If you know me, you know that I have an intense love affair with breakfast sandwiches. And seriously, what’s not to love? I can’t think of anything better than a greasy sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich on an everything bagel first thing in the morning. So imagine my disappointment when I arrive in HCMC and find no McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts or Bagel Barns. Luckily there is some sort of a god out there and he/she has blessed me with an adequate substitute to the breakfast sandwich: the Banh Mi.
Finding a Banh Mi stand in HCMC is just about as easy as finding a Starbucks in New York City. You purchase them at carts on the sidewalk and the vendors will make the sandwich in front of you right after you order. For the most part street vendors don’t speak English, but most Banh Mi carts only sell Banh Mi so you just have to walk up to the vendor and put up one finger (or two depending on how hungry you are) and point to what you want. There are other Banh Mi stands that make Banh Mi based on a protein other than egg, but the one I usually go to just sells egg based Banh Mi. I will eventually branch out and try all of the different kinds.
The sandwich is served on a baguette, which is probably the case because the French occupied Vietnam for many years. In addition to egg or whatever protein you choose, the baguette is filled with pickled carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, pate and a sweet chili sauce. The chili sauce isn’t that spicy but it definitely gives the sandwich a little kick. My Banh Mi guy will usually crack open an egg, fill up the baguette with all the other ingredients while the egg is cooking, and then toss the cooked egg on the sandwich before wrapping it up in a little bag.
The best part is that Banh Mi are ridiculously cheap. The cart I go to sells them for only 5,000 VND. THAT IS ONLY TWENTY-FIVE CENTS PER SANDWICH!!!!
So it’s not exactly like a breakfast sandwich you’d find in the States, but I think I’ll be okay for a year eating Banh Mi instead.