My entire educational period was powered by second breakfast— homemade sandwiches wrapped in a wax paper. Between two slices of fresh bread generously covered with butter, my mother usually squeezed a leaf of lettuce, a slice of tomato, cheese and ham. Occasionally, whenever my father got a rabbit from his hunter friends, she baked the pâté. Such sandwiches were special not only because of a delicious home-made meat and liver spread but also because horseradish and cranberry jam accents enlivened the midmorning treat. Plus in lieu of two slices of rye, the pâté was hugged by a crisp baguette. 

I didn’t think any sandwich could ever beat that taste until my very first bite of bánh mì - a Vietnamese take on the French classic. Unlike a simple yet delectable baguette au pâté which combines a freshly baked symbol of France with a thick slice of rustic pâté de campagne and little cornichons, a Vietnamese sandwich explodes with all sorts of delights. 

The foundation is warm light bread with a delicate crust. It is like biting on a crunchy cloud carrying lots of intriguing ingredients. A thin layer of mayo-butter spread hits first before all the tasty fillers are revealed. A classic Vietnamese sandwich (đặc biệt meaning “special combo”) features pork, duck or chicken liver pâté as well as headcheese and ham or bologna. This may sound like familiar territory until the veggie additions kick in. A few slices of fresh cucumber put next to hot chili suddenly brighten the next bite. And what are these white and orange matchsticks? Sweet and sour julienned daikon and carrot drained from their vinegary concoction add another punch. The sandwich is topped with a dash of soy sauce and a spring of citrusy cilantro. Those last two notes bring the Asian eats to mind. 

Bánh mì, a transnational marriage of Western with Oriental cuisine, started feeding my imagination. What if instead of pâté I fried up some blood sausage and balanced it with a beet relish? Could this sandwich handle a garlicky kiełbasa and wild mushrooms in vinegar? Or trips with pickled mustard greens and chives? Living in the vicinity of Yum-Mì Sandwichesone of the best Vietnamese places in OrlandoI decided to explore the taste of the original bánh mì (on the picture above) before moving onto my own creations. Soon I realized how hard it would be to beat their yummy menu but I will try.


To bánh-mì” your lunch sandwich add fresh cilantro, cuke, hot chili and a spoonful of pickled daikon and carrot. If you can't find the latter at your Asian supermarket, you can make it yourself. Here is how: 

recipe adapted from Viet World Kitchen 

makes 3 cups

½ pound carrot, peeled and julienned
1 pound daikon radish, peeled and julienned
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon + ¼ cup sugar
½ cup white vinegar
1 cup warm water

Combine julienned carrots, daikon, salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Use colander to drain vegetables. Rinse and pat dry them with paper towel. Transfer vegetables to a jar.

Whisk together remaining sugar, vinegar and water until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour mixture over the veggies. Let marinated for 1 hour before using on your sandwich. Keep refrigerated, tightly covered, up to 4 weeks. 

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