Bánh Mì

Bánh Mì is a term for many kinds of bread. During the colonial period, the French introduced breads, more specifically, baguettes. Bánh mì has a lighter cell structure with a thin crispy crust from the rice flour, compared to traditional French style wheat baguettes. 

The Western Hemisphere recognizes "bánh mì" as the iconic meat filled sandwich with herbs, pickled vegetables, and a type of sweet mayo. 

Banh mi is to Vietnam as hoagie is to Philadelphia or po' boy is to Louisiana. 

In Vietnam bánh mì is an art. 

We met so many families who have made and perfected the baguette for generations. Their craft is learned, practiced, perfected, then passed on to the next generation of bread makers. 

A proper base for the sandwich is a spreadable pork liver pâté.  Did you know that? Pâté on sandwiches is another culinary gift from the French. Roasted pork or duck, bbq pork, grilled chicken, head cheese, or Vietnamese sausage and egg in the mornings are typical menu items. The sandwiches are stuffed with varieties of pickled vegetables, an abundance of mixed herbs, and cucumber with spicy chili sauce or a sweet aioli. 

We make as many trips as possible to our favorite spot for bánh mì in central Vietnam when we visit. It's a flavor that never leaves my tongue or my mind. The thought of that fresh bread stuffed with all of the house made specialties is enough to make me crave even as I write. 

My father-in-law eats ice cream sandwiches like you find in Vietnam. It's bánh mì with scoops of ice cream and toasted peanuts on top. It's literally an ice cream sandwich. They are snacks to cool you down and found all over the streets during the steaming hot summer season. 

HaiSous

At HaiSous. We bake our own bánh mì (baguette) for an assortment of daily sandwiches. Chef Thai will start with his finest spread of pâté and thinly sliced headcheese that he made from slowly cooking the animal head.  The kitchen features rotisserie-roasted whole pig, properly pickled veg and fresh herbs with chilies that will overstuff the bread. We will make this because we want to eat this. And you will too.

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Central Vietnam

#nguyenlifegivesyoulemons

Do you know someone who is Vietnamese with the last name Nyugen?  It is a powerful name in their culture.  Do you know why? 

The prominent Nyugen family founded the last successful Vietnamese Dynasty in the 16th century. The Nyugen Dynasty was retained in Hue and controlled central Vietnam. It was a powerful name that was adopted by the people during the Empire's time of rule.  Everyone wanted a strong family name and many even changed their name to reflect the royal connection but also, the Emperor had many many many children that beared his name. 

Actually, the Emperor sounds like a real womanizing narcissist with his 104 wives, strict rule, and demand for a different meal every day of the year, but certainly he should be recognized as the driving force behind the refined royal cuisine comprising of many bold colorful dishes and innovative techniques of Hue. 

The Imperial cuisine 

Not completely but much of central Vietnam was spared from the tragedies of war.  Hue is in the center of Vietnam and revered as a royal base and place of origin for Imperial Cuisine. 

It's all about color, flavor, and QUANTITY. 

The Emperor demanded 3 meals per day with an assortment of 50 small dishes to enjoy. Because of the King's demand for variety, the cooks had to push the culinary boundaries and become masterful at multi course meals.  He also ate last. Just in case the staff was trying to poison him. 

Here are some specialties of Hue 

Cao Lầu

Cao Lầu means "second floor", or higher level, which is where the Emperor liked to eat.  This is a dish that is served at room temp and differs from many other types of noodle dishes.  There is no broth but rather this specialty is enjoyed with a sweet, sour, spicy, pungent, sauce that binds the flavors.  The most important part of cao lầu is the noodle.  The noodle contrasts the traditional rice flour noodle and incorporates special well water from the region that is combined with lye and stoned rice paste.  If you don't have this noodle, it's not cao lầu.

This culinary classic usually has sliced pork, lettuce, herbs, and crispy seasoned crackers for crunch.

  Cao Lầu  : Hue, Vietnam

Cao Lầu : Hue, Vietnam

Lets talk Yin to your Yang.

Bún bò Huế - Hue style beef noodle soup

  Bún Bò Huế  : Huế, Vietnam

Bún Bò Huế : Huế, Vietnam

This is a complex layering of flavors that creates exceptional balance of spice, salt, sour, and sweet, with a dominate note of lemongrass. 
Hot vs cold. A proper bowl of bún bò Huế exudes heat from chili that warms your core and sweats you out to cool you down.  The broth is simmered low and slow with beef bones, oxtail, and/or shank and shrimp paste to bring out a certain depth.  The noodle is particular as well.  The classic vermicelli rice noodle is a bit thicker and more substantial than other noodle soups found in the region.  Beef brisket or pork leg is often the main protein and sometimes has congealed pigs blood that adds a texture similar to tofu.  Banana blossom, sprouts, and herbs brings this dish together and adds a unique dimension of flavor.  My sister-in-law Chi Thu makes the best Bún bò Huế around. Hands down.

  Bún Bò Huế   :   Huế, Vietnam.  This bowl of b ún  (noodle) was made by our sister Chi Thu (Sister Thu).  Her chili oil is superior to all.  Thai reps her recipe but it's one of those things, like Heinz or Hellmann's, if you know who makes it the best then there is no reason to re invent the wheel.  What makes it all the more special is that she uses fresh lemon grass to cool the heat from the dried chili.  Her broth is CLEAR, and she lets the flavor from the bones and aromatics shine.  

Bún Bò Huế : Huế, Vietnam.  This bowl of bún (noodle) was made by our sister Chi Thu (Sister Thu).  Her chili oil is superior to all.  Thai reps her recipe but it's one of those things, like Heinz or Hellmann's, if you know who makes it the best then there is no reason to re invent the wheel.  What makes it all the more special is that she uses fresh lemon grass to cool the heat from the dried chili.  Her broth is CLEAR, and she lets the flavor from the bones and aromatics shine.  

Bánh bèo - steamed mini rice flour (and water) dumpling. 

Too bad I didn't take any amazing pictures of this dish that is often served with dried shrimp, scallion confit, or dried pork. Sweet and sour flavors from the nuoc chấm (flavored fish sauce with chili, garlic) compliments the silky dumpling.  You will have to wait for Chef Thai to re-create to see these beauties.

I do, however, have a picture of this gem.  Imperial cuisine is full of decorative and edible garnishes.  This skill level may be beyond Chef Thai tho. 

  Bún Bò Huế   :   Huế, Vietnam

Bún Bò Huế : Huế, Vietnam

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