Bánh mì (/ˈbæn ˌmiː/; [ɓǎɲ mî]) is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread. The word is derived from bánh (bread) and mì (wheat, also spelled mỳ in northern Vietnam). Bread, or more specifically the baguette, was introduced by the French during its colonial period. The bread most commonly found in Vietnam is a single-serving baguette, which is usually more airy than its Western counterpart, with a thinner crust.
The term bánh mì is also sometimes used as a synecdoche for a "Vietnamese sandwich".
In the Western Hemisphere, especially in areas with substantial Vietnamese expatriate communities, the term is used to refer to a type of meat-filled sandwich on bánh mì bread, found in Vietnamese bakeries. Unlike the traditional French baguette, the Vietnamese baguette is made with rice flour along with wheat flour. Typical fillings include steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver pâté, pork floss, grilled chicken, chicken floss, canned sardines in tomato sauce, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce, head cheese, fried eggs, mock duck, and tofu. Accompanying vegetables typically include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro (leaves of the coriander plant) and pickled carrots and white radishes in shredded form. Common condiments include spicy chili sauce, sliced chilis, mayonnaise, and cheese.
In the Vietnamese language, these sandwiches would be referred to as e.g. bánh mì xíu mại for a baguette with crushed pork meatball, bánh mì pâté chả thịt for a baguette or sandwich with pâté, Vietnamese sausage and meat, usually pork bellies, since it is the most common kind of meat. Almost all of these varieties are innovations made by or introduced in Saigon and they are known as bánh mì Sài Gòn ("Saigon-Style" banh mi); the most popular form is bánh mì thịt (thịt means "meat"). However, even in Vietnam, "a bánh mì for breakfast" implies a meat-filled sandwich for breakfast, not just bread.
Banh mi was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on 24 March 2011.
The Vietnamese sandwich, sometimes called a "bánh mì sandwich", is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, pâté, jalapeño, and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients, such as coriander, cucumber, and pickled carrots and white radish.
The classic version, bánh mì thịt nguội, sometimes known as bánh mì đặc biệt or "special combo", is made with various Vietnamese cold cuts, such as sliced pork or pork bellies, chả lụa (pork sausage), and head cheese, along with the liver pâté and vegetables like carrot or cucumbers.
Some restaurants also offer bánh mì chay, a vegetarian option, made with tofu or seitan. In Vietnam, vegetarian sandwiches are less common on the streets. They are usually made at Buddhist temples during special religious events.
In Louisiana, US, a Vietnamese sandwich is known as a "Vietnamese po' boy." A restaurant in Philadelphia, US also sells a similar sandwich, marketed as a "Vietnamese hoagie".
Another option is the breakfast bánh mì, with scrambled eggs served in a baguette. The version eaten more widely for breakfast in Vietnam contains fried eggs with onions, sprinkled with soy sauce, served on a fresh (and sometimes buttered) baguette.
An ice cream sandwich called bánh mì kẹp kem is commonly sold on the street as a snack. It consists of scoops of ice cream stuffed inside a bánh mì, topped with crushed peanuts.