On a recent trip to Ho Chi Minh, I made it my mission to find the best vegetarian banh mi in the city. Before you say it, know that a vegetarian banh mi is not a true version of the sandwich but I found something pretty impressive nonetheless.
At an unassuming little shop just across from the Central Post Office, with the even more unassuming name of My Banh Mi, I found my winner.
And your grumbly, meat-loving companions will rejoice as well since this shop, which specializes only in Vietnam’s most famous sandwich, offers 11 varieties of the famous meal.
To start, all sandwich varieties are served with “generous portions of thinly-sliced, specially seasoned, slow roasted meats or vegetarian products, layered on freshly baked baguettes, garnished with your choice of pate (pork or mushroom), and garden fresh cilantro, spring onion, cucumber, and Dalat chili,” according to the menu.
In addition to many varieties of beef and pork sandwiches, they also offer a fish version, a Korean variety, a Japanese take, and a lemongrass chicken sandwich that gets rave reviews online.
But we are here to talk about the vegetarian version. Incorporating all the traditional elements mentioned above, the veg version is piled with rectangular blocks of annatto-paste marinated, pan-roasted tofu, generous spreads of earthy mushroom pate, and crispy fried Mekong Delta shallots.
Unlike many places that offer a half-hearted attempt at a veg version of a classic dish, you won’t feel deprived or like you are eating an afterthought at this cozy little bistro.
If you like to spice things up, My Banh Mi offers six homemade sauces that you can have added to any sandwich free of charge. They include soy wasabi, garlic chili fish, creamy smoky roasted black pepper, creamy basil, spicy garlic, and mirin sake teriyaki.
I tried the black pepper sauce, which had a strong hot flavor created with famed Vietnamese black pepper from the Phu Quoc islands, and the creamy basil, which is created with local basil, obviously, but also several other local herbs that enhance the basil while still letting it be the star of the show.
The vegetarian version costs VND65,000 (US$2.85). Sandwiches on the menu range from VND65,000 to VND115,000 (US$2.85-5).
This small cafe across from the post office is worth the trip for the beautiful crusty bread alone. They also serve inexpensive imported beer and wine, including Australian wines and Sapporo on draft, have low lighting, good music, and aircon, making this place a welcome respite from the craziness of Ho Chi Minh and perfect for lunch or dinner.
The sandwiches were so good, I even brought two home in my luggage!
57 Nguyen Du Street, Ben Nghe Ward
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
(+08) 3827 2145