Story of Banh Mi: How Does Banh Mi Become Famous Around The World?

Banh Mi Thanh Long

In recent days, there is a unique version of Vietnam Banh mi trending on social media named Banh mi Thanh long (Dragon fruit baguette). Curiously reading those posts, I suddenly realize that Vietnam Banh mi has been continuing its journey of bringing Vietnam around the world. That is a long story about the changing from the inside out of Banh mi in nearly 60 years.

Inside– The changing taste with the times

Not like Pho, officially introduced as a traditional Vietnamese dish to the world, Banh Mi itself has been changing step by step from the humble beginning to the iconic dish.

Back to the time, in the 1860s French baguettes were first introduced in Vietnam when French colonialism occupied all Southeast Asian countries. In the beginning, the French had to import wheat, which upped the cost and made their bread only accessible to the upper classes.

Baguette in Vietnam during the French occupation
Baguette in Vietnam during the French occupation. Photo:

Baguette became more popular after it was offered in Vietnam students’ meals. French people often enjoy a baguette with ham, butter, fruit jam or coffee. In contrast, a Vietnamese couple tweaked it with Vietnamese ingredients to suit our taste. The fillers ranged from Vietnamese sausages, pork floss to grilled pork belly, liver pate, balanced with soya sauce, pickled vegetables, herbs, etc. It is 1958 that marked the birth of Banh Mi and the first Banh Mi shop in the world. The shop is located on Cao Thang street in Saigon and named after their village name – Hoa Ma Village. It is said that the original taste of Banh mi begun from here.

The first Banh mi Shop in the world, Hoa Ma
The first Banh mi Shop in the world, Hoa Ma. Photo:

From 1970, Banh Mi is a purely Vietnamese dish when bakers modified the French baguette recipe to be suitable for Vietnamese taste. Because of adding the rice flour, a distinctive new version of baguette has a lighter weight, less dense crumb and crispy crust. Vietnamese baguette became shorter and it is easy to put fillers into it. From then on, Banh mi is not a fancy dish and has become more popular with everyone.

The image of Vietnamese bread after 1970
The image of Vietnamese bread after 1970. Photo.

Until 1975 and many years later, when many Vietnamese immigrated to the United States, Canada, some European countries as well as Australia, they established the Vietnamese community then many traditional dishes are widely known. Banh Mi’s journey to explore the world was started.

A Banh mi shop in Korea
A Banh mi shop in Korea. Photo:

It has traveled to many countries before become internationally famous for Chef Anthony Bourdain in 2009. This legendary chef visited Hoi An, try Banh Mi of Phuong shop, and he called it the world’s best sandwich.

Even many tourists told that they travel to Vietnam just to sample this street food. The keywords as “ Vietnamese sandwich”, “banh mi”, “Vietnamese baguette” were searched a lot so Oxford decided to add Banh Mi into its English dictionary in 2011.

Banh Mi in the Oxford English Dictionary
Banh Mi in the Oxford English Dictionary. Photo: Linh

2020 you can find a lot of shops selling Banh Mi not only in Vietnam but also in many other countries. Beside traditional-style Banh Mi with featured flavor as Hoa Ma Banh Mi, the chefs are good at making many kinds of Banh Mi pursuing customer’s tastes such as vegan Banh Mi, vegetarian Banh Mi and more. The ingredients stuffed into Banh Mi also are various that you can choose whatever you like.

The fresh ingredients of Banh mi
The fresh ingredients of Banh mi. Photo:

Suggested Banh Mi Shops

Ha Noi:

  • Banh Mi 25: 25 Hang Ca Street, Hoan Kiem
  • Banh Mi Pho: 57C Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem
  • Banh Mi Pho Co: 38 Dinh Liet, Hoan Kiem

Hoi An:

  • Banh Mi Phuong: 2b Phan Chu Trinh Street, Cam Chau

Sai Gon:

  • Banh Mi Hoa Ma: 53 Cao Thang Street, Ward 3, District 3
  • Banh Mi Huynh Hoa: 26 Le Thi Rieng Street, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1
  • Banh Mi at 37 Nguyen Trai Street, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1

Outside- The eye-catching appearance from red dragon fruit

Red Dragon Fruit Bread of ABC Bakery
Red Dragon Fruit Bread of ABC Bakery. Photo:

This is the little brother, Banh Mi Thanh Long (Dragon fruit Bread). Once again, it caught the world’s attention in this ongoing Coronavirus outbreak. All as you may know, the outbreak has caused serious damages to many fields including the economy. Agricultural products such as red dragon fruit are not allowed to export to mainland China, stuck in Vietnam. Therefore Vietnamese people have used up all those fruits as the major ingredient to produce bread. And there came the invention of Red Dragon Fruit Bread.

How is Red Dragon Fruit Bread made?

ABC Bakery Chain is the first company creating this one of a kind bread and publishes their recipe with wishing many other companies joining this rescue. With the unique crust dyed the red of dragon fruit juice, dotted with its black seeds and the fruity taste, it seems to be the most Instagram mable bread. Red Dragon Fruit Bread is similar to the making of baguette but instead of water, you will mix red dragon fruit juice into wheat and knead it.

The recipe of Red Dragon Fruit Bread of ABC Bakery
The recipe of Red Dragon Fruit Bread of ABC Bakery. Photo: Linh

Suggested Shops

  • Some branches of Big C, VinMart, Lotte Mart in Vietnam


  • Papa Gâteaux at 15 Tran Phu Street, Ba Dinh


  • ABC Bakery at No.109 on 30-4 Street, 132 Le Duan Street and 284 Trung Nu Vuong Street

Ho Chi Minh City:

  • ABC Bakery at 227 Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 2, District 5 and 175 De Tham Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1

P/s: The journey of Banh mi will not have the ending point. It certainly becomes more famous with new versions in the future. One day, you may hear about durian bread, watermelon bread and so on.

Note: If you mention Banh Mi in Vietnam, everyone understands that you talk about bread, baguette. Unless you said Banh mi kep (Sandwich), everyone understands that is Banh Mi in the Oxford dictionary.

Author: Dieu Linh – Eviva Intern

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