I’ve said it before, Vietnamese banh mi are my favourite sandwich in the entire world!
Crisp and light baguette, fresh vegetables, savoury meat — it’s a delicious and perfect lunch.
I love taking banh mi on picnics or road trips (as long as you’ve got a cooler).
WHAT IS BANH MI?
“Banh mi” means “bread” in Vietnamese, yet it can also refer to the sandwich itself.
Today, we’re talking about the sandwich, since I already covered how to make the banh mi baguettes in this post.
Banh mi is a savoury Vietnamese fusion sandwich, made with a crusty yet airy and light baguette.
The banh mi saigon (Saigon-style banh mi, which is the style we’ll make today) was created sometime in the 1950’s and started to gain popularity in the 1980’s, especially in North America.
FILLINGS IN BANH MI
A typical banh mi saigon will have:
- assorted meat
- fresh vegetables: such as cucumber, do chua (pickled daikon and carrot)
- condiments: mayo, butter, and/or liver pate, Maggi seasoning, chilies, cilantro
COLD CUT BANH MI:
The cold cut banh mi (usually the special combo) is the most popular offering.
It includes various cold cuts such as:
- head cheese
- cha lua
- sliced pork
- liver pate
This is in addition to the cucumber, cilantro, pickled daikon and carrot.
WHAT IS HEAD CHEESE?
Despite having cheese in the name, there’s no dairy in head cheese.
Head cheese is a cold meat jelly/terrine. It has a gelatin-like consistency with bits of meat intertwined.
Traditionally, the meat from the pig’s head is boiled and simmered for a period of time, which releases natural collagen. The collagen has a jelly-like texture. Head cheese nowadays is usually set in aspic/or gelatin, which helps production.
WHAT IS CHA LUA?
Cha lua is a Vietnamese savoury pounded pork sausage made from a pork paste with potato starch. It is formed into a large cylindrical shape.
Traditionally, the pork sausage is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed or boiled.
After steaming, the cha lua is refrigerated and then sliced.
WHAT IS PATE?
From the French, pate is a ground up meat spread, usually with liver, flavoured with aromatics, butter/fat, spices, and alcohol.
You can use any type of liver pate you like — pork, chicken or duck pate will work fine.
OTHER COMMON BANH MI SANDWICH VARIATIONS:
- shredded pork
- BBQ pork (char siu)
- minced pork meatball
- tofu/meat alternatives (eg. seitan)
WHERE CAN I FIND THESE INGREDIENTS?
You can find most of the ingredients in an Asian supermarket.
If you don’t have access to the ingredients, substitute with whatever meat you have on hand.
Try cold cut deli ham, chicken breast, or pulled pork.
Like with any sandwich, you have the ability to adjust to your tastes and preferences.
HOW TO ASSEMBLE COLD CUT BANH MI
First, you’ll need crusty baguettes. If you don’t have time to make them from scratch, you can substitute with hoagie rolls, or French baguette. (Or, buy from your local Vietnamese banh mi shop!)
Slice the baguettes in half.
Slather the bottom half with mayonnaise or butter.
Next, spread on the liver pate.
Layer on the cold cut meats (cha lua / pork sausage, headcheese, pork slices).
Add the pickled daikon and carrot (do chua).
Next, add cucumbers, cilantro, and chilies (if you like it hot, or omit).
Splash a little Maggi seasoning over the top.
Close up the sandwich, and enjoy!
HOW TO ENJOY AND STORE BANH MI
Ideally, it’s best to assemble the banh mi just before you want to eat it.
Enjoy the banh mi right after assembling, especially if you have freshly baked, crisp baguette.
In addition, pair the sandwich with a refreshing Vietnamese Iced Coffee, and I’d say that’s the perfect lunch!
Store assembled banh mi in a paper bag in the fridge if you know you won’t get around to eating them right away.
Note: baguettes will lose their crispness, but will still taste OK.
FULL OF FLAVOUR & TEXTURES
With a load of various textures from the fresh and crunchy vegetables, creamy condiments, savoury meat and a pop of heat from the chilies — you’ll understand why I hold banh mi dear to my heart.
Play around with the flavours and create your own banh mi!
OTHER RECIPES YOU MAY LIKE
Be sure to let me know if you try out this simple recipe for my favourite Saigon-style banh mi. Tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below.
Cold Cut Banh Mi (Vietanmese Sandwich)
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 2 crusty baguettes homemade recipe linked in body
- 2 Tbsp butter or mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp pate
- 6 slices cha lua (Vietanmese steamed pork sausage) cut in half
- 6 slices head cheese
- 6 pcs sliced pork or char siu (BBQ pork)
- do chua (Vietnamese pickled carrot and daikon)
- cucumber sliced
- jalapeno sliced, optional
- splash of Maggi seasoning
- Slice the baguettes in half.
- Slather the bottom half with mayonnaise or butter.
- Next, spread on the liver pate.
- Layer on the cold cut meats (cha lua / pork sausage, head cheese, sliced pork).
- Add the pickled daikon and carrot (do chua).
- Next, add cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapeno (if you like it hot, or omit).
- Splash a little Maggi seasoning over the top.
- Close up the sandwiches, and enjoy!