Header image courtesy of Le Petit Saigon (Facebook)
One of our favourite experiences of travelling around Vietnam is picking up a freshly-made bánh mì from a streetside stall and exploring the city with a hot sandwich. Bánh mì are a simple delight: The Vietnamese took the baguette from the French during the colonisation period and adapted it for the humid climate, then filled it with simple local ingredients to create the perfect on-the-go sarnie.
Bánh mì is actually the Vietnamese word for bread, and the sandwich we know and love is colloquially known as such, or as a bánh mì thịt, with “thịt” being the word for meat. Traditional fillings include meatballs, fried egg, pork floss, and cold cuts, paired with pâté, pickles, fresh cucumber, chillies, and coriander.
A good bánh mì is always judged on the quality of the baguette: You want a roll with a delicate crust but perfectly airy and fluffy inside to encase the fillings. With this in mind, we (very willingly) set out to find the best bánh mì in Hong Kong so you can get your authentic Vietnamese sammich fix.
You will not find a friendlier bánh mì experience than at Soho Bánh Mì. Made up of a team (most of whom you’ll hear swapping jokes and calling orders in Vietnamese) whose passion shines through in the simple street food they offer, Soho Bánh Mì is a no-fuss spot perfect for a grab-and-go meal.
There are four bánh mì rolls on Soho Bánh Mì’s menu, all for $68, and we can wholeheartedly recommend them all: signature pork with roast pork and homemade pâté, lemongrass chicken with kaffir lime, fish cakes with turmeric and dill, and a vegetarian-friendly avocado.
The fluffy baguettes are delivered daily by a local baker as the two Soho Bánh Mì locations are quite quaint, but they complement the ingredients gorgeously, and there really is no better feeling than hearing that crunch when you bite in. We also adore the homemade chilli jam that goes into the sarnies, as well as the scallion oil, homemade mayo, and a closely guarded secret sauce.
It’s hard to find a balance, but Soho Bánh Mì has knocked it out of the park. The team is always looking to improve, so if you love (or, god forbid, hate) something, do let them know. Service is always with a smile and when it’s not busy, the owner is always up for a chat, too.
We watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations series religiously, and featured in one of the episodes was a kindly Vietnamese auntie by the name of Nguyễn Thi Thành, known lovingly as the “Lunch Lady,” who served up a rotation of local Vietnamese noodle soups made fresh daily from scratch.
Cô Thành is a tribute to the Lunch Lady from her (first and only) protégé Brian Woo, who’d apprenticed under her for three years to master her tried and true recipes. The ingredients used at Cô Thành are flown in directly from Vietnam and are hand-picked by the team and the Lunch Lady to ensure authenticity. Instead of phở, here you’ll find a homemade bánh mì that could rival any proper one from the streets of Saigon.
Cô Thành’s bánh mì are filled with deliciousness from start to finish, unlike some subs we’ve had that offered the dreaded bread-only bite. The baguette, pâté, and sausages are all made from scratch, and the selection of cold cuts include lean pork, Vietnamese ham, pork shank and skin, pork head, and ears terrine.
The bánh mì menu (all $98) is focused, just like in Saigon, and boasts the bánh mi truyền thống (with pâté and pork charcuterie), bánh mì ốp la (an egg-cellent addition to a classic with a soft-yolked fried egg), and the bánh mì thịt gà nướng (with lemongrass chicken and pâté). The baguette here strikes just the right balance between hard and soft and the chillies provide a much-needed kick to the satisfying and messy affair. Overall, a solid bánh mì to keep you going when you just can’t get to Vietnam.
Cô Thành, 2–4 Kau U Fong, Central
Love Le Garçon Saigon but only got time for a quick bite? Its sister take-out joint Le Petit Saigon is just next door! Slightly diverging from Đà Lạt traditions (where chef Bao La’s mother is from), the baguettes at Le Petit Saigon are denser from being baked in a stone oven instead of a wood oven. Bread is baked half an hour before opening and toasted to order to ensure crispness, and the end result is a very generous dusting of crumbs down our top.
We love watching the team at Le Petit Saigon assemble our bánh mì (all $88), whether it may be the classic bánh mì thịt (all the pork fillings you could ever dream of, and cheese made from a pig’s head), a lighter bánh mì gà (the chicken liver pâté is rich and gamey) or the vegetarian bánh mì chay.
If you’ve already tried the three traditional sandos on the menu, we’d recommend checking out the monthly special from Le Petit Saigon’s bánh mì du monde series that celebrates all cultures and flavours. Previous collaborations include a Northern Thailand-inspired khao soi bánh mì that we kept going back for.
Le Petit Saigon, 16 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 2455 2499
Bánh Mì Kitchen is the takeaway lunch spot that every neighbourhood deserves. As the name would suggest, they only serve up some damn delicious and authentic bánh mì. Aussie Ryan Ching worked in Ho Chi Minh City for three years before relocating to the lovely 852 and decided to share his love of bánh mì with his new home.
Baguettes used at Bánh Mì Kitchen are made in collaboration with Rise Boulangerie, and the dough is delivered to the shops daily to be baked fresh in-house. The crust is chewy yet crispy enough to leave your front dusted with crumbs, with a filling that’s dense yet light and absorbs all the flavourful drippings of the ingredients.
Fillings are also made fresh every day. Choose from cold cuts, char siu, beef brisket, lemongrass chicken, or tofu, all served with crunchy pickled carrots, daikon, spring onion, cucumber, and coriander, with all bánh mì priced at $60 or under. Keep your eyes peeled for their monthly specials like meatball & satay beef bánh mì, but especially our favourite, roast pork belly bánh mì with crackling.
Don’t forget to wash it all down with a Vietnamese coffee made from beans imported from the gorgeous highlands of Đà Lạt. If you’re ever at their Kwun Tong location, ask to borrow one of their free picnic blankets and have a bánh mì feast on the chilled-out harbourfront promenade.
Bánh Mì Bakery is sister duo Ah Chu and Ah Yee’s passion project. Bánh mì were a big part of their lives growing up, and seeing a lack of decent Viet sarnies upon their return to Hong Kong, Ah Yee quit her job to open up Bánh Mì Bakery with her younger sister, who’s a passionate cook.
Here, you’ll find up to 20 varieties of bánh mì, all priced between $61 to $138, from a classic baguette served with pig’s ear sausages and pickled daikon to more fusion flavours like fish katsu bánh mì. Vegetarian bánh mì enthusiasts will also be happy to hear that there are a few veggie options on the menu, too.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a handy board that ranks each month’s most popular orders. While loving to experiment with different cooking techniques (there’s an entire sous-vide selection), the sisters are champions of authentic flavours, sourcing all of their ingredients from Vietnam and even learning how to cook there.
You’ll find that the baguette itself at Bánh Mì Bakery is slightly different, too. In an effort to get the crunchiest crust that won’t cut the roof of your mouth, they sourced a bread that has a higher flour-to-rice-flour ratio.
Bánh Mì Bakery, 49 Lung Kong Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2360 2883
Tim Kee is a true hidden gem that Jordan locals, as well as bánh mì lovers, can vouch for. A long-standing shop that’s been run by the friendly Uncle Ho—whose full name is Fan Kwai-ho—since 1993, Tim Kee is big on nostalgia and simplicity. There are only three offerings on the menu: A large bánh mì ($76) that can be shared between four people, a small bánh mì ($39) that is perfect for one, and... a garlic bread ($9).
Tim Kee’s bánh mì are traditional to a fault. Expect a soft yet crispy baguette packed full of pickled carrots, slices of tomato and cucumber, and a combination of four kinds of cold cuts: roasted pork belly, pâté-coated pork slices, boiled pig’s knuckle slices, and deep-fried pork slices. Like your sandwiches with a bit of heat? Just ask, and you’ll quickly want a Vietnamese bia to wash down the fresh chillies hidden inside the hearty roll.
Uncle Ho sells up to 150 sandwiches a day, making all the fillings from scratch and sourcing his baguettes from a local baker who’s been supplying Tim Kee since before Uncle Ho took over. You’ll often find people lining up outside Tim Kee until midnight, a testament to its long-lasting popularity.
Tim Kee French Sandwiches, Shop A, Man Yiu Building, 30 Man Yuen Street, Jordan | (+852) 2385 7939