What Makes a Banh Mi?

Banh mi sandwiches are everywhere in Boston, and many restaurants are starting to experiment with the structure and fillings of this Vietnamese-French fusion dish. lipoff recently tried a new daily lunch special at Myers + Chang: the tea-smoked duck banh mi. The sandwich also contains pickled Asian pear, frisée, and black bean vinaigrette, and it's served with shrimp chips on the side. lipoff thinks the sandwich was "quite delicious," but he can't quite justify the comparison to other banh mi sandwiches. "The bread wasn't banh mi bread, the filling wasn't banh mi filling, the two different sauces inside the sandwich weren't banh mi sauces, and the accompaniments aren't served with a banh mi," lipoff says. "Since when did 'banh mi' become 'sandwich with Asian filling?'"

tammyh feels the same way about the "banh mi" at Cutty's in Brookline: The nontraditional sandwich is filled with crispy pork and served on a French roll. "I grumble silently thinking about it," tammyh says. But this doesn't mean that the sandwiches are bad by any means.

"I'm sure the sandwich was delicious," seamunky says of the Myers + Chang creation, but is it really banh mi? "If you take taco ingredients like carne asada or carnitas and fold it in rice paper or sandwich bread, you shouldn't really call it a taco even if the fillings are the same," seamunky says. By this logic, Asian ingredients do not a banh mi make. davis_sq_pro agrees with this sentiment, but thinks the fried egg and sweet soy-glazed bacon banh mi at Myers + Chang should still qualify, thanks to its slightly more traditional toppings: It comes dressed with carrot-daikon slaw and Sriracha aioli. MC Slim JB loves this sandwich as well. "It's small and very, very good," he says.

Myers + Chang [South End]
1145 Washington Street, Boston
617-542-5200

Cutty's [Brookline]
284 Washington Street, Brookline
617-505-1844

Discuss: When is a Banh Mi not a Banh Mi?