Note: “Grilled” & “Bar-B-Que” are often used interchangeably and the meats described as such are all usually prepared the same way, grilled, sauteed or pan fried. If a menu offers both types of meats, then the “Bar-B-Que” selection is usually pork prepared in a style that is sweet & dark pinkish-red in color, similar to Chinese bar-b-que style. If in question on the differences, ask the staff to further clarity their variations. Good luck on that.
Another Note: “Where’s the meat?”- The portions of the fillings usually satisfy the appetite of some Vietnamese (especially the elders) who don’t require a lot of meat to satisfy. But for the newer Việt generation and some American appetites, some sandwiches can be considered light on the filling (although, there a a few places that really “skimp”). If It leaves you unsatisfied & yearning for more, just ask for extra meat. They’ll be happy to assist you with that dilemma, but that’ll probably cost you an extra 75 cents to $1.25 ,”please!”.
1. Chả or Chả Lụa (Pork Roll)- Ground up pork is packed tightly into a roll, and wrapped with banana leaves (and or aluminum foil) then steamed or boiled, hence producing the dense “pork roll”. Sliced thin like bologna, these make up one of the most common cold cuts found in bánh mì.
2. Thịt Nguội (Cured pork cold cuts)- Thịt Nguội (translated as “Cooled Meats”), is the second most common cold cut filling. Usually made of cured pork & layered with strips of fat. Some makers will call it Ba Chị, which is more like pork belly.
3. Giò Thú (Headcheese)-These cuts are usually a Vietnamese combination of pork ears, tendons, skin, fats and other extra pork head meats. It’s all processed together into a roll, then sliced.
4. Dặc Biệt (Special or Combination)- Every menu has a Combination or House Special, which is a combination of at least one of the following: the pork roll, headcheese and/or cold cuts. Some shops offer ham as an offering to the cold cuts, as well as adding their special house touch of other meats.
5. Thịt Nướng (Grilled Pork)- Vietnamese marinated grilled pork. Cuts of pork meat can be anything from pork belly, pork shoulder, pork chops or pork butt.
6. Xa Xíu (Bar-B-Que Pork)- Sweet, pinkish colored pork cooked to the style of chinese bar-b-que. Cuts of pork can also vary like those of grilled pork.
7. Xíu Mại (Pork MeatBalls)- Moist Pork Meatballs cooked in a usually, sweet, often lightly tomato based sauce. Ground pork is marinated Việt style.
8. Bì (Shredded Pork Skin)- Most traditional Bì is a creation of dry, thinly sliced pork skin. To accommodate the more American palettes, some bánh mì creations come with traditional Bì along with more moist, shredded pork pieces.
9. Nem Nướng (Grilled Pork patties)- These versatile, garlic, ground pork patties are popular in many fresh springroll and herb noodle salad dishes. They make a very tasty in bánh mì.
10. Nem Chua (Sour Pork) – Usually eaten as a snack with raw garlic, these little squares of sour pork meat are showing up on banh mi menu’s more often. Starting with mostly raw pork skin and some meat, a seasoning mixture of yeast, vinegar, garlic, fish sauce, salt, sugar & pepper are added. The raw meat mixture is then wrapped (usually in banana leaves or plastic) into small squares are left to pickle and ferment for about 3-7 days. The product is a small, dense square of sour, pickled pork meat with a garlic punch!
11. Gà Nướng (Grilled Chicken)- Vietnamese marinated and grilled brown meat chicken.
12. Thịt Bò Nướng (Grilled/Bar-B-Que Beef)- Vietnamese marinated style beef. Grilled meat options are usually pork, but more places are offering beef as an filling.
13. Cá Mòi (Sardines)- Usually, the sardine selections (bones included, but cooked) are pulled straight from the can. Nothing really homemade. Once favored more by Vietnamese, sardine banh mi are now becoming more popular by non-Vietnamese because of the moist and flavorful fish texture.
14. Paté – Ranging from chicken to duck liver ingredients, pates can normally be a part of every sandwich as a spread, but some menu’s offer pate in larger quantities, making it the main savory filling ingredient.
15. Trưng Chien (Fried Egg)- Eggs are usually prepared as a scramble, well done sunny side up (but cooked on both sides), omelet style or a little bit of all three.
16. Chay (Vegetarian)- Meatless choices can be offered in a combination of the ways:
A. Tofu Chunks – Chunks of tofu are deep fried, then sauteed with a vegetarian, Vietnamese marinade (Soy Sauce, Veggie Oyster or Veggie Mushroom Sauces).
B. Shredded Tofu (Bì Chay) – Like the Bì (Pork skin), this vegetarian version is made with thin slices of dry tofu, then mixed with stir fried sliced jicama, carrots and/or glass vermicelli noodles. This type of filling usually is VERY dry, so ask for some extra soy for added moisture and flavor.
C. Veggie “Ham”- These thinly sliced salmon colored (or cream) pieces of processed bean curd mimic the meat version quite well, but the flavors will dictate the differences. Just try it, you just might like it.
D. Wheat gluten- Gluten pieces are prepared in the same way that tofu usually is.
Classic Condiment Fillings
1. Paté -Chicken or Duck Liver Paté.
2. Homemade Mayo- Sometimes made from an egg yolk & vegetable oil combination, or other shops will even have a store bought mayo or miracle whip. Most shops will have some type of rich, white spread.
3. Fresh herbs. In the U.S., we usually see fresh cilantro sprigs. However other herbs were popular in different regions of Vietnam.
4. Pickled Carrots & Daikon – Usually finely shredded or julienned, these sour, vinegared accompaniments provide the salty, sour layer of flavor.
5. Jalapeño slices or other Chilies. Warning for the lighthearted: Pepper spice potency level will vary heavily. Nibble on a slice from your sandwich first before you bite The jalapeño slice that tasted like a mild cucumber last week, just might pop back and kick you in the ass this time.
6. Cucumber Slices.
7. Light Sprinkle of Soy Sauce.