Among all versions of the iconic Vietnamese sandwich, the spicy bánh mì of Hải Phòng might be the smallest, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s any less than its larger siblings.
Hải Phòng’s spicy bánh mì is unique. Instead of fillings like meat or vegetables, this bánh mì is only filled with pate and eaten with a special chilli sauce, known as ‘chí chương’.
The traditional recipe from the city’s original ingredients of pate and chilli sauce is key to ensuring diners keep coming back for more.
Vietnamese people have long been proud of their bánh mì, so much so the word was added to the dictionary in 2011.
Proving the popularity of the Hải Phòng style, it’s easy to find vendor stalls all over the city selling this spicy bánh mì.
Bánh Mì Cay – Chính Hiệu Bà Già (Spicy Bánh Mì – Old Lady) was one of the first spicy bánh mì shops to open in Hải Phòng. This little business has customers queuing up for this spicy treat from early morning until late at night.
Bánh Mì Cay – Chính Hiệu Bà Già (Spicy Bánh Mì – Old Lady) was one of the first spicy bánh mì shops in Hải Phòng. VNS Photos Minh Phương
Phạm Thị Thúy, the owner of the shop, said: “Our family has been selling spicy bánh mì for nearly 40 years, since my grandma’s time.
“This bánh mì consists of a baguette and pate filled inside. The pate has meat and liver as the main ingredients.
“It is called spicy bánh mì, so it always serves with chilli sauce. This sauce is special and originates from Hải Phòng. We always leave the sauce outside so customers can choose whether to put it in or not.”
Good pate should be smooth in texture, with pork evenly spread over the surface. VNS Photo Minh Phương
Good pate should be smooth in texture, with pork evenly spread over the surface. The pate should be slightly pink with white spots of pork fat. The flavour must be liver and garlic. The maker will add seasonings, including salt or pepper, to suit taste.
The unique chilli sauce ‘chí chương’ is a mixture of chilli, tomatoes, garlic and salt. The spicy of this sauce stimulates your taste buds.
Thúy said: “Spicy bánh mì is only filled with pate, so the pate is the ingredient that determines whether bánh mì tastes delicious or not. Therefore, making pate becomes one of the most important processes when making this bánh mì,” she added.
“We must choose high-quality ingredients, maintain the pate quality and even make it better every day.”
At the cost of VNĐ3,000 (0.13 US cents) each, this small bánh mì is a perfect breakfast choice or a small meal during the day for residents. To have a stomach full, five to six bánh mì is enough.
Each spicy bánh mì only costs VNĐ 3,000 (0.13 US cents). VNS Photo Ly Ly Cao
Nguyễn Ngọc Tuyến, a local resident, said that the spicy bánh mì is his first choice for breakfast. Many in Hải Phòng eat spicy bánh mì as a habit from their childhood.
Tuyến said: “I usually eat this spicy bánh mì. This bánh mì is small, only two fingers in width, so you can eat a lot, two, three or even 10.
“I sometimes buy it and send it to my friends in other localities as a gift.”
Tourists are also curious about this speciality. Many try it whenever they have a chance to visit the city.
Visitors are curious to try the spicy bánh mì of Hải Phòng. VNS Photo Ly Ly Cao
Nguyễn Tường Quân, a visitor from Nghệ An, with his girlfriend also enjoy eating this modest bánh mì.
Quân said: “Hải Phòng is famous for its spicy bánh mì, this bánh mì shop is near where we stay on our trip, so we decide to drop by to try.”
“This bánh mì is crusty. However, it tastes delicious even though its only filling is pate. I feel like this bánh mì still keeps the taste of the traditional bánh mì, which I had during my childhood.
“It is small, so it does not take much time to eat. I think about five of these is enough for breakfast.”
Võ Như Hà is paying a working trip to the city for two days. Despite her busy schedule, she found time to find a spicy bánh mì shop to taste this local food.
Hà said: “The spicy bánh mì is a delicacy of Hải Phòng, so I took the time to pass by here to try some local food. It looks different to what I usually see in HCM City.
“In HCM City, we often called it bread stick, which is longer than this. I will try to see how it tastes.”
This coastal city is like culinary heaven for food lovers and the spicy bánh mì has helped add more taste to the city.
Thúy said: “Customers buy spicy bánh mì for their family as a small meal and some buy it as a gift for their friends. Sometimes, I even receive an order on Vietnamese Women’s Day to deliver it to their female friends living in other provinces.
“I feel thrilled that now many people, even foreigners, love eating this bánh mì. Many people even choose Hải Phòng as a travel destination to enjoy this bánh mì.” — VNS