Banh mi is the best sandwich to exist, but I may be a little bit biased. There’s nothing like a fresh-baked baguette brimming with fillings. And if you’re home, feel free to load on that extra seasoning sauce. You’ll find tips on how to best assemble the best bites!
I’ve had my fair share of mediocre banh mi in Toronto, because they contrast greatly to the ones in Sydney (imagine: freshly baked crusty yet fluffy bread, with a generous amount of filling for under $5). Often times the banh mi in Toronto ranges from $2.50, with a lack luster amount of filling. But if you really need your fix, the best spots in Toronto are Huy Ky and Rose’s Vietnamese Sandwich (now closed) in my books!
There are many types, served with cold to hot fillings, it just depends on your preference.
- Cold Cut (Dac Biet)
- Meatball (Xiu Mai)
- BBQ Pork (Thit Nuong)
- Lemongrass Beef (Thit Nuong)
- Grilled Chicken (Ga Nuong)
What fillings are in a traditional banh mi?
The signature sandwich includes Vietnamese mayonnaise, a peppery liver pate, and crunchy pickled vegetables (regularly daikon and carrot). Add a protein, which can be cold cuts or BBQ meats, and you have a banh mi. Batons of cucumber are a must for that crunch, and if you can tolerate Cilantro, add those in and you are 100% there.
The fillings that you’ll find in a typical Banh Mi cold cut sandwich include:
- Head cheese. Gelatinous & crunchy. A combination of pig head parts (ear, snout, etc).
- Cha lua. Vietnamese sliced ham, that has been steamed in an aromatic banana leaf.
- Sliced pork. Typically pork shank, that’s tender and lined with a fatty pinkish-red rind.
- Liver pate. Made of liver from chicken, duck or pork. Often chunky, peppery, and meaty.
- Mayonnaise. The smoothest and richest mayonnaise.
- Pickled daikon & carrot. A shredded, quick pickle.
- Cucumber. Sliced into batons.
- Cilantro. Always say yes to cilantro!
- Chili. The best is sliced Thai bird’s eye chili, or if you like a lighter spice, add sliced chili to the sauce below.
- Seasoning sauce. Maggi or Knorr only!
Gather these ingredients, and give it a try!
For my banh mi at home, I used Ace Bakery pre-baked white demi baguettes, which just needed a quick oven bake and I had fluffy baguettes. To be traditional, seek out Vietnamese baguettes from Asian bakeries or grocery stores – the baguettes are usually shorter, with a thick crust with a light, fluffy interior.
Local Toronto Recommendation: Order Banh Mi Dac Biet (aka Cold Cuts) from Banh Mi Huy-Ky on the east end in Leslieville. It’s my favourite spot for Banh Mi in Toronto. Make sure to make a visit before 12pm, because that’s when they start to run out of the good cuts.’