Banh mi is one of Vietnam’s most popular street foods and Hoi An is home to Banh Mi Phuong considered one of the best banh mi makers you’ll find in Vietnam. Banh mi is the Vietnamese word for sandwich, and it is exactly that. A crispy, light, fluffy bread, usually filled with cold cuts of meat, pate, pickled carrots, daikon and coriander.
Easy to eat, familiar and convenient, it’s not hard to see why banh mi has become popular all over the world. Hoi An is home to ‘the best banh mi’ – the now famous Banh Mi Phuong. What started off as a small banh mi stall in the Hoi An market has now expanded into a restaurant serving many of Hoi An’s Best Specialties.
In this article Hidden looks in to how this small banh mi stall gained such fame and popularity. What was it that set this specific stall apart from all the rest? A visit from world famous chef Anthony Bourdain certainly helped things! We check out Banh Mi Phuong and try ‘the best banh mi in Hoi An’. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it! In fact we’ve also sampled other contenders for the best banh mi in Hoi An, so if you’d like to follow suit read our full banh mi article here.
The History of Banh Mi in Hoi An
The trading port city of Hoi An has had many foreign influences as evidenced by the Portuguese style Old Town and the iconic Japanese bridge. Alongside foreign influences, food such as bread was introduced to Vietnam. During the French occupation, wheat was imported but because of the high cost, some bakeries added rice flour as a supplement to wheat. This created a lighter and more crisp baguette, compared to the more glutinous French baguette. Some even mark this staple street food as a signifier of Vietnam’s independence from the French and the death of colonialism.
The Vietnamese began using fillings like pate, ham, head cheese, and pickled vegetables. This combined to Hoi An making some of the best banh mi that we are used to eating today. Banh Mi is now an increasingly popular street food loved by both locals and tourists of all ages. It is a simple, quick, tasty and accessible food for all.
The Woman Behind Banh Mi Phuong
So who is Madam Phuong serving the best banh mi in Hoi An? Hidden set out to find more about this local restaurant and get the inside scoop on the woman behind it all.
To our surprise, Madam Phuong herself was working right behind the counter serving Hoi An’s best banh mi herself! She was busy working away when we asked to interview her. She happily agreed and after a short five minute wait, she greeted us warmly in her restaurant Banh Mi Phuong.
Mrs. Phuong’s love for banh mi started at a young age. She fondly remembers eating it often because she lived next to the local market. Always feeling lucky when her mother allowed her to eat this street food. She studied to be an elementary school teacher at university but after graduating, she hadn’t found a position as a teacher. As a fresh graduate, she thought to herself, “why don’t I open a small banh mi stall?”.
When she did gain employment as a fifth grade teacher, she worked full time doing both jobs – a street food vendor and a teacher. To this day, Mrs. Phuong is still teaching at an elementary school. After working at Banh Mi Phuong, she goes home to prepare lesson plans for her classes. She juggles both jobs gracefully and is still full immersed in her restaurant. Working both behind the counter and in the kitchen to make sure the operation is running well. She personally maintains her high standard at Banh Mi Phuong – and its reputation of serving the best banh mi in Hoi An.
Anthony Bourdain’s Stamp of Approval
Banh Mi Phuong started off as a small banh mi stand in Hoi An’s local market. Phuong worked behind the counter, making banh mi for the locals like she always had. Anthony Bourdain, famed American chef was in town filming an episode of his travel show No Reservations. He filmed a segment in Hoi An, eating at Banh Mi Phuong when her stall was still in the local market. He raved that Phuong’s banh mi was the best in Hoi An – a “symphony in a sandwich”.
In the early days in Hoi An, there weren’t many restaurants on Phan Chu Trinh Street (the street where Banh Mi Phuong is now located). Wisely, Phuong had set up her stall in the local market. At this time Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor didn’t have a lot of information on restaurants in Hoi An. So when Anthony Bourdain visited and reviewed this little banh mi stand, it also helped boost tourism to this Hoi An. With a review like that, who wouldn’t want to try Banh Mi Phuong!
Phuong then opened a second location on Phan Chu Trinh, where she still resides today. This is what we know today as Banh Mi Phuong – serving the best banh mi in Hoi An. With increasing glowing reviews, quality food, and consistency, in addition to Anthony Bourdain’s stamp of approval, Banh Mi Phuong restaurant has become wildly successful. Banh Mi Phuong is now a must visit for travellers in Hoi An wishing to try the best banh mi in town.
What’s on the Banh Mi Phuong Menu?
At first glance at Banh Mi Phuong, you’ll see several women hard at work behind the counter. They’re quickly making banh mi to feed their steady flow of customers. There’s a menu on the wall with descriptions in English and Vietnamese. All menu options have a number beside them for easy reference. Listed is their famous Banh Mi Thap Cam, which means a banh mi with everything alongside several other tasty options including a simple garlic banh mi and a tasty puffed tofu vegetarian option.
You can tell the cashier which banh mi you want by pointing to the menu handed to you once you reach the front of the line. Then you simply pay and receive your banh mi for takeaway. Wrapped up in environmentally friendly packaging with Banh Mi Phuong’s logo on the front. Then placed in a paper carry bag ready to be transported to your next destination (if you can wait that long!).
Hidden Hint: There are passport photos of travellers underneath the glass table in the restaurant. Leave your mark in this hot tourist attraction, and slide your own photo in.
The price for all banh mi range from 15,000 VND (.65c USD) to 30,000 VND (1.30 USD). Despite her wild success, Banh Mi Phuong has opted to keep her prices low and accessible for everyone.
Hidden’s Experience at Banh Mi Phuong
Decorated light blue in colour, the restaurant has two floors cooled by fans. The tables were busy and full of chatter accompanied by the background noise of a busy kitchen out the back. The clientele in Banh Mi Phuong really felt like a microcosm of expats and travellers in Hoi An. Solo travelers, families, young couples, backpackers, and retired couples on vacation where all eating at Banh Mi Phuong.
We couldn’t go past ordering Hoi An’s best banh mi from Banh Mi Phuong – the popular banh mi thap cam. We also wanted to try the garlic banh mi and vegetarian banh mi as well. Once you get here – you’ll want to do the same!
Our sandwiches were served within minutes of ordering. The bread here in Hoi An is absolutely divine; crispy, crunchy yet light and airy. There is no contest that Hoi An serves up the best bread for banh mi in Vietnam. The banh mi thap cam was flavourful and delicious. You could definitely be full by eating just one banh mi thap cam – it’s a meal in itself! Their garlic banh mi was also super tasty. A typical garlic butter spread on the perfect bread vehicle. Lastly, their vegetarian banh mi was served with perfectly marinated, slightly sweet puffed tofu and crunchy vegetables.
The sandwiches served at Banh Mi Phuong are worth the rave reviews they’d have to be one of the bests banh mi’s in Hoi An. But what’s also special about this place is that this is a restaurant with a heart. They care about the food, the quality and their customers. Everything is clean and Mrs. Phuong has proudly stated that no one in the history of her opening her shop has ever had food poisoning from her restaurant. Squashing any nerves from tourists about trying street food. Mrs Phuong prides over her restaurant being clean and food being fresh and delicious.
Hidden Hint: To avoid the long queues walk straight into the restaurant. You’ll be served right away. If you don’t want to stay and eat, you can just grab your banh mi to go.
In addition to banh mi, they offer other Hoi An specialties like cao lau, banh xeo, and com ga. You can get a good all round taste of Hoi An’s local food just by eating at Banh Mi Phuong. As per the banh mi, the food is fresh and comes out quickly. Again the prices are incredibly reasonable.
Banh Mi Phuong is now a major tourist attraction in Hoi An. They continue to prove that they are deserving of the fame and recognition they have for serving one of the the best banh mi in Hoi An. Their food uses fresh ingredients and the friendly staff serve you a very tasty banh mi for more than reasonable prices. Banh Mi Phuong is definitely worth a visit when the hunger pains hit while you’re walking in streets in the Old Town.
The somewhat chaotic queue, quick pace work ethic and fast food delivery make visiting Banh Mi Phuong an experience in its own. Anthony Bourdain wasn’t wrong when he said that this is a one of the best banh mi in Hoi An, and seeing all the smiling customers eat their food right outside the shop only further reaffirms his claim.
Banh Mi Phuong – Opening Hours, Address and Map
Address: 2b Phan Chu Trinh – Opening Hours: 6:30am – 9:30pm Monday – Sunday