Friday, 20 Oct 2017
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TRAVELFOOD

Banh Mi Vietnam filled it with local flavors

Updated at Sunday, 30 Jul 2017, 14:22
The Hanoitimes - That comment line among one article in South China Morning Post – Hong Kong newspaper.
Com Banh Mi chef Jerrick Constantino makes a lemongrass pork chop banh mi.
Com Banh Mi chef Jerrick Constantino makes a lemongrass pork chop banh mi.
According to an author, Vietnamese bakers took the French baguette, adapted it to the humid Southeast Asian climate, and filled it with local flavors. For Hong Kong’s burgeoning banh mi brigade, success is all about the quality of the bread.
Humidity is the enemy of “Banh mi thit” – the Vietnamese sandwich that has recently become so popular in Hong Kong. It’s a fusion dish that evolved through the French occupation of Vietnam which ended in 1954. The French introduced the baguette to Vietnam and cooks adapted it to make use of local ingredients.
The banh mi filling station at Le Petit Saigon.
The banh mi filling station at Le Petit Saigon.
A banh mi thit is judged on the quality of the banh mi (the bread), which is airy, with a more delicate crust than the French baguette, and which will soften at the first hint of humidity. In Vietnam, banh mi thit is served by street vendors or in small shops. They get around the humidity problem by receiving frequent deliveries of the bread from bakeries, and/or heating it before filling it with anything from pork meatballs or grilled chicken, to fried egg with pork floss.
Many street vendors offer what is also the most popular version outside Vietnam: pork-based cold cuts and pâté, along with pickled carrot and daikon, fresh cucumber, chilies and fresh coriander.
Australian chef Bao La oversees the quality of banh mi sandwiches at the newly opened Le Petit Saigon in Wan Chai, a small sister restaurant to Le Garcon Saigon next door. He credits the sandwich’s distinctive Vietnamese flavor to the fillings – the thinly sliced cold cuts and the pickled and fresh vegetables and herbs.
“The bakers had to adapt because it’s a lot more humid in Vietnam than it is in France,” he explains. “It’s not exactly the French baguette, but it’s a similar type of concept.” Bao sources the bread from a friend and says it took three to four months to perfect the airy and crusty texture.
Banh mi thit at Le Petit Saigon.
Banh mi thit at Le Petit Saigon.
Ryan Ching, of the three month-old Banh Mi Kitchen in Central, said, they sell around 150 rounds of banh mi a day and is proud of the high turnover and Banh Mi Kitchen’s competitive pricing. “There are a lot of Hong Kong tourists going to Vietnam on holiday now, they have tasted the food and have an idea of what it should taste like,” he says. “This helps in raising the standards of Vietnamese restaurants in Hong Kong.”
You can find Banh Mi Vietnam at many restaurants in Hong Kong including Le Petit Saigon (16 Wing Fung St, Wan Chai); Banh Mi Kitchen (22 Li Yuen St West, Central); Com Banh Mi (28 Tai Wong St East, Wan Chai); Tim Kee French Sandwiches (Man Yiu Building, 30 Man Yuen St, Jordan)…
Ha Phuong
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