Do you like banh mi sandwiches

Bánh Mí - a baguette with a colonial history

Lunch time in Hanoi. It's humid and smells different every two meters. Dong Linh Phong is standing in front of his family business on a quieter side street, beads of sweat run down the 34-year-old's forehead. A cluster of tourists is gathering in front of him. “The locals get their Bánh Mì in the morning,” he says and takes the orders, as his grandfather did here since 1960.

Bánh Mì, the Vietnamese baguette, is not just street food, but materialized colonial history. Before the French attacked Vietnam for the first time in 1858, there was no side dish in the Southeast Asian country that was not made from rice. Rice paper, rice pancakes, rice noodles, cooked rice. The occupying forces brought the baguette along with ham and pâté. The sandwich spread quickly across the country, so the rice flour content in the dough has risen continuously. That's why the hybrid bread doesn't have a cracking crust like French baguette. The interior is more airy and leaves room for the filling.

Yin and Yang on the plate

The Vietnamese traditionally order their Bánh Mì topped with fried, strongly seasoned pork or beef, with a fried egg or omelette on it for breakfast. Bánh Mì always includes a fiery, fruity chilli sauce, cucumber, grated carrots and fresh coriander. Hot and mild, fresh and fried, soft and crispy: The Vietnamese love cuisine that is rich in contrasts, and a real meal must have very different flavors and textures, explains Bánh Mì salesman Dong Linh Phong. “The principle of Yin and Yang.” Another outside influence, a Taoist greeting from China, with which the Vietnamese have had good (trade) and less good (various wars and conflicts) relationships since time immemorial.

The Bánh Mì changed again from the mid-1950s, when the influence of the USA, especially on South Vietnam, grew. Although the Bánh Mì did not become a hamburger, variants with sour pickled vegetables and fresh tomato slices have since been found particularly often in the southern part of the country.

With the increasing tourism business in recent years, the Bánh Mì has become even more popular. “We used to only be up in the mornings from six to eleven,” says Dong Linh Phong. In the meantime, customers are still queuing up in the late afternoon.

Vegetarian concessions in Berlin

Silke König doesn't seem like she's running a snack bar for typical Vietnamese street food. A petite woman in her fifties, with a flick of the tongue in Rostock, a dotted blouse, short brown hair. And yet: She knows her way around Vietnamese cuisine, for more than five years she has been running the Cô Cô Bánh Mì, a Vietnamese deli in Mitte. "I've always liked the street kitchen best."

In 1987 she went to Hanoi - long before the country became a favorite destination for backpackers. For the sake of her husband at the time, she moved to his homeland. He was a contract worker and they had met at university in the GDR.

Because the young mother did not like the Vietnamese education system, the couple returned to Germany with their two young daughters in 1991. Silke Königs Mann opened several restaurants in Berlin, and at some point she also felt like starting her own business as a restaurateur.

Vietnamese for the bread nation

She was able to build on her own experience with Vietnamese street cuisine, as well as on her two co-founders. Together with Anh Vu Dang, born in Vietnam, came to Germany as a child, and his partner, she worked on the concept for a year and a half. You wanted to offer something apart from the well-known Asian cuisine, so the choice fell on Bánh Mì. “That fits, after all, Germany is also a bread nation.” Dang developed the sauces and toppings on the basis of family recipes.

“We looked for ages until we found a baker here who could bake the rice flour baguette for us the way we want it.” The wheat content is now five percent, so the taste is close to the Vietnamese original.

Your business partners have now dropped out from Cô Cô Bánh Mì, but they ensure that the recipes are adhered to. "Vietnamese who live in Berlin or other German cities come here because they want the taste of their homeland."

Nevertheless, there are concessions to Germany, such as the Bánh Mì with lemon grass tofu - the meat-loving Vietnamese would rarely order this.

Cô Cô Bánh Mì, Rosenthaler Strasse 2, Mitte.

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