Food discovery: Vietnamese sandwiches, aka bánh mì


Some friends came down to visit from Vancouver to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, and when the topic of lunch arose, one of them suggested Vietnamese sandwiches.

"What are Vietnamese sandwiches?" I asked.

"Okay, that settles it. We're having Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch," was the response.

We went to the generically-named Seattle Deli and ordered our sandwiches. (I had the chicken.)

For less than three dollars I was rewarded with a wonderful sandwich. Crisp French bread around a collection of vegetables, some spicy, some pickled, some fresh, but all crispy, contrasting with the softness of the promised meat.

It's a fantastic dining experience. Too bad there are no Vietnamese sandwich shops near work.

Comments (29)
  1. Tom says:

    With the prolonged occupation of Vietnam by the French, the influence of French food and cooking on the indigenous population was inevitable.  It should be no surprise, then, the number of French-style delicatessens that are run by Vietnamese expatriates.  They certainly do make good food!

  2. Nathan_works says:

    Tom captures the essence of it. WashPost food section had a front-page spread a few months ago about the Vietnamese sandwich shops in/around the DC Metro area.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/05/AR2008020500888_pf.html

    (reg may be required)

  3. Bill says:

    These are delicious! I had gone out for lunch and on the menu were 2 or 3 lines of Vietnamese writing followed by the single English word "sandwich".

    I asked the waitress what it was and she said it was "like a Canadian sandwich."

    No idea what that meant, but I took a chance and loved it.

  4. briany says:

    Many Pho (vietnamese noodle bowl) restaurants will serve Banh mi as well. Around Totem Lake is a little place called Pho Express that serves a great sandwich. In the Bellevue-Overlake area, Andre’s restaurant had great sandwiches in the vietnamese style (but the restaurant itself is a high falutin’ sit down pan-Asian and French restaurant itself so it’ll cost ya). Try asking when you get Pho sometime.

  5. Coconut says:

    As being a Chinese, another Vietnamese food that I really like is their spring roll. They have one that using steamed rice wrapper without fried.  

  6. Mike Dunn says:

    If you like coffee, next time you’re at a Vietnamese restaurant, get an iced coffee with milk. YUMMY.

  7. Bryan says:

    "Too bad there are no Vietnamese sandwich shops near work."

    There’s a Pho Cyclo Cafe in the building 120 cafeteria that serves chicken, pork, or shrimp sandwiches. Quite good & reasonably-priced.

  8. Michael says:

    There’s a Pho Cyclo Cafe in the building 26 cafeteria as well.

  9. freddo says:

    I’m sure you can get them at the Vietnamese restaurant in the Crossroads Food Court and I’m pretty sure you can get them at Saigon City close to campus near the Kidd Valley Hamburger place.

  10. Tony says:

    If you like the chicken "banh mi" you’ll love the "banh mi ba chi" it’s cured pork, has more flavor. And the condense-milk ice coffee is fantastic too.

  11. Tony says:

    For those of you who want to try something else other than "pho" try "hu tieu" ‘also a soup like pho but has different flavor and taste’  or you can try something called "bo kho" which is a beef like stew that you eat by dipping French bread into the stew. Not every Vietnamese restaurant will have "hu tieu" and "bo kho" but you can always ask you might be surprise.

  12. Rob says:

    Saigon City on Bel-Red sometimes offers them.

  13. AC says:

    Also, Uwajimaya down the street has Vietnamese sandwiches.

  14. Graham says:

    If you are up to date on your mircospeak maybe you could ask the management to set a shop up. Tell them it will increase your productivity. :D

  15. mark says:

    If you like Thai/Vietnamese iced coffee which is made with condensed milk, you might also like the Brazilian Mocha’s they make at Kitanda Brazilian Espresso.

    There’s one near Microsoft’s Redmond campus, and one in Kirkland/Totem Lake.

  16. Jim says:

    In the bay area, the best place for this stuff is Ba Le, in a run-down strip mall at 10174 San Pablo Avenue.

  17. Nelson says:

    In Toronto, you can get these for as little as $1.50-$2.00.  Makes for an excellent quick cheap meal, perfect for lunches.

  18. biju says:

    They also do tofu banh mi at bld 120. Tasty!

  19. Dewb says:

    I made a similar discovery in San Francisco earlier this year — Lee’s Sandwiches on Larkin St.  Delicious, delicious spicy pork and vegetables in a baguette, for about $3.

  20. Seth says:

    "I’m sure you can get them at the Vietnamese restaurant in the Crossroads Food Court "

    Yes, you can – and they are fantastic.

  21. Xepol says:

    Just wish the shop near me would leave out the celantro >ick<

  22. jondr says:

    I spent 27 months in Viet Nam starting in 1968 with the US Army. At one point I ate at a mess hall that had hired Vietnamese chefs and we all ate 4-star cuisine for several months. Then some typical Army field-grade officer put a stop to that ("how can we *trust* them?") and we went back to basic Army chow. <sigh>.  BTW that unit had a higher education level in the enlisted personnel than the officers.  Intel wasn’t all bad. The EM did the actual work and the officers were there to make sure we had room & board and to attend briefings.

  23. Leverett says:

    Geez, jondr, you were in the military in 68? How old are you?

  24. Brian Jester says:

    Vietnamese sandwiches don’t get enough good press (or any press).  I like the BBQ Pork myself without the hot peppers.  The fresh cilantro is also a nice touch.  Don’t forget to order a Cafe Sua Da. (Vietnamese French-press brewed iced coffee)

  25. anonymous says:

    You should try the ones with Doi fish and anchovy sauce. :-)

  26. Mike Dunn says:

    I also have to get in a plug for the restaurant in Bellevue that has the best name ever, "What The Pho"

  27. Jeremy says:

    The exchange rate is no longer favourable.

  28. Warning #1: The Spam-filled banh mi are less delicious.  

    Warning #2: Vietnamese restaurants often do a poor job with sandwiches, covering the meat with a teriyaki glaze and ruining the flavor completely IMHO.

  29. jondr says:

    Leverett,

    How old? Well I began programming computers in 1965 (language was MAD: Michigan Algorithm Decoder). I’m lucky enough now to be retired and can pursue my own projects full-time.

    (MAD to dot NET… what a difference!)

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