Translated simply as “wheat,” the banh mi is a delicious and ever-varying combination of deli-style pork, pate and veggies (think carrots, cilantro, cucumber, etc), stuffed into a soft and crunchy French baguette.
In an age of hipster food mashups – the banh mi is the product of a true cultural and culinary blend. No food trucks, Instagram photos or tweets led to its creation. The sandwich began with colonialism – specifically, the establishment of French Indochina in 1887 – when the occupying French simply slathered butter and pate inside a baguette.
Then when the Vietnamese sent the French packing in 1954, they put their own spin on the sandwich, adding slices of pork, herbs and pickled vegetables, and creating the banh mi as we know it.
The rest of the world didn’t learn about this spectacular sandwich until after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. As many southern Vietnamese emigrated to the United States, Europe and Australia, they brought recipes, including one for their iconic sandwich.
As a result, if you’re eating a banh mi outside of Vietnam, you’re probably enjoying a southern-style snack: the baguettes are generally bigger and they’re crammed with more veggies and herbs, such as cilantro, carrots and hot peppers.
But in whatever shape or form, the Banh Mi is a delectable marriage of flavours and cultures… and I think I need one right now.