Last week our investigation into the origins of perhaps Asia's favorite sandwich -- banh mi -- was published in Wall Street Journal Asia. Read the story here.
If you saw our May post on op la -- a delectable a.m. pan-fry of eggs, charcuterie, and sausage -- it will probably come as no surprise that our favorite banh mi in Saigon is served up at the same shop, Hoa Ma Quan.Unsurprisingly, it comes down to the quality of the ingredients.
This shop makes its own mayonnaise and pate, daily. They're both so good all they really need is a crusty loaf, but they really add something special to the house banh mi.
Also, that bread -- it's kept warm in an old-fashioned 'oven' of stacked metal trays suspended over a single charcoal-fired burner. When your banh mi arrives the bread is warmed through and through, and the crust is super crackly.
Hoa Ma Quan's pickle is also something special, wide strips of carrot and cucumber and a little daikon with just the perfect sugar-vinegar sweetish tang. Here, if you order your banh mi to go they pack the pickle separately so that its juices don't soggify the bread.
These folks take their banh mi pretty seriously. Which makes for some pretty happy customers.
Hoa Ma Quan, 53 Cao Thang, District 3; no phone; 6 a.m. to noon (often sold out by 11 a.m.)
To read our other contributions in this WSJA series on Asia's iconic dishes, click dish names from the list below:
Chengdu: Mapo Dofu
Chiang Mai: Khao Soi
Singapore (and Malaysia's) Chinese New Year Specialty: Yu Sheng/Yee Sang
Penang: Asam Laksa
Jogjakarta: Ayam Goreng JogjaJakarta: Gado-Gado
Saigon: Canh Chua
Hoi An: Cao Lau