That loaded-up, crunchy, crusty Vietnamese sandwich you can’t live without.
Bahm mi is one of those low-profile, simple pleasure dishes. It’s often overlooked, not thought about; yet when you do, it’s a craving you didn’t even know you were longing for. The flavour-checked sub is of Vietnamese roots, with influence from the French — hence the use of baguette as its base and the generous smearing of pâté in between. It has since evolved as a street-food favourite in Vietnam, adapted to the humid Asian climate with an even more delicate crust than the traditional baguette, becoming a beloved snack from road-side carts that stuff and serve the rolls right before your eyes.
It’s a sarnie like no other; it’s institutional, incomparable to its other bread-y counterparts. Within the perfectly crackly exterior — toasted to golden perfection — is a range of fillings, tailored to your own tastes. The consummate combo, however, will feature charcuterie cuts of pork, salty pâté, pickled veg and lashing of mayo-laced sauce. A sprinkling of chopped chillis for good measure. Get messy with this (Read: don’t wear a white shirt), it’s how you’re intended to enjoy it. Below are some recommendations of where to go when the unexpected cravings (probably after you’re through with this article) hits.
Le Petit Saigon
A city-wide favourite. Le Petit Saigon, the sibling post of Black Sheep’s Vietnamese grillhouse Le Garçon Saigon, serves one thing and one thing only: bahn mi (HK$88). Not that we’re complaining. The sandwiches here are simple and easy; a short three-on-the-list menu that makes deciding that much easier. Bánh Mì Gà. Bánh Mì Chay. Bánh Mì Thit. Chicken, tofu, pork, respectively. We’d make a suggestion to go for some sides, too. The potato gems with spicy mayo, in particular, is our favourite.
Le Petit Saigon is currently hosting a ‘Bánh Mì du Monde’ series that whisks its signature sandwiches around the globe through various cuisines. For this month of May, or the last couple day in it, it’s the Smoky Pork Twang Twang Bánh Mì by chef Rollin Harris (HK$138) on serve. Between the crackly exterior of the airy baguette, find smoky Southern-style barbecue pork, kewpie mayonnaise, cucumber and coriander stuffed in-between, dressed with chef’s tangy chilli Twang Twang dressing.
Le Petit Saigon, 16 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2455 2499
You can always count on Cô Thành for a spot of authenticity. After all, the rustic Vietnamese shop is the only overseas post that serves Nyguen Thi Thanh’s, or Saigon’s The Lunch Lady, time-honoured recipes. While the bun here is something completely worth raving about (bun bo hue (HK$118), especially), for the sake of this round up, we’ll shift the spotlight on the second favourite at the pared-back post: bahn mi. The crispy, crackly outer shell is hard to beat with a soft, airy interior that soaks up the marinade of the pickles and the punchy profile of the pâté. Throw in slices of a grilled lemongrass chicken (HK$98), you’ll find yourself face-to-face with you new favourite pick-me-up. The Bánh Mì Ốp La (HK$98) wedges fried eggs between charcuterie and pâté, perhaps a swell contender for a Friday morning breakfast?
Cô Thành, G/F, 2-4 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong
Soho Bánh Mì
While its name seems to indicate its location, the Soho post of Soho Bánh Mì have sadly drawn its shutters. Not to fret, however, the Vietnamese eatery has two other locations at Wan Chai and Tsuen Wan where you can curb bahn mi cravings, with a Kennedy Town branch on the way. News that’s like music to our ears, since the generously packed rolls (HK$68) here are a great lunch-time satisfaction. Rather than the standard grilled pork and pâté order, go for the lemongrass chicken or fish cakes with turmeric. The menu may be small but the team here is friendly and the sandwiches are delicious, with the help of a special secret sauce and delicious homemade chilli jam. You’d be guaranteed a lovely time here, whenever you visit.
Soho Bánh Mì, various locations including Shop C, 50 Johnson Road, Ship Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 5498 4236
Tim Kee French Sandwiches
An oldie but a very delicious goodie. Tim Kee’s hideaway tuck-shop at the underbelly of busy Jordan’s residential buildings will probably go unnoticed for the uninitiated. But for stalwart patrons, each corner-turn in the grid-like maze is engrained at the back of minds; steered towards like on auto-pilot. Tim Kee’s is the place to be for an authentic taste of a bahn mi, having opened its doors since the 90’s. The inside, plastered with the tiny shop’s notable mentions and awards, is no-frills, simple. Much like owner Fan Kwai-ho’s sandwiches (HK$78 large; HK$40 small) that keeps true to tradition with four types of cold cuts: pork belly, boiled pig’s knuckle slices, deep-fried pork slices and pâté-coated pork slices, all sandwiched between beautifully toasted bread (he works with a local baker that tailors the baguettes to his tailored specifications). It’s sweet, savoury and the brittle crust crumbles with each bite – truly satisfying.
Tim Kee French Sandwiches, Man Yiu Building, 30 Man Yuen Street, Jordan, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 2385 7939
Cóm Bánh Mì
Cóm Bánh Mì is the type of place you wouldn’t mind kicking back and relaxing in during long lunch breaks; the convivial eatery (albeit small) serves a hearty celebration of classic Vietnamese plates — soupy pho! — from a vibrant interior that endearingly replicates quaint street-side cafés in Hoi An. While the sub here aren’t entirely authentic takes, the bahn mi itself is still a satisfying trio of crispy, crunchy and can’t-wait-to-have-more. Flavour-checked editions that deviate from the commonplace order: lemongrass pork chop and the crispy pork belly – a touch of difference that will still pleasantly delight.
Cóm Bánh Mì, 28 Tai Wong Street East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2528 9131
Hero image courtesy of Le Petit Saigon