I have seen time and time again, the injustice that has been done to the Bánh Mì and I want to set the record straight. Just FYI, this is a ranting article because I can’t keep my frustration in anymore, so please bare with me.
By definition, Bánh Mì means bread, specifically a baguette. Now, depending on the context, a Bánh Mì could mean a baguette or a baguette sandwich.
For instance, in Vietnamese cuisine, chicken curry is often serves with a side of Bánh Mì. So if I say I’m going to have a Bánh Mì with my chicken curry, I am referring to a baguette because I would dip the bread into the curry broth. However, if I say “I’m going to have a Bánh Mì for lunch,” I am mostly like referring to a sandwich made with a baguette.
Of course, any language can be quite ambiguous if you are not familiar with it. There are classifier words, such as Không (no/nothing) and Thịt (meat), that can be added to Bánh Mì to make the meaning more clear. For instance, Bánh Mì Không means a baguette with nothing in it or a plain baguette, and Bánh Mì Thịt means a baguette with meat in it or a meat sandwich.
A Bánh Mì Thịt (meat sandwich) is comprised of grilled meat, pickles (such as carrot, daikon, or onion), vegetables (such as cucumber, cilantro, and chili), soy sauce, and spread (such mayo and pate).
With the definition of a Bánh Mì in mind, let's talk about what is NOT a Bánh Mì. Something that is not a Bánh Mì, is something that does not have bread or baguette — that’s it!
The thing is if you swap out all the ingredients that go inside a Bánh Mì, but still keep the key components, such as meat, pickles, fresh vegetables, and sauce, you still have a Bánh Mì. However, if you replace the Bánh Mì (baguette) with a tortilla, then you have a wrap. Or, if you replace the Bánh Mì with rice, then you have a rice plate. Lastly, if you remove the Bánh Mì completely, then you have a salad.
I know fusion or inspired food exists, but I just don’t like the idea of it. If a dish is labeled Bánh Mì, then I expect there to be a baguette in there, otherwise don’t call it Bánh Mì!
If you want to know more about Bánh Mì and Vietnamese food, download Not Phở. I would very much appreciate it!