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Locals, tourists enjoy 'banh mi' festival in Ho Chi Minh City

Sunday, May 19, 2024, 08:38 GMT+7
Locals, tourists enjoy 'banh mi' festival in Ho Chi Minh City
A group of tourists from New Zealand enjoy ‘banh mi’ at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Many locals and foreign tourists in Ho Chi Minh City have been drawn to a bustling event at District 1's Le Van Tam Park this weekend only to find out it is a festival celebrating Vietnam's worldwide famous sandwich: banh mi

The annual Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival, which is in its second year, adopts the theme 'Vietnamese Bánh Mì - World Cuisine Value' and features about 130 banh mi booths of all kinds. 

It has seen the participation of renowned banh mi brands such as Banh Mi Bay Ho, Banh Mi Nguyen Sinh, and Banh Mi Cu Ly; restaurants serving banh mi-based dishes; bakeries; and sellers offering banh mi-making ingredients and equipment. 

A display of a giant Vietnamese baguette with 150 types of fillings and side dishes attract both Vietnamese and foreign visitors at the Vietnam Banh Mi Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on May 17. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A display of a giant Vietnamese baguette with 150 types of fillings and side dishes attract both Vietnamese and foreign visitors at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Carmen, a tourist from New Zealand, reached the banh mi festival in Ho Chi Minh City after two weeks exploring Vietnam with her group of friends.

The southern metropolis was also the last stop of their Vietnam journey.

Carmen shared that she was told banh mi was a 'must-try' when she first arrived in Vietnam, so she sampled the dish in both Hanoi and Hoi An.

“However, banh mi tasted best in Ho Chi Minh City, and the whole of our group agreed,” Carmen told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. 

“We learned about this festival by chance and were surprised to see so many types of Vietnamese banh mi.

“Vietnamese cuisine is truly impressive.”

Staff is making ‘banh mi’ at a booth at the Vietnam Banh Mi Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on May 17. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A woman is seen making ‘banh mi’ at a booth at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A loaf of Vietnamese ‘banh mi’ filled with pork, sauce and a lot of scallion and coriander is pictured at the Vietnam Banh Mi Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on May 17. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A loaf of Vietnamese ‘banh mi’ filled with pork, sauce, and a lot of scallion and coriander slices is pictured at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

The varied world of Vietnamese banh mi

Banh mi is known worldwide as a type of Vietnamese sandwich filled with cold meats, pâté, and vegetables, as defined by Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

However, in Vietnam, the term banh mi also refers to the Vietnamese baguette itself. 

Banh mi can be filled with a variety of ingredients, ranging from egg or fish cake to canned fish, not just cold cuts.

This year's banh mi festival has also showcased fillings like ice cream and stir-fried beef, among others. The festival introduced baguettes made with gac (Momordica cochinchinensis) fruit and vegetables.

At the booth run by Vietnamese dairy giant Vinamilk, banh mi dipped in sweetened condensed milk caused a sensation, as this dish is a beloved childhood treat for many Vietnamese.

Visitors try ‘banh mi’ dipped into sweetened condensed milk at the Vietnam Banh Mi Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on May 17. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors try ‘banh mi’ dipped into sweetened condensed milk at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Meanwhile, many flocked to the booth selling banh mi kem (banh mi with ice cream), another nostalgic childhood dish for many Vietnamese.

Cuc, the owner of the booth, revealed that at last year's festival, she sold more than 500 loaves of banh mi kem each day.

A loaf of soft bread filled with ice cream at the Vietnam Banh Mi Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on May 17. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A loaf of soft bread filled with ice cream at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Meanwhile, visitors to the ABC Bakery booth could witness the banh mi making process and sample various kinds of the dish for free during certain hours.

Banh mi sold at the festival varied in price, with a loaf costing between VND20,000 (US$0.79) and VND68,000 ($2.67).

Visitors queue to sample free ‘banh mi' at the Vietnam Banh Mi Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on May 17. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors queue to sample free ‘banh mi' at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Khanh, chairwoman of the Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Association and a representative of the organizers, stated that the organizing board has closely coordinated with the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Food Safety to ensure food safety and hygiene at all booths during the fest.

The board has collaborated with functional forces to maintain security and order, ensuring the safety of visitors throughout the event.

Visitors engage in folk games at the Vietnam Banh Mi Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on May 17. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors engage in folk games at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Staff works on a big kebab skewer at a booth at the Vietnam Banh Mi Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on May 17. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Staff work on a big kebab skewer at a booth at the Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival at Le Van Tam Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, May 17, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

The second Vietnam Bánh Mì Festival is taking place at Le Van Tam Park in District 1 from May 17 to 19.

The first iteration was organized in Ho Chi Minh City in late March 2023, attracting some 100,000 visitors.

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Nhu Binh - Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

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