The greatest Ho Chi Minh City banh mi - Hexbag

The greatest Ho Chi Minh City banh mi


Andrea Nguyen, a Vietnamese American cook and author, searches old Saigon’s backstreets for breakfast and after-dark sandwiches.

Vietnam’s famous yet simple sandwich, the banh mi, is an airy-soft baguette filled with charcuterie meats, cheeses, pâté, and aromatic herbs and veggies.


But famous Vietnamese American chef and journalist Andrea Nguyen obsesses over banh mi. According to Nguyen, the bahn mi is more than a sandwich—it symbolizes Vietnam’s phoenix-like rising from French colonial tyranny to its quickly growing future.

Nguyen was born in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) but escaped with her family during the Vietnam War. San Francisco-based chef and culinary writer, she has produced many Vietnamese publications, including The Banh Mi Handbook, The Pho Cookbook, and Ever-Green Vietnamese. Pass the Fish Sauce is her newsletter.


“The beautiful thing about the banh mi is you’re experiencing the history of Vietnam,” he adds. “It’s a confluence of colonial and native food ways, a kaleidoscopic representation of Vietnamese cuisine.”

Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon, as residents still call it) is important to Nguyen since it invented the banh mi. Airlifted as a child during the Fall of Saigon in 1975, she often returns to the city to rediscover her roots and find the best banh mi, the street-food staple as representative of Saigon’s cosmopolitan culture as pho is to Hanoi.

“Traditionally, they were very simple, but in Saigon, it became this crazy, rock ’em, sock ’em sandwich with all sorts of ingredients,” he explains. “And because it’s so ubiquitous, it is now quintessentially Saigon.”

Thousands of carts, kiosks, cafés, and restaurants make banh mi variations. Here are Nguyen’s favorite Saigon bahn mi.

1. Top choice: Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa
The most popular place isn’t usually the greatest, but Nguyen thinks Saigoners have it right. People gather outside Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa 24 hours a day, a location praised by culinary experts and social media influencers.

“It’s really popular, but I like it because you can go there late at night and there’s always a crowd,” he adds. Banh mi is usually served for breakfast or lunch, and few restaurants serve it at night. At Huỳnh Hoa, the community feels connected and curious about what occurs.

In Huỳnh Hoa, the đặc biệt (‘the works’) is a banh mi filled with roast pork, pork floss, sausage, pate, cucumber, coriander, handmade butter, mayonnaise, chili sauce, salt, and pepper.

“The sandwiches are big and they’re VND68,000 [US$2.75], which is a fair amount,” he adds. These establishments charge extra because they utilize superior ingredients. At least you don’t have to doubt they’ll make you laugh.”


Located at 26 Đ. Lê Thị Riêng, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh City.

Call +84 962 455 517


2. Best for breakfast: Bánh Mì Hòa Mã
Breakfast banh mi—a fried egg on a Viet-style baguette—is a Saigon classic. Usually provided all day, bahn mi restaurants open at early and close at lunchtime or until they run out.

“I love a fried egg banh mi, and some places that’s all they specialise in, like at Hòa Mã,” he explains. “Everyone thinks of banh mi as this grab-and-go kind of thing, commuter food, but for breakfast, it was traditionally a sit-down meal.”

Since 1958, Hoa Ma has provided deconstructed breakfast: eggs, pâté, and different meats in a hot skillet with a baguette. The ingredients may be used to build a DIY sandwich or eaten like a western breakfast with a fork and knife.

“They’re always extra generous and it tends to be priced a little bit more because of that,” he explains.

“That’s the other thing about banh mi – people think it’s cheap food, but it wasn’t always that way,” adds. Even as a child in Vietnam before my family evacuated in 1975, I understood what a good baguette tasted like—it had more weight and chew. Hòa Mã maintains this standard.”

Located in 53 Đ. Cao Thắng, Phường 3, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh City.

Call +84 8 3839 6582

Facebook: Pages/BánhMìHòaMã

3. Recommended for risk-takers: Bánh Mì Cụ Lý
After fusion-style döner kebabs, try the banh mi’s most indulgent flavors.

“For banh mi, there’s a spectrum of how complicated it can be,” he explains. A location called Banh Mi Cụ Lý exists. This banh mi uses fried sausage and head cheese instead of cold cuts, making it distinctive.”

Breakfast-only Cụ Lý is easily recognizable by its white-awning façade, including loaded baguettes with processed meats.

“The sausage has a golden exterior and then it’s sliced,” he continues. It’s basic with cucumber and cilantro. It’s not for everyone, but I enjoy it.”


Situated in 189 Hai Bà Trưng, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh City.

Phone: +84 907 999 523


Located at 89 Đ. Cách Mạng Tháng 8, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh City.

Call +84 946 005 008

Facebook: BanhMiThoNhiKyMinhTuan.

4. Top for rapid fixes: Bánh Mì Như Lan
Visit Bánh Mì Như Lan, a reputable bakery and delicatessen in District 1 of Saigon, for a trustworthy banh mi fix.

– “Như Lan is an institution,” adds Nguyen. Visitors to Saigon find Như Lan convenient due to its central location. Unlike other delis, they make their own bread next door.”


Nguyen claims odd vendors in Saigon sometimes make the best banh mis. “Keep your eyes open for the small vendors who don’t have a shop, who are not written up anywhere, because they’re hustling for your business,” adds. Due to the absence of refrigeration, be vigilant. “You want to see that high turnover; you don’t want that mayonnaise to be sitting out for a long time,” adds. “If they have a crowd and if I can watch their moves and if they’re very careful, I circle once, I circle twice by foot and then I’m like, all right, they’re good.”

There are dozens of banh mis, from pork-stuffed sandwiches to chicken and seafood versions.

“They sell so much more than banh mi and you can order so many other different foods there,” he adds. “But whenever I’m roaming around District 1, I always walk by Như Lan and wonder, is it banh mi time?”


Located in 68 Hàm Nghi, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh City.

Call +84 968 593 378

Official Facebook page: banhminhulan365

5. Best for fusion: Bánh Mì Thổ Nhĩ Kỳ Minh Tuấn
Banh mi was fusion before ‘fusion’—a French tableside staple merging with Vietnamese cross-country flavors. As the nation’s wartime kids returned to their ethnic homes, they added to local favorites.

“One of the cool things that has come to Saigon is the döner kebab banh mi,” he adds. “They’re kind of fun, because they’re either served in a regular baguette or Eastern European-style flatbread.”

Banh mi kebab businesses are everywhere throughout the city, many unlisted on maps. Popular Bánh Mì Thổ Nhĩ Kỳ Minh Tuấn is easily accessible in District 1 with a large kebab spit turning shawarma meat on the streetside.

“Fusion over fusion. Nguyen believes it highlights the tale of Vietnamese migration and global influences, especially Vietnam’s opening up. Because Vietnamese people in and out of the nation watch YouTube and TikTok and think, ‘what should we do next?’ That produced döner kebab banh mi.”

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