A little-known secret is that the world's best sandwich isn't found in Rome, Copenhagen or even New York City, but on the streets of Vietnam. It begins with a light baguette grilled over coals. After a smear of mayonnaise and a dollop of pâté, the crispy shell is filled with meat, crunchy pickled vegetables and fresh herbs. It is then typically seasoned with a few drops of soy sauce and a spicy chilli condiment.
An early example of fusion food, banh mi shows an obvious link with the French, rulers of Vietnam in the early 20th century. Other ingredients, including xa xiu, the barbecued pork better known as char siu, have Chinese origins, while the herbs and seasonings are distinctively south-east Asian.
Banh mi is the epitome of street food: the sandwiches are sold almost exclusively from stalls and vendors. Seating usually takes the form of tiny plastic stools, and the sandwiches are generally served to go, wrapped in recycled paper. Pâté? Meatballs or grilled pork? Chilli? Mayonnaise? Diners choose their meats, toppings and condiments. A collection of the best of south-east Asian cuisine in a western package.
If you're in the coastal city of CanTho, head to BanhmiThuy on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia st, a legendary banh mi stall where a sandwich costs 13,000 dong