Sandwiches 101: Banh Mi

Jun 29th 2018

Sandwiches 101: Banh Mi

It's nice to step away from the commercial grade meat grinder and hear some stories behind the foods that serve as foundational elements to the culinary industry. Something made you decide I love food enough to make a living off serving it. Part of that is rooted in the history of the food itself.

Newsflash: human beings need food to survive. If we're obliged to eat to live, we might as well make it delicious at the same time, right? Millennials love going out to eat and 67% of them prefer healthy options whilst restaurant hopping. But how many of us know where our food comes from? Today we're going to look at the story of a Vietnamese sandwich: Banh Mi.

Born from colonialism
The French occupied Vietnam in a place called Cochinchina. Transporting European foods across the world to Vietnam didn't work very well, so they ate local Vietnamese foods. However, wheat wouldn't grow there, so they transported bread to the colony. To exercise superiority over the Vietnamese, they didn't allow them to eat bread. 

World War I happened and the French were distracted by Germany, eventually capturing some of their stores. This is the first time the Vietnamese were allowed to have bread, though only consuming after European fashion: with meats, cheeses, fruits, etc.

Banh Mise En Place
The original sandwich came from Saigon in the 1950s when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu. A couple, known as Mr. and Mrs. Le, finally able to use bread their own way, was the first to make the sandwich. With all ingredients in the bread as a portable, edible container, they became enormously popular. Pickled veggies, proteins, baguettes, and various herbs and spices all paired together for a delicious meal on the go. To this day, the family runs a restaurant in Vietnam called Banh Mi Hoa Ma

Shortly thereafter, the banh mi sandwich was introduced to the world as people fled Vietnam and came to the United States and Europe. Already having strong Vietnamese populations in many of these places, the humble sandwich became an international staple over time.

So, when you're dreading the din of your commercial grade meat grinder, you're fed up with cutting meat, grinding meat, and look ill on the food industry, reflect on the banh mi. It went through much more difficulty than not having the best meat grinder on the market. Food for thought.