We like sandwiches. Who doesn’t? Ham sandwiches. Egg sandwiches. Ham and egg sandwiches. We thought we knew everything there was to know about sandwiches. Did we mention sandwiches? Well, just in case you couldn’t decipher our enigmatic opening discourse, this article is about sandwiches…or rather sandwich singular.
When we arrived in Hoi An – fresh off the Pho narcosis induced by our Ho Chi Minh noodle glut – we knew that the culinary landscape had changed. This place had a food identity all of its own. A select few proprietary dishes upon which its foundations, as a tourist ‘must see’, were firmly cemented. What we didn’t account for was the sandwich.
We’d heard mention and fleeting discussion of the mythical beast as we trawled guidebooks and pestered locals and travellers alike searching for a hit of that Hoi An goodness that could, possibly, top the Pho Bo Ko-caine highs in which we so, unashamedly, revelled during our time in the south.
It was settled. We would make the pilgrimage. What followed was day after day of failure. Be it our complete lack of direction or the irreparable damage done by Volcano and the like, we simply failed to get up and out early enough to capitalise upon this glorious opportunity presented to us.
The bible informs us that on the fifth day God created ‘birds and all the living creatures in the sea’s and oceans’…the bible lied. On the fifth day God/Yahweh/Buddha/Ainsley Harriott created a hunger so fierce that only the most expertly crafted and generously filled sandwich could cure. No more could we take. No longer could we deny ourselves this bounty.
Still reeling from the poisonous ‘Rhum’ – copious amounts of which had we imbibed the night before – we ventured out into the dry Hoi An sun. A sense of purpose, the like of which we hadn’t before experienced, swept us townward. Exorcet like, we arrowed towards the place of untold baked treats, tentatively playing with the dong in our pockets – ready to whip it out at, even, the most ephemeral sighting of this sandwich nirvana.
It was our Everest. Our Promised Land. Our Mount Doom.
No sooner had Cua Dai expired, and we found ourselves on the outskirts of the old town, than we reached our destination. Magnificent in its modesty, we made sure we were at the right place. ‘Bánh Mi Phương’ the sign read. This was it.
The next bit was easy. The transaction required no speech – which is good because I only speak North Vietnamese* – and the handing over of 40000 dong delivered me two Banh Mi. I couldn’t begin to describe the contents. I don’t need to. All that mattered was the flavour of the filling, the crunch of that freshly baked bread and the mouth-watering spice of the various sauces that now saturated the last few bites of the sandwich…as well as most of my face and hands.
If the first sandwich was a blurry epiphany, the second was a meticulous analysis – the results of which can be summarised in a few short words;
What a sandwich
Get here. Now
*I don’t speak any Vietnamese