Look, I’ve already confessed to not being the biggest banh mi guy, but that doesn’t mean I was not eager to find the most badass banh mi that Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) had to offer. Therefore, I knew I had to make my way to Banh Mi Huynh Hoa. The internet informed me that the lines could often be massive, but that they would mostly be filled with locals. But I had a little trick in my back pocket.
That trick really wasn’t my trick, it was simply the existence of rain, which seemed to have scared most people away from waiting in line. Thus, after only a couple of minutes of waiting in a line where I could only locate one other obvious foreigner I stood ready to order. And what and order it was. I told the lady I wanted no vegetables, except that hot peppers were good. She then took to slicing open a piece of banh mi (interesting enough, the word banh mi literally means “bread” and not “sandwich”) and loaded it up with insane-looking cured meats, a flossy pork and some meat spread (presumably pate?). I then paid up the ridiculously cheap price in dong and set to eating.
I didn’t even stop to think about what each cured meat was (and perhaps it was best that I didn’t know) as I dug in, but my tongue was met with some mighty good flavors and for the first time I felt like I could really associate with why people seem to like banh mis so much. Of course, I could never expect to find such a good banh mi back at home because people in the US seem to think banh mis have to be dominated by radishes and pickled veggies. In fact, I’m not even sure there would be too many banh mi shops in Vietnam that could match the meatiness of this banh mi beast. Oh, and the bread was pretty damn good, too.
Banh Mi Huynh Hoa treated me well and showed me just how good a banh mi sandwich can actually be. For that, I will forever be grateful for the internet that led me there.