Everyone knows that all banh mi rolls are not made equal. But what’s an authentic version supposed to taste like?
monopod wanted to know. “[M]y understanding … is that the roll is supposed to be a rice-flour baguette, or at least a regular baguette with a CRISPY outside and a LIGHT, SOFT inside. That’s what I think of as a traditional baguette, and the few I’ve had with this kind of roll have been some of my favorites,” monopod says. “However, it seems like most of the ‘higher end’ places that do banh mi … use a soft, bready roll, more like you’d find on a cheesesteak. To me, these don’t work with the sandwich and turns it into something just like a Vietnamese-flavored cheesesteak (without the cheese).”
Many hounds agree with monopod’s assessment. “I lived in Westminster, CA—aka Little Saigon—one of the biggest Vietnamese communities in the country, for many years, and definitely the bread should be crispy, crispy, crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside,” says mariacarmen. “I had one recently (in San Francisco) that was so crisp and sharp that it cut a wedge into the roof of my mouth! Not fun, but boy was the bread good.”
Its beauty lies in the complex consistency and taste, says attran99. “Banh mi means bread in Vietnamese,” attran99 says. “There’s a French-style baguette, but because of the rice flour added to the bread dough the inside is light and fluffy and less dense than a traditional baguette. The texture adds to the banh mi’s yumminess. While the flavors of the banh mi should be salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and spicy…the textures should include soft, crispy/crunchy, and chewy as well.”
It’s ultimately like no other bread in the world. “The crust is shatteringly crisp and very thin. Much thinner than a traditional baguette,” says chefj. “I have had wonderful baguettes in both France and Belgium and they are assuredly crisp, but to me not in the same super-thinness of the Vietnamese loaves.”