There is no shortage of deliciously tasty food in Vietnam. From Pho Bo’s to Bun Cha’s, Bánh Xèo to Cao Lầu’s, exploring this country through its food has been such a rewarding and memorable experience.
When we arrived in Hoi An, I was surprised to see that three of the top rated restaurants on Trip Advisor were Banh Mi shops. Obviously, I made it a personal mission to find and eat at all three otherwise I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
However, I’m only going to write about one (the Queen!) because it is THE BEST and I’ll tell you why:
Located on Tran Cao Van Street (right on the outskirts of Old Town) Madam Khanh the Banh Mi Queen is an institution. At first glance it’s a rather small and unassuming shop (not taking into the consideration the bold branding), but move past the crowds gathering and you’ll walk into decades of memories. Adorning the wall is a photo of the Queen herself in her youth, surrounded by letters from guests that have praised her work over the years. It honestly gives you feels.
When I’m first served I ask the friendly woman whether she’s the “Queen”. She smiles at me playfully and says, “I hope so, one day!”. The Queen was in fact taking a nap the first day I arrived.
On subsequent visits I got to know the rest of her family a little more intimately. All of them extremely friendly, they work as a unit to deliver some of the best Banh Mi I’ve ever eaten. Alternating between taking orders, serving drinks (including a really delicious Vietnamese coffee), and assisting the Queen herself, it’s a beautifully run operation.
Beyond the celebrity, what people come here for at the end of the day is the sandwich. And what a sandwich it is. I’m not talking about something from Banh Mi Boys. I’m talking THE REAL DEAL!
Most people order the Banh Mi with everything, and that’s all I’ve ever done. Spread out before her kingdom of ingredients includes: pork pate, pork char siu, homemade slaw, chili sauce, pork renderings, fried eggs and vietnamese mayo. In a matter of minutes my sandwich arrives with a little bit of everything, and it’s just perfect. The baguette is toasted and warm, the meat is juicy yet spicy, and it’s amazingly creamy in contrast to the crunchiness of the vegetables and baguette. Before I knew it I was finished, and then I laughed understanding why I was initially asked whether I wanted two sandwiches to begin with. You really can’t eat just one.
The best part about having time when you travel is you can familiarize yourself with something or someone. In this case, I did so with the Queen and her sandwiches by returning several times for a bite. Despite the language barrier, there’s no greater feeling than to be greeted with recognition as a returning customer and a big smile.