Visiting the Banh Mi Queen

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Visiting the Banh Mi Queen
Visiting the Banh Mi Queen

If you’re new to Banh Mi, picture this: an unbelievably crusty baguette, filled with pork, salad, egg, and a number of mystery fillings that somehow make the roll not only indubitably Vietnamese, but so delicious that a regular sandwich will never satisfy you again.

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Banh Mi Queen shop

Nguyễn Thị Lộc, 79, makes the best Banh Mi in Hoi An—and probably all of Vietnam. When translated to English, Banh Mi means “bread,” but it’s also a general term for Vietnamese sandwiches. Lộc’s Banh Mi attracts tourists to Hoi An, a beach city in central Vietnam that has placid riverside cafes, a lantern market, and a party scene that hints at too much Chinese money and influence.

Banh Mi means “bread,” but it’s also a general term for Vietnamese sandwiches
Banh Mi means “bread,” but it’s also a general term for Vietnamese sandwiches

Lộc’s shop is 15 minutes north of the Thu Bon river, tucked away in a less touristy part of the city. The waifish woman has had her storefront for 30 years, and has been selling street food for almost 50. It’s a simple place with four tables behind her sandwich stand, which is perched just off the street at the forefront of the shop.

Thu Bon river
Thu Bon river

Aside from being called the “Banh Mi Queen”, Lộc is sometimes called “Madam Khanh”, but it’s a misnomer that uses her husband’s name, which she did not take. She has nonetheless embraced it: her awning reads, “MADAM KHANH THE BANH MI QUEEN.” She’s a street food icon and welcomes the hype that comes with it.

A trip to Hoi An would be incomplete without a visit to Madam Khanh, the Banh Mi Queen: a fierce older lady who rules her shop like – well, you know. Her cart is a 10-15 minute walk from the centre of town (or a short taxi ride), and is open for business every day. It’s less than $2AUD per roll, with an extra 50c or so for a beer.  Cheap, delicious bliss.

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