Bánh mì, a delicious Franco-Viet baguette, is a big part of Vietnam's street food culture. Now, they're ubiquitous in London – popping up not only in market stalls, but in Vietnamese cafés and restaurants, too. Here are the best spots in town to find a beautiful Bánh mì baguette.
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The best bánh mì in London
Banhmi11, the second street-food stall to have specialised in the Vietnamese fast food, has now become a Saturday fixture at Broadway Market. The crisp-shelled baguettes are filled with a choice of freshly grilled meats, fish or tofu and topped with carrot, daikon pickle, cucumber and coriander.
Bermondsey Vietnamese, Caphe House, has upped sticks and moved north of the river to this Smithfield location. They've changed their name, too - to reflect the dish in which they now specialise. But you can also order banh mi from the lunchtime menu, with options including a lemongrass tofu option and a special with pate, roast pork and pork roll.
Long before you see this charming little Vietnamese café, you’ll smell some enticing aromas wafting down the street. At lunchtime, you can expect to see a line of City workers at the door. The ‘classic pork’ banh mi comes with a succulent cold cut of pork, earthy liver pâté, fiery chilli, crunchy veg and fresh coriander, all in a light crispy baguette.
The principal offering here is bánh mì. And the most important element of a great bánh mì is the roll itself. A crackly, thin crust should give way to soft, airy crumb; it’s not a French stick, and shouldn’t feel as heavy. When we took our first bite here, we knew that we were in the presence of roll models: they couldn’t have been better. And later we learned that they’re made for Kêu by the Sally Clarke Bakery, one of London’s best. This is not to say that the fillings were negligible. The ‘Classic’ combo contains slices of roast pork with cucumber sticks, coriander leaves, red chilli and pickled carrot and daikon. Simple, but good.
The two French men behind this Fitzrovia café are fusing more typically artisanal baguettes (chewy, dense and crisp-crusted) with a combination of rich and zingy South East Asian fillings to create Gallic-style banh mi. Care has been taken to get the flavours right. Some baguettes are infused with Asian spice mixes; others with French ingredients such as garlic or mustard. Fillings such as gravlax are home-cured and intensively marinated, then paired with shreds of crunchy pickled vegetables. Our favourite was a warm filling of Thai-inflected beef bourguignon, slow-simmered in coconut milk until tender.
This takeaway is further proof that the Vietnamese sub is going mainstream. It offers five banh mi, plus sides including salads and summer rolls. Founder Tom Barlow spent a year in Vietnam, some of that time spent researching how to bake and fill the perfect banh mi baguette; he then built up a following at UK street-food markets. The result is commendable: the breadsticks are yielding and pliable with an airy crumb. Of the slow-cooked fillings we tried, the marinated, braised brisket – a slow-cooked take on flash-fried Vietnamese shaking beef – was rich in soy and citrus flavours.
Find more Vietnamese food in London
Vietnamese restaurants in London are popular dining destinations thanks to affordable food offerings, from bánh mì and pho to curries and noodle dishes. Many of the capital's best are Vietnamese restaurants in Shoreditch (mostly nestled at the foot of Kingsland Road) or are dotted along Mare Street, but you'll find equally good Vietnamese food in other parts of London.