where to eat.

Stauch noticed there were few English books dedicated to vegetarian Vietnamese cooking and began his research.

The result is Vegetarian Viet Nam ($47, Norton), a hardcover 288-page tome with about 100 recipes for home cooks wanting to go beyond pho and spring rolls. The introduction details the evolution of vegetarianism in Vietnam.

Stauch, who now lives in Bangkok, went on research trips to cooking schools, food stalls, modern vegetarian restaurants, as well as monasteries and nunneries where Buddhists have been cooking without meat for millennia, jotting down recipes from the monks and nuns who opened their kitchens to him. He learned enough Vietnamese be able to explain his project, hoping they would share their recipes for his book. One person he reached out to was Vietnam’s equivalent to Julia Child, food personality Nguyen Dzoan Cam Van. She shared family recipes and taught Stauch to use tofu skins. Stauch devotes a chapter to this.

“It was a really special day to learn from someone like her who taught a lot of people in that country how to cook. Showing that you’re serious about their culture and family traditions — and being able to speak some of the language — broke down some of those barriers and let me learn about these foods,” Stauch says.

Stauch says the cooks shared their recipes because they didn’t see him as competition, as he wasn’t going to set up a stall beside them and sell food they taught him to make.

“When I told them I was researching vegetarian food, they were willing to share their knowledge because they want their food to be promoted outside of the country,” he said.

The book’s recipes include salads, soups, tofu and seitan mains, rice and noodle dishes as well as desserts and drinks, such as a refreshing lychee and basil leaf thirst-quencher.

Serve the drink with the young jackfruit salad and the turmeric tofu and mushroom scramble wrapped in betel leaves. It’s an easy dinner-party meal that’s full of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours.

Vegetarian Vietnam also puts Vietnam’s culinary evolution into context. It explains political and religious movements that have shaped how the people in Vietnam eat today. The country’s vegetarian movement was largely the result of Chinese conquerors introducing Buddhism to the country millennia ago.

The country fell under French colonial rule in 1887, leaving a legacy of cafe culture and fresh baguettes on every street corner. More recently, the aftermath of the First Indochina War in the 󈧬s and 󈧶s led to Vietnam being split into northern and southern parts, each developing its own culinary traditions over time.

“It’s always important to know the context of the dish that this person is sharing with me,” says Stauch, a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School. “This book is about sharing the knowledge, not me discovering something. Learning about the historical context explains things such as how trading between southern Vietnam and southern India led to a crispy rice crepe that resembles a dosa.”

Home cooks that want a closer look at the dishes in Stauch’s cookbook can join him on a food tour around Vietnam organized through B.C.-based travel company Bestway Tours and Safaris. On the trip, travellers will visit the markets and food stalls that inspired the book and meet local chefs to get further insight into Vietnam’s dining scenes.

“The takeaway I want people to get out of this is how vibrant and exciting Vietnamese food is,” Stauch says. “I want people to not just look at the recipes, but also read the appendix and introduction so they’ll have that this knowledge on their travels.”

Young Jackfruit Salad (Goi mit Chay)

Stauch recommends readers start with this recipe. It’s bursting with fresh herbal flavours, crunchy textures and a sweet chili dressing. Most of the ingredients can be found at major grocers (Vietnamese coriander may require a trip to Chinatown). Use young green jackfruit in water, not brine, and not the ripe yellow jackfruit in syrup that’s used in desserts. If you cannot find Vietnamese coriander, substitute with Thai basil or double the amount of cilantro. Fried shallots can be found at Asian grocers, if you don’t want to fry your own. If you are super lazy, don’t toast the sesame seeds and rice crackers.

For the garnish

1 tbsp (15 mL) black or white sesame seeds

1 small shallot

1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable or canola oil

4-12 sesame rice crackers, depending on size of crackers

In a small pan over medium heat, add sesame seeds. Shake pan occasionally until seeds are fragrant and slightly toasted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest in a bowl. Set aside.

Peel and slice shallot thinly crosswise. Break shallot slices apart into rings. Heat oil in a small pot over medium-high heat. When oil reaches 350 F (180 C), add shallots and fry until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove shallots from oil with a slotted spoon and let rest on a paper towel. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Place crackers on a lined baking sheet and toast for 3 to 4 minutes, flipping halfway, or until edges are golden brown. Remove from heat. Set aside.

For the dressing

3 tbsp (45 mL) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (60 mL) water

2 tbsp (30 mL) rice vinegar

1 tsp (5 mL) light Chinese or Japanese soy sauce


1 tbsp plus 1 tsp (20 mL) lime juice

1/2 tsp (2 mL) kosher salt

1 red bird’s eye chili or Thai chili, sliced lengthwise, seeded and finely chopped (leave in seeds for more heat)

1 garlic clove, finely minced

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, water, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice and salt until sugar has fully dissolved. Whisk in chilies and garlic. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.

For the salad

17 oz. (482 g) can young green jackfruit in water, rinsed and drained

1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil

1/4 lb. (112 g) oyster mushrooms, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1-1/4 cup)

1/4 tsp (1 mL) kosher salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper

1/2 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup (80 mL) roughly chopped Vietnamese coriander leaves

2 tbsp (30 mL) roughly chopped cilantro leaves

2 tbsp (30 mL) roughly chopped mint leaves

Chop jackfruit into bite-sized pieces, discarding any hard bits. Place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add cooked mushrooms to one side of mixing bowl, pushing jackfruit to another side. Let mushrooms cool to room temperature. Add carrot, onion, coriander, cilantro and mint to bowl. Add half of dressing and toss salad. Taste. Add more dressing as necessary. Divide salad into serving bowls and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, fried shallots and toasted rice crackers.

The Vietnamese Po-Boy

The banh mi is a staple in Vietnam, and in Louisiana it is sometimes called the "Vietnamese po-boy." Once found only in Vietnamese bakeries and noodle shops around the edges of New Orleans, they are now becoming increasingly common across the metro area.

New Orleans, LA – Culinary fusion is hardly a trendy idea for Vietnamese cooks. After all, their traditional food sometimes shows the stamp that a century of French colonial history left on their country. For a handheld lesson on the subject, simply order a banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich made on crusty French bread and smeared with pate.

The banh mi is a staple in Vietnam, and in Louisiana it is sometimes called the "Vietnamese po-boy." Once found only in Vietnamese bakeries and noodle shops around the edges of New Orleans, they are now becoming increasingly common across the metro area.

More mainstream, pan-Asian restaurants have added banh mi, and the high-end Warehouse District deli called Cochon Butcher now features one on its menu. Last year, the New Orleans East sandwich shop Banh Mi Sao Mai even entered one of its namesake creations in competition at the New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival. Going head to head with some of the city's most popular po-boys, this rather exotic entry took home a coveted award.

The bread for banh mi is essential, and it is quite different from the local po-boy loaves holding roast beef and fried oysters. The traditional recipe mixes Asian rice flour with wheat flour for a singular, tropical-weight loaf. It's softer and moister than po-boy loaves, while the thin-skinned exterior remains crackly-crisp.

Into this cradle, the banh mi maker crams a wide assortment of fillings, though the traditional mix includes pate, fatty Vietnamese ham and roasted pork, plus the French gift of mayonnaise and a clutch of shredded carrot and radish, a spear of wet cucumber, sprigs of cool cilantro and fiercely hot, raw jalapeno.

It's crunchy, textured, fresh, complex yet not heavy. While they are not large, one of these sandwiches makes a sensible, light lunch on a hot summer day.

Before Katrina, the noodle shop Pho Tau Bay had four locations in the metro area, making it the most accessible purveyor of banh mi in town. Only the original Pho Tau Bay in Gretna survived the storm, but it still carries the banh mi torch with a dozen varieties, including a rare vegetarian version made with fried tofu.

There are a few competing local bakeries that produce banh mi loaves, but the most prominent is Dong Phuong, a fixture in the New Orleans East Vietnamese enclave near NASA's Michoud rocket plant. These loaves are fluffy and airy but compress to dense and chewy under the pressure of your bite. Customers order the sandwiches off the menu in Dong Phuong's restaurant, or get bag loads of them to go from the attached bakeshop.

From the traditional standard of sliced pork and crunchy vegetables, banh mi makers have found a universe of new sandwich fillings, from roasted quail to grilled shrimp. Who knows, if sandwich evolution continues long enough in New Orleans, some day we might even see banh mi made with fried oysters or roast beef and gravy.

Here are some New Orleans-area purveyors of banh mi, the Vietnamese po-boy:

Banh Mi Boys: A Collision of Viet, Korean and French Grub in Toronto

During the past few visits to Toronto I would make my way to Banh Mi Boys. Their Yonge street location, south of College, is just around the corner from where I often stay and I first stepped foot into the busy eatery when I met up with a friend for lunch. I had been hearing about this place for a while now but hadn’t thought much of it. I love banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich on a French baguette, and the thought of leaving Chinatown and paying more than four dollars for this half-foot sandwich seemed ridiculous to me. I would had never guessed that my dreams of eating dirty fast food would somehow become fulfilled from eating non-greasy Asian fusion grub in a sleek and trendy setting.

The Yonge street location store front. Top Photo: Clockwise from top left – Five Spice Pork Belly Banh Mi, Tofu Fries, Tofu Taco, Panko Tofu Steamed Bao.

But there it is. Banh Mi Boys knows how to make good, cheap fast food and do it well. They start with banh mi in ten different varieties encased in buns shorter than the usual super sizes. Their banh mi can be of the traditional type — such as grilled chicken, grilled pork, lemongrass tofu and braised beef — but then it delves into the creative corner. You can also have your banh mi with duck confit (another nod to the French influence), meatball, pulled pork, “five spice pork belly” and kalbi (Korean barbecue) beef, all smothered in pickled carrots, cilantro and cucumber. The Korean factor also moves into the fries territory. Fries with banh mi? Why not? And these are not just ordinary fries but potato fries with toppings of kimchi or tofu, or made with jiacama or sweet potato fries.

Can we just a moment to talk about how good kimchi and diner food mix? I’ve already had my liaison with kimchi burgers and, let me tell you, kimchi and mayonnaise are meant to be together. Spicy fermented cabbage on top of thick-sliced fries with a squirt of mayo and garnished with green onions make a great culinary boy band together, even with the accompaniment of tofu. And there is a lot of tofu offerings on the menu for those looking for vegetarian-friendly items and I would highly recommend the panko-crusted, deep-friend tofu in a steamed bun (or bao). The steamed baos are meant to be little snacks so it’s not a meal in itself, but the crunchy tofu with slices of yellow radishes in between the pillowy wheat buns make you wonder why steamed buns at Canadian a fast food restaurant failed to exist prior to Banh Mi Boys.

In addition to the banh mi, steamed buns and fries you can also order their side salads of duck confit or grilled chicken, which we did not try. And of course, tacos. A trendy place like Banh Mi Boys would be foolish not to ride the wave of Asian fusion tacos. Banh Mi Boys has five offerings: Kalbi beef (Korean food again!), pulled pork, grilled chicken, squid and tofu. I tried the tofu taco and while it was good, the only critique I had was that all the sandwich-like menu items were starting to taste the same. I mean, the spicing is excellent, the produce fresh, and the execution fantastic, but all the pickled carrots and cilantro was making me taste the exploitation of economies of scale. (Got a great deal on the same ten ingredients? Let’s put them in everything!) Though I get that the usual customers were probably not ordering all the items at once to taste and share, after a meal of trying all three sandwich items — banh mi, steamed bun and tacos — my mouth could not distinguish what it was invited to with the next bite. However, for all these items plus the fries, including drinks and taxes, came to about $25 CDN. Quite a deal for a very large meal for two.

Grilled Chicken Banh Mi and Panko Tofu Steamed Bao.

Plus, you get to sit in a small, but clean and glossy interior and not pretend to act cool siting in a rundown diner for a meal of the same price. Good thing they have a second location, fittingly at Queen street west and Spadina, right below Chinatown and in the direction of Ossington hipster coolness. I would advise that visitors drop by right before the noon hour rush (both locations open at 11 am, Monday to Saturday) or drop by during the weekends when the tiny locations are clear of office-types swooping in for their takeout orders. And make sure you accompany your banh mi with the kimchi fries. As well with an order of the steamed bao. And the tacos. Heck, just order everything.

Up Next in Eating Asian in Toronto:
Hua Sang, Barrio Coreano, and more.

Banh Mi Boys: Vietnamese Food in Toronto - Recipes

Banh Mi Boys is currently open but their offerings and services may be affected due to the pandemic. Please contact the business directly for more information about any changes. Is this your business? Please contact us if you would like to update this message.

Banh Mi Boys have returned from a hiatus at the corner of Queen and Spadina. It seems the Boys have retreated during their winter break for a complete reno having been closed for several months. Ditching the cheap and cheerful, they've arrived with a new sleek look and expanded menu. But for all that cackle and spackle, do the sandwiches offer more than the joints up Spadina ?

In the vein of Salad King , Banh Mi Boys have added a glossy interior that masks any trace of their former self. Ample tables and counter seating are a welcomed addition - no longer just a grab-and-go place.

The menu is extensive for Banh Mi sandwiches ranging from duck confit ($7.49) and squid (5.99) to a more apt beef cheek (5.99) and pork belly (5.99). Modern additions that elevate this type of Vietnamese street food. A little late to the party, tacos (3.99), were added by customers requests. Steamed Bao fried chicken (3.49) definitely leapt off their flat screen menu - what did not was the Kimchi Fries that looked nothing more like luke warm kimchi smothering soggy fries.

We ordered: Pork Belly and Beef Cheek Banh Mi with a side of Jicama Papaya Salad (2.99) and the Steam Bao Fried Chicken. Within minutes, the place was slammed with a line up nearing the door - even still, our order was up in under fifteen.

The Banh Mi is good, not stellar, but maybe I've been spoiled by Matty Matheson's version . Way too many carrots and not nearly enough cilantro or scallions, the sandwich became more of a slaw towards last bite. Still, the price is on point and the ingredients are top notch - especially the baguette. The five spice pork belly was the favourite of the two.

Fried Chicken Steam Bao is a concept done right! The meat, moist and tender, is covered by a spiced panko crust with a dollop of spicy mayo. Oddly, it reminded me of a country fried steak on a biscuit. The Papaya Salad brightened the rest of the meal and was a good note to end on.

Last Fall, Bahn Mi Boys were the new kids on the block but much has changed in their absence. Just a stones throw, Come And Get It has become the go-to-go sandwich place of late catering to the biz lunch rush albeit different menus but similar concepts, so let the boys duke it out and may the best sandwich win.

Banh Mi Boys: Vietnamese Food in Toronto - Recipes

I really feel sorry for a lot of the other places that compete with Banh mi Boys as it's the best place.

BBQ Chicken sandwich is incredible. Sweet fries are great as are the Kimchi fries if you are really hungry!

Great place, good value and staff always polite.

81 - 85 of 360 reviews

This is a good place to have lunch. The kimchi fries are good as well as the grilled pork banh mi. The pork is nicely cooked and infused with lemongrass. Balanced out with the marinated carrots and daikon in the banh mi.

Fast service, delicious food.. you will enjoy your sandwich..especially if you are going to see your favorite game or to watch a movie.. and you are running out of time

Kimchi fries are to die for. Amazing takeout service with delicious food. Everything on the menu is delicious, but the pork is the best.

Tasted the grilled chicken banh mi, grilled pork banh mi and kimchi fries and they're all delicious. If you're craving banh mi, this is the place to go. And if you really want a sandwich, this is also the place to go. No point in going to other fast food joints. Also, it's fast and great value.

Recipe: Banh Mi

As with the po’ boy, the most important aspect in banh mi construction is the bread. It looks like a French baguette, but the wheat flour is cut with rice flour to create a lighter, crisper, somehow sog-proof vehicle for the porky, livery goodness within. If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the United States with a Vietnamese bakery, like Dong Phuong in New Orleans, get your bread there. Otherwise, as for po’ boys, try the lightweight “Italian” or “French” bread that’s delivered daily to most large grocery stores. The shape isn’t exactly right, but the consistency is closer in spirit than actual French baguette.

You can, of course, buy pâté for this sandwich, but it’s easy and fast enough to cook some fresh chicken livers and make a softer-edged variation on chicken liver vinaigrette, as per below.


½ pound chicken livers, trimmed of connective tissue and fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil, as needed
½ cup mayonnaise
4 (7-inch) Vietnamese baguettes, sliced lengthwise
1 (7-ounce) can classic SPAM, thinly sliced
2 cups do chua (pickled daikon and carrots), drained well and patted dry
2 Thai bird chili or jalapeño peppers, very thinly sliced
8 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
Soy sauce to taste

Special Equipment:

Blender or food processor


Season the livers well with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottom sauté pan until it foams and subsides. Add the livers and cook for about 3 minutes per side, until nicely seared. Remove the livers from the pan and transfer them to the blender. Deglaze the pan with the wine and vinegar, stirring well with a wooden spoon to dislodge the browned bits. Once the sharp smell of alcohol and vinegar subsides, remove the pan from the heat and transfer its contents to the blender and puree with the livers, adding a bit of oil as needed to keep the mixture loose. Scrape out into a mixing bowl to cool. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. This will yield about 2 cups loose pâté.

In a clean mixing bowl, combine the remaining butter, which should be at room temperature, and the mayonnaise and mix well to incorporate. With a butter knife, spread the inside of each baguette with some of the mayonnaise mixture, and then with some of the liver mixture. Add a layer of sliced SPAM to each sandwich, then top with do chua, pepper slices, and cilantro. Season with a sprinkle of soy sauce and serve at once.

Originally published in Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever.

Bánh Mì: The Rise of the Vietnamese Sandwich

Since the Vietnam War ended 40 years ago, Vietnamese have shared much of their culture with the larger world. But many of us who fled as refugees could not have imagined that the Vietnamese sandwich, bánh mì, would one day become an international sandwich sensation, a culinary wonder of our globalized age.

Today it has spread from Saigon to California and from there to the rest of the planet. Every city in North America now has its own bánh mì shop or chain: Bánh Mì Saigon in New York, Bun Mee in San Francisco, BONMi in Washington, DC, Bánh Mì Bá Get in Chicago, Bánh Mì Boys in Toronto. Bánh mì is standard food truck fare from San Diego to Boston. Yum! Brands, owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, has opened Bánh Shop fast-food outlets in Dallas.

South of the border in Mexico City is a bright red and yellow bánh mì food truck called Ñham Ñham. Shops and chains have sprung up everywhere else in London there is Kêu!, Bánhmì11, and, next to St. Paul's Cathedral, Banh Mi Bay. Among the options in Shanghai is Mr. V, whose menu includes the Obscene Double Triple--bánh mì with headcheese, Vietnamese sausage, and peppercorn terrine in Singapore, you can try Bánh Mì 888 one of the busiest in Tokyo is a place simply called Bánh Mì Sandwich.

It is an airy French baguette with a thin crunchy crust that could contain a cornucopia of roast chicken or pork, homemade pâté, cured ham, headcheese, a mélange of pickled daikon radish and carrot, slices of cucumber and chili pepper, a generous sprinkling of cilantro leaves, a few dashes of Maggi sauce, and a spread of mayonnaise. At once spicy, salty, sour, savory, sweet, and aromatic: a bite into a well stacked bánh mì is always a moment of rapture.

Bánh mì's origins, as its architectural foundation indicates, of course, are in France. The French arrived in Vietnam initially as missionaries in the seventeenth century and established colonial control of Vietnam in 1887 with the formation of La Fédération Indochinoise. The French brought their language and their food, including eventually the baguette, the long thin loaf of bread that became popular in France in the early twentieth century. Growing up in Hanoi my grandmother called it bánh tây, literally Western-style bread. By the 1950s the Vietnamese started to tinker with it and, signaling Vietnamese appropriation of the baguette, started calling it bánh mì--simply, wheat bread. Some recipes called for a mix of rice flour with the wheat flour. The aim was to make it fluffier than the French baguette, allowing it to be easily stuffed with Vietnamese delights.

Bánh mì has long been a food staple of the working poor. Bánh mì stalls and carts are everywhere in the streets of Vietnam, providing simple and delicious sustenance, typically for breakfast or the midday meal, to the masses. It was street food long before street food became an obsession with foodies--in those days, some well-to-do Vietnamese shunned street vendors out of concern about typhoid fever and other illnesses. Ingredients like the sweet, crunchy fresh vegetables and pungent herbs and spices are what make the bánh mì Vietnamese. An essential component of the Vietnamese way is Maggi sauce, a Swiss-made savory seasoning introduced by the French.

The Vietnamese sandwich could be found in the communities of Vietnamese students and émigrés in France from the 1950s onwards. The traiteur Hoa Nam in the thirteenth arrondissement of Paris has been selling bánh mì wrapped in wax paper for years, although the foodie trend in bánh mì is now evident in bobo (bourgeois and bohemian) spots on the Right Bank like Saigon Sandwich and Bulma.

But it was the mass exodus of Vietnamese with the Fall of Saigon in 1975 that propelled the Vietnamese sandwich on its way to global stardom. In no time, refugees in the United States were opening Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries, and delicatessens, offering up all the dishes from the homeland--including bánh mì--for fellow refugees and curious American diners alike.

Some trace bánh mì's cultural migration to the sandwich's burst of popularity in California's Silicon Valley.

Vietnamese refugees eager to build new lives in America had flocked to the area to work in the booming high-tech industry's assembly lines. In 1980, a man called Lê Văn Bá and his sons parked a food truck outside a computer manufacturing plant, targeting Vietnamese who couldn't go far or spend much for lunch. Lê, a wealthy sugar merchant who had lost everything in the Communist takeover of South Vietnam, sold the cheapest fare around, including Vietnamese baguette sandwiches. It didn't take long before bánh mì caught on with non-Vietnamese workers as well as local college students.

By 1983, Lê's sons, Chieu and Henry, turned the success of the sandwich into Lee Bros. Foodservices, Inc.--the family Americanized their name to Lee--which today serves more than five hundred independently owned food trucks throughout northern California. The business also evolved into Lee's Sandwiches, a fast food chain of dozens of shops selling bánh mì from San Francisco to Houston. Cathy Chaplin, author of the Food Lover's Guide to Los Angeles, once blogged, "If there was a Lee's Sandwiches for every McDonald's, the world would be a better place." Indeed, when Lê died, his obituary in the San Jose Mercury News called him the Ray Kroc of Vietnamese sandwiches.

Bánh mì's meteoric rise in the past few years is probably best explained by a convergence of pop-culture food trends in the United States--the popularity of food trucks dishing up tasty and inventive street food, the explosion in food blogging, the phenomenal success of television cooking shows, and the advent of the celebrity chef. The bánh mì craze has produced an authority on the subject, Andrea Nguyen, a northern California writer whose blog, Viet World Kitchen, explores the culinary traditions of Vietnam as well as of Asia more broadly. She published The Bánh Mì Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches, which made National Public Radio's list of best cookbooks of 2014.

"Vietnamese bánh mì offers a wealth of textures," Nguyen told me. "Crispy bread! Fatty mayo and meats! Crunchy pickles! Hot chilies! Refreshing cucumber and herbs!" Nguyen attributes bánh mì's crossover appeal to its familiarity and adaptability. "It's pretty, not overly mysterious for people interested in exploring new cuisines," she says. "It's varied in fresh vegetables, light flavors, and people can more or less identify what they're eating. Vietnamese cuisine blends East Asia with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the West. Bánh mì is the perfect hybrid." One of her recent blog posts: "Laughing Cow Cheese Omelet Bánh Mì Recipe."

Pauline Nguyen, cookbook author and owner of the Red Lantern, Sidney's top Vietnamese restaurant, sees the bánh mì's attraction in its exquisite taste. "Let's face it, the traditional French baguette with jambon, a bit of fromage, and possibly some cornichon, doesn't quite compare," she says. "You have a beautiful balance of the sweet and piquant of pickled vegetable, the heat of chilies, and richness of the pâté and mayonnaise, along with the unctuousness of the pork terrine, the aromas of the coriander and spring onion, and of course the texture of crisp baguette."

Just as the cheap price drew Vietnamese to bánh mì, says Minh Tsai, CEO of the Hodo Soy tofu business in Oakland, it is one of the reasons for its spreading interest among non-Vietnamese. He explains that bánh mì was quickly recognized as a bargain because Americans always perceived Vietnamese food as tasty yet inexpensive. For the same reason, he adds, phở, the Vietnamese noodle soup, likewise has become a ubiquitous dish across America.

"It was all about volume and cheap labor," says Steve Do, among the boat people who fled Vietnam for the United States in the 1980s, who found financial success in real estate and Internet technology stocks. "I lived with bánh mì while going to high school and college, and I knew several families who worked in the business," he told me. "Families working together making sandwiches eliminate labor cost--even underage kids make sandwiches after school to help the family out. Often the stores don't hire anyone but Vietnamese newcomers who work under the table while still on government subsidies. It's the refugee way, but it works."

If bánh mì survives as common street food in Vietnam today, I imagine that some vendors would get a kick out of knowing that the Việt Kiều--Vietnamese overseas--took the sandwich on to international fame and glory.

Andrew Lam is an editor with New America Media and author of the "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora," and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." His latest book is "Birds of Paradise Lost," a short story collection, was published in 2013 and won a Pen/Josephine Miles Literary Award in 2014. The above essay is an excerpt from a longer version in The Cairo Review.

Vietnam's banh mi on the rise in Bay Area, beyond

Let's face it. We're a sandwich society. From hoagies to cheesesteaks to BLTs, there's something about bread as a bookend for meat and veggies that we just can't resist.

Take the rise of banh mi in modern America. The tangy Vietnamese sandwiches are as ingrained in Orange County as they are in po' boy-rich New Orleans. Here in the Bay Area, you'll find banh mi in nearly every town, while San Jose is home to Lee's Sandwiches and also launched Chicago's popular Ba Le franchise.

Banh mi lovers can flock from sandwich shops to food trucks to full-service restaurants to get their fix. And why not? At $3 apiece, give or take a dollar, banh mi is one of the cheapest meals around.

"It's a staple," says Lele Huong, whose family opened Cam Huong in Oakland in 1986. "Everybody likes it, and you can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner - just like you can eat pho at 5 in the morning or late at night."

A bite of Ba Le Banh Mi's fried egg sandwich, and I'm in comfort food paradise, a trail of crumbs marking the way. What tickles me more, though, is the history of the sandwich.

Sometimes called a Vietnamese sandwich or a Saigon sub, the lineage is largely French. The French introduced the baguette and delicacies like pate and cornichons during colonial times, and, as the years went by, their sandwich was slowly hybridized by the Vietnamese.

Wheat flour, which had to be imported, was cut with rice flour, which gave rolls their signature airiness. Cornichons became pickled carrots and daikon. Pricey goose and duck livers were replaced by pork and chicken livers.

Add in staple Vietnamese herbs and spices, and the modern banh mi was born.

Making banh mi

You start with a toasted baguette, perhaps hollowed out to make room for the filling. Slather mayo on one side, pate on the other. Add some pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, and your choice of protein. Top it off with a sprinkle of Maggi seasoning or soy sauce.

It's a sandwich you can easily slap together at home (see recipes), though it's best to leave the bread to the pros. It's what most of the Bay Area's sandwich shops do, Cam Huong and Thanh Huong being among the exceptions.

Saigon Sandwiches, for example, uses bread from Bakers of Paris in Brisbane. Like the French, they use only wheat flour for their rolls. That trademark banh mi crust - one bite, and it shatters into a thousand pieces - comes from the rolls being baked in rack ovens with hot air pulsed in, creating a thin crust all-around.

'Easy to eat'

"What they want is a light crust that makes a sandwich easy to eat and doesn't compete with the inside - because the inside is so good," says Bakers of Paris owner Lionel Robbe-Jedeau.

Indeed, banh mi thit nguoi is considered the classic, a pork-heavy combination of cold cuts and pate. Saigon has an outstanding meatball sandwich Little Vietnam Cafe in San Francisco excels with its five-spice chicken and Cam Huong offers a unique savory grilled beef with onions.

Nowadays, it's not unusual to find banh mi with salmon and avocado. But traditionally, Vietnamese cold cuts are at the very heart of banh mi.

Worth a read - and a test-drive - is Andrea Nguyen's "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen," which demystifies charcuterie like head cheese and pate. Not only is her Chicken Liver Pate decadent, but it's wholly do-able.

Nguyen, who grew up in Orange County and lives in the Bay Area, remembers her parents buying banh mi by the dozen. At $1 a piece back in the day, they didn't break the bank. Nor were they meant to hold you over for very long.

"You walk away with crumbs raining down, and you're as happy as a clam," Nguyen recalls with a laugh. "And an hour and a half later, you're hungry again."

My own banh mi passage began years ago in coastal Vietnam. A friend and I were backpacking from the south to the north, and bought banh mi at every street stall we encountered.

We never knew what we'd get in our baguettes. Once, there was just a smear of pate to go with the tangy vegetables. Another time, a fried egg was added. Sometimes, we got nothing - the carts were nowhere to be found.

Those banh mi-free days always seemed a little off. Thankfully, they never lasted very long. A new town always brought a new round of beguiling baguettes.

-- See H8 for recipes and shops

Banh mi favorites

Here are some of our favorite Bay Area banh mi shops. Please add your favorites to this list on

Ba Le Banh Mi, 1909 International Blvd. (at 15th Avenue), Oakland, (510) 261-9800.

Cam Huong, 702 International Blvd. (near Seventh Avenue), Oakland, (510) 444-2500. Also 920 Webster St. (at 11th Street), Oakland, (510) 444-8800.

Huong Lan Sandwich, 1655 Tully Road (near South King Road), San Jose, (408) 258-8868.

Little Vietnam Cafe, 309 Sixth Ave. (near Clement Street), San Francisco, (415) 876-0283.

Saigon Sandwich, 560 Larkin St. (near Eddy Street), San Francisco, (415) 474-5698.

Thanh Huong, 2050 N. Capitol Ave. (near Northwood Drive), San Jose, (408) 297-0595. Also 2593 Senter Road (near Feldspar), San Jose, (408) 297-0595.

Little Vietnam Cafe's Banh Mi Ga

Makes about 6 1-cup servings

This tiny shop in San Francisco's Richmond District serves one of the best Vietnamese chicken sandwiches in the Bay Area. Rather than shredded chicken, the cafe uses whole chicken thighs marinated in a 5-spice dressing. While great in sandwiches, the chicken can also be used in salads and stir-fries.

  • 6 boneless chicken thighs, butterflied
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon 5-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric

Instructions: Wash and dry chicken thighs set aside. Combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, 5-spice powder and turmeric in a medium-size bowl. Add the chicken thighs and coat to marinate pieces evenly. Refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Prepare a grill. Once ready, grill chicken for about 10 to 12 minutes on each side, until done, basting chicken twice with leftover marinade. Remove from grill, transfer to a plate, and use in banh mi, salad or over rice.

The calories and other nutrients absorbed from marinades and syrups vary and are difficult to estimate. Therefore, this recipe contains no analysis.

Pickled Daikon & Carrots

Makes about 2 cups

These pickled vegetables are at the heart of every Vietnamese sandwich. Sweet, tangy and crunchy, they also make a fantastic condiment for grilled meats. It's worth the extra time to julienne the vegetables - it makes for a nice crunch. These will keep up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 pound daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon + 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup hot water

Instructions: Place the cut carrots and daikons in a large mixing bowl sprinkle with the salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Toss and let sit for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to give. Rinse and drain the vegetables in a colander, then place them in a 1-quart jar.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar and water in a medium-size mixing bowl stir to dissolve. Pour the brine into over the vegetables, fully submerging the vegetables. Let stand for about an hour. After that, store in the refrigerator. The vegetables are best after several days of brining.

The calories and other nutrients absorbed from brines vary and are difficult to estimate. Therefore, this recipe contains no analysis.

Chicken Liver Pate

Makes one 3-pound loaf

This recipe is adapted from "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen," by Bay Area cookbook author Andrea Nguyen (Ten Speed Press, 2006). Pork fatback is found at most Asian or Mexican grocery stores. The key is to use the fattiest ground meats possible - this isn't the time for lean cuts. The pate will keep in the refrigerator for 10 days, but it gets soggy if frozen.

  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound pork fatback, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound chicken livers, yellowish membranes trimmed
  • 2/3 pound ground pork, coarsely chopped to loosen
  • 1/3 pound ground beef, coarsely chopped to loosen
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons Cognac
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
  • -- Butter for greasing the pan and parchment
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves

Instructions: Place the onion and garlic in a food processor, pulse to mince, then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the pork fatback, chicken livers, ground pork, ground beef, eggs, Cognac, pepper, salt and five-spice powder. Mix well with a rubber spatula.

Working in batches, place the mixture in a food processor and process into a smooth, light tan, loose paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Each batch should take about 2 minutes transfer to a large mixing bowl, and use a spatula to mix all the batches together.

Check the seasoning: Saute a spoonful in a small skillet until well done, let cool, taste and adjust if necessary.

Meanwhile, place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a kettle of water to a boil, then lower the heat to keep it hot.

Butter a 6-cup loaf pan. Scrape in the pate mixture smooth the top with a spatula. Bang the pan on a stable countertop to remove air bubbles. Arrange the bay leaves on top.

Butter a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the pate and place it, buttered-side down, over the pate. Cover snugly with aluminum foil, leaving about 1 inch overhang to wrap around the pan.

Place the loaf pan in a larger baking pan and pour enough boiling water into the baking pan to come about 1 inch up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pate registers 160° on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the baking pan from the oven and set the loaf pan aside to cool for about 1 hour, then place a same-size loaf pan on top of the covered pate, and weight it down with a 5-pound brick or a few cans of food to compact the pate and create a smoother texture. When the pate is completely cool, in about an hour, remove the weight and pour off excess juices that have collected in the pan. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 days to let flavors blend.

To serve, unmold the cold pate, discarding the foil and parchment paper. Cut the pate into thin slices or a 1/2-inch thick slab, and lay out on a serving plate. Let the pate come to room temperature before serving. For banh mi, spread a generous amount on a toasted baguette.

Per 1/8 -pound serving: 92 calories, 7 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (2 g saturated), 87 mg cholesterol, 293 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.

Basic Mayonnaise

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

This recipe is adapted from Gregory Dao, who runs Veck's Saigon Street Food in Orange County. Dao uses vinegar instead of the lemon juice for acidity.

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar (see Note)
  • 1 teaspoon salt + more to taste
  • -- Pinch of ground white pepper
  • 2 cups canola oil

Instructions: Place the eggs, extra yolk, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend about 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly foamy. With the machine running, add the oil drop by drop, being careful not to break the emulsion, until the mixture begins to thicken. Continue adding the oil in a slow, steady stream until all of it is incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Refrigerate in an airtight jar - it should keep for several days.

Note: Rice vinegar is milder than distilled, so adjust to your taste. Use distilled vinegar for a punchier mayo, or a mix of both for a milder taste.

Per tablespoon: 102 calories, 0 g protein, 0 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat (1 g saturated), 16 mg cholesterol, 57 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.


Wonderful. I've made this several times and everyone loves it. Double the fish and soy sauce. Also you can use a store bought rotisserie chicken and debone it. I like that much better than just chicken breasts.

A good base recipe - I ended up sauteeing the chicken and onions (and a little garlic) with the oil, and combining that with the soy & fish sauces, instead of putting them on the bread. Used Braunswieger instead of regular liverwurst, because that's what was cheap/available, but it ended up adding the perfect pork-y, organ-meat-y flavor. The pickled carrots and daikon are my absolute favorite part of Banh Mi. If you want to make the real deal, check out the Do Chua recipe on the Vietworldkitchen blog. (it's still super easy, but needs at least an hour to sit)

This was absolutely delicious. I was craving something savory and tangy with a touch of sweet and this hit all the best spots!

Yummy! Each year I look for new recipes to use the Daikon from my CSA. This one will go into the keeper file for sure. I used ciabatta for the bread,added the veg oil, fish and soy sauces to the slaw (as suggested by other reviewers)and used the leftover pepper from my hot sauce making (master hot sauce on this site) in the place of the jalapenos. The only change I would make in the future is to add some siraycha to the mayo and maybe try some other types of pate (loved the liverwurst by always looking for a new twist).

I loved this! I've only had (many) banh mi from two different restaurants, so I don't have much to compare it to. However, this recipe completely satisfied my cravings. And, while I've generally shied away from liverwurst in my life, it was a great addition to this sandwich. So refreshing and perfect.

Fantastic Banh Mi! Wouldn't change a thing.

No no no! Why would this recipe use liverwurst when it's just as easy to get tinned pate to use (which is the authentic ingredient)? And why would one put fish sauce and soy sauce on the bread? At least the mayo and cilantro are spot-on. As someone married to a Vietnamese man, I'll just keep making them the authentic way, or I'll go get some for $2 each!

I have had the real thing, and I thought this was authentic. The person who criticizes it for having liverwurst in it is being silly. There are banh mi made with liverwurst all over SF, and they are good. In any case, I used some leftover roast duck meat rather than chicken and liverwurst, radish leaves instead of cilantro, and kewpie mayo. This all worked out great. I agree with others that the amount of fish sauce is too much. I reduced to about 1/2 T. I think the kewpie mayo makes a pretty big difference.

Excellent and easy. I would use different bread. Will make it again.

As someone who has never had a Vietnamese bahn mi and therefore was not comparing this to anything, I found it to be an amazingly delicious sandwich! I love all the flavors and the spice of the jalapenos was perfect.

This is a perfectly fine sandwich, but it's nothing whatsoever like a real banh mi. It's as close to a real Vietnamese sandwich as chop suey is to real Chinese food. Why not make the real thing? It's just as easy.

Not even close. Where's the garlic? What's with the liverwurst - so you can use chicken instead of pork? Try the recipe at recipezaar dot com #26412. Just serve sliced jalapenos on side for those who don't like heat.

This was a decent tasting sandwich, however, it did not compare remotely to any Vietnamese sandwiches I have had "out." Also, the daikon/carrot/vinegar combination had a VERY unpleasant, unappetizing odor. I couldn't put my finger on it as none of those ingredients separately smelled bad. I will not be making this again.

We had a Vietnamese sandwich at a little carry-out restaurant in Boston, which we loved and when I saw this recipe I had to make it. It did not disappoint! Yum, yum, yum. We did skip the liverwurst.

Tasty but missing something. Since the Vietnamese takeout has the same thing for less than $3. I wouldn't bother to make it again.

This isn't true recipe, living in San Francisco where there is one on every block, it doesn't taste truly the same. To fix that, make you own mayonasie, make sure all vegetables are picked, and you a sourdough roll.

We had a sandwich similar to this in Boston at a small Vietnamese storefront. We had fond memories of it so I was thrilled to find this recipe. I made it without the liverwurst and it was still excellent - definitely going in the regular rotation.

This tastes exactly like the wonderful Vietnamese sandwich shops (although the traditional Vietnamese version uses roast pork, not chicken - I think the pork tastes better, certainly more authentic). I have loved these sandwiches for years. Don't be tempted to skip or substitute ingredients, especially the cilantro - you will miss the authentic taste that comes from all these flavors blending together. Many people add Hoisin Sauce as a condiment in the restaurants, an addition I strongly recommend!

As has been said, you can leave out the liverwurst, but I always add some siraycha (red vietnamese hot sauce) it was always on these sandwiches when I lived in Hawaii.

This was a great change of pace. Asked my husband if he wanted a sandwich, didn't ask what kind, but I know he loves Braunschweiger. Kept trying to tell how great it was with his mouth full. Bad manners, that boy, but excellent taste. Asks me for it all the time now.

Don't let the liverwurst or pate turn you off from making this dish. simply leave off that ingredient and you will still have a FABULOUS sandwich. Exceptional copy of the sandwiches I get at my corner Vietnamese deli!

I followed the recipe exactly. An unusual but tasty combination! I found that the liverwurst over- powered much of the other ingrediants so next time I'll use a little less. I may also add the fish sauce & soy sauce to the slaw rather than spread it on the bread as I could not taste either. My whole family loved the combination of textures & flavors so we'll be making this one again.

I didn't think my family would like these but the combination really worked and they are delicious! We often have leftover chicken so the only thing I had to buy special was the liverwurst and daikon. We will make these again.

Tasty recipe! The only modification I made was to decrease the fish sauce to 1 1/2 teaspoons. Also drained the slaw by squeezing it thoroughly with my hands 'til almost dry. Great sandwich with and w/out mayo.

Interesting mix of ingredients. All do-able but had to leave the May(?) out, just seemed. wrong. Great slaw for the sandwich, cut the amount of vinegar, seemed to be a bit much, added cilantro to the slaw. Overall a great idea, workable/tweakable

Watch the video: Banh Mi Boys in Toronto does classic banh mi (June 2022).