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Seeking Out Saigon’s Best Banh Mi

Like other Vietnamese staples, finding the best of any one dish in a nearly impossible task. Even if one is able to find what they deem to be the best, others will surely disagree. Even so, in a recent post on the Wall Street Journal, street food expert, Robyn Eckhardt, tapped Saigon-born food writer and banh mi expert, Andrea Nguyen, to seek out Saigon’s best banh mi. 

Finding much of the city’s banh mi offerings “marred by flabby bread and insipid fillings,” the duo set out to find “banh mi worth travelling for.”

Their first stop was a cart run by Thanh Mai Hoang (Truong Dinh between Ngo Thoi Nhiem and Nguyen Dinh Chieu), who prides herself on making most of the ingredients for her banh mi dac biet from scratch. She also takes great pride in her bread:

“She’s so keen on quality that fresh baguettes are delivered to her several times over each three- to four-hour workday, during which she sells about 100 sandwiches.”

Robyn was not disappointed:

“An optimal ratio of bread to filling meant ingredients stayed put as I worked my way down the loaf, with each bite marked by the fresh tang of crunchy pickle and the richness of mayonnaise, pate and an optional runny-yolked egg.”

Next up was corner shop Hoa Ma (53 Cao Thang, District 3), operated by Thi Hanh Le, whose grandfather opened the shop in 1960 in order to work in the morning and write poetry in the afternoon. The highlights here were the pickled vegetables, “thick cross-slices of carrot, daikon and cucumber rather than the standard strips of daikon and carrot,” and the pate which was “as smooth as crushed velvet.”

On her own, Robyn checked out So 1 (1 Nguyen Thuong Hien, Phuong 5, District 3), “a shallow corner unit selling banh mi, noodles and lunchtime rice plates.” Owner Tran Linh Son turned out to be a banh mi minimalist, forfeiting the usual sauces for delicious simplicity.

Do you think Robyn uncovered Saigon’s best banh mi?

Robyn on Twitter: @EatingAsia 

Andrea Nguyen on Twitter: @aqnguyen


[Wall Steet Journal // Photo via Charles Haynes

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