Hanoi hits Istanbul
Banh my (or banh mi in Saigon) — bread — is a staple breakfast and lunch dish in Hanoi when served with a filling of pate, egg (trung) or cured pork (cha). Although banh my pate stems from the French colonial era, a more recent addition to many menus here — banh my kebab — is reminiscent of a Turkish kebab, as consumed by many hungry party goers in the West.
Banh my kebab stalls can be found all over the city and are more high-tech and stand-out than the usual street food stalls in Hanoi. By that I mean they have a rotisserie and are usually painted yellow and/or red. The one most conveniently located for Old Quarter is on Luong Ngo Quyen, next to bia hoi corner, and another is at the junction of Phung Hung and Tran Phu, outside Anh Hoa Bakery and near Food Street.
Slices of pork meat are crammed onto a skewer and rotated slowly round in front of a heated element. Thin slices are carved off to order and stuffed into a Vietnamese bread roll or flat bread. The latter is my preference but not all stalls offer this option.
As well as the meat, the sandwich comes with vegetables and sauce. Veggie choices vary but usually include slices of cucumber and tomato, red onion, red cabbage, and sometimes coleslaw, with a sauce of chilli or mayo, or both. I recommend both. Some stalls will toast or heat the sandwich before serving, others won’t.
It’s rare to find a banh my kebab stall with seating, but some have a stool or two nearby. Take-away is more common; it really is fast-food street food. Expect to pay 20,000 to 25,000 VND per portion.
If you like the idea of kebab but don’t want food on-the-go, try the recently opened Kebab House at 12 Nha Tho, near St Josephs. Seating upstairs is fancy for a restaurant in Hanoi, let alone a kebab house: choose from a high stool at a table overlooking the street or a velvet-covered banquette at the back.
The standard pork kebab is on a par with a kebab from a street stall, and only slightly more expensive, but here you also get the choice of lamb, chicken or beef and a range of breads. The chips (fries) are good too: really crispy and greasy. I should also mention the che — the sua chua one is delicious and perfect after a kebab and chips.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 28th January, 2015.