Bánh Mì - Indochine Sandwiches

vietnamese banh mi toronto

I was lucky enough to go to George Brown Culinary when it was still in Kensington Market in Toronto. One the great cheap eats in the area were the $1 Saigon subs they sold at a shop near Dundas and Spadina. Since those days the Bánh Mì sandwich has become popular all over Toronto and any major city in the States with a South East Asian population.
Originating in the colonial French cities of Saigon, Vientiene, and Phnom Penh, these sandwiches consist of a French style baguette called bánh mì in Vietnam,  khao jee in Laos, and nam pang in Cambodia. The Bánh mì baguette recipe was modified to include rice flour to help it stand up to the heat and humidity in this region making them extra light and crispy. These special baguettes are filled with locally flavoured meats, pates, and cold cuts as well as chili, coriander and a carrot daikon salad known as do chua and sold on the streets and markets. For an interesting and in depth look at the French baguette in Indochina please read this article at http://wwwbaguetteindochina-somkieth.blogspot.com/

Baguette Cart in Luang Prabang
Travelling from town to town in Laos can be a bit of an ordeal, and the long bumpy truck rides at 6am were always a bit better if you got a couple of khao jee pate sandwiches to go. The Laotian version has a thick layer of spreadable pate and is much wetter and less spicy than it's Vietnamese counterpart. Cucumber slices are often used instead of the carrot and daikon as well. Most carts also sell the baguette with condensed milk to go with the thick morning coffee served in the region.

Typical Khao Jee Ingredients, photo from baguetteindochina-somkieth.blogspot
Here is a video of a khao jee pate sandwich being made in Vientiene.

Nam pang in Cambodia is not necessarily eaten as a sandwich. In market stalls it will be served separately with a platter of of the various meats as well as shredded green papaya, carrots, tomato and cucumber. It's more of a do-it-yourself deal and comes with a selection of great spicy condiments. I find these to be a much better deal than the pre-made versions you get in Phnom Penh, but communication can be a problem as the owners aren't use to dealing with foreigners.
from migrationology.com
Most Bánh Mì shops in North America are based on the Vietnamese style sandwich and have similar menus. This menu is from Banh Mi Bale in Toronto

1. Thap Cam or Dặc Biệt ( Combination orSpecial )- a mix of pork roll, pate and cold cuts
2.  Pha Lau - Pig ear and pork belly
3. Nem Nướng - garlic ground pork patties
4. Thịt Nướng -Vietnamese marinated grilled pork usually pork shoulder or pork butt.
5. Gà Chà Bong or Gà Nướng - shredded or grilled chicken
6. Xíu Mại - soft pork meatballs cooked in a sweet tomato based sauce.
7 Tau Hu Chay - tofu and vegetarian style
9. Bì - shredded pork skin 
10. Batệ Chà- Viet- flavoured pork pate
 Chả Bi made in Toronto

One of the most popular cold cuts in a banh mi is Chả Bi or Chả Lụa (Pork Roll). Ground up pork is packed into a roll and wrapped with banana leaves then steamed or boiled, hence producing a dense bologna type “pork roll”. These can be bought in the refrigerator section of most Asian markets.
Nem Chua

Nem Chua (Sour Pork) is also common. Little squares of sour pork meat are  seasoned with a  mixture of  vinegar, yeast, fish sauce, garlic, salt, sugar and pepper. The mixture is then wrapped  into small squares and left to pickle and ferment for about 7 days.

Chả Bi sliced
Many banh mi shops sell pre-packaged cold spring rolls and flour rolls and other small takeaway items, and some, like Banh Mi Bale in Toronto sell noodle soups and small rice dishes.

waiting for banh mi

banh mi bale toronto
where I go most often

selection of cold takeaway items at Nguyen Huong on Spadina

  To make banh mi at home, any selection of cold cuts like bologna and chicken loaf or BBQ pork, topped with chili sauce, coriander and homemade do chua on a baguette will taste pretty authentic.
Do Chua Recipe
Makes about 2 cups
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small daikon peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp fish sauce

1. Place the carrot and daikon in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt . Toss the vegetables and let sit for about 5 minutes.
2. Drain and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water.
3. To make the brine, combine the sugar, vinegar, fish sauce and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
4. Pour over the vegetables. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate for at least 1 hour

vietnamese banh mi toronto

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