Pho Vietnam Restaurant Launches Authentic Banh Mi in Sri Lanka

Pho Vietnam, Sri Lanka’s first Vietnamese restaurant is launching Banh Mi, a fusion sandwich, which has gained worldwide acclaim, trained by a specialist chef especially flown to Colombo to train local staff.

 In Vietnamese cuisine, bánh mì or banh mi is a short baguette with thin, crisp crust and a soft, airy texture.

The Lonely Planet travel guide which ranked Bahn Mi among the top street foods in the world described the dish as a “piece of history wrapped in a baguette.”

  “It is often split lengthwise and filled with meat and savory ingredients like a submarine sandwich and served as a meal, called bánh mì thịt,” says Norah Phung, Founder Director of Pho Vietnam, which was founded in Colombo as the first Vietnamese restaurant in Sri Lanka in 2014.

Norah’s parents started the Vietnam Embassy in Colombo. She stayed back as she loved the country and set herself up as a restaurateur.

“A key challenge is to get the baguette exactly right. The special baguette is made with wheat flour, yeast and water. The secret is in the technique.

 The baguette was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the mid-19th century, during the Nguyễn dynasty, and became a staple food by the early 20th century.

 Vaikunthhan Vaigesh and Haqeem Jaliel, two staff members at Pho Vietnam, were trained by Chef Nguyen Hoang Phu.

 Now 47 years old, Chef Phu has been making Banh Mi from the age 17 when he went to Ho Chi Minh City, the main metropolis in the South of Vietnam, to learn the art.

 He today runs his own bakery, Bep Nha Dieu An, near HCMC.  He has also won awards for his work at culinary festivals in Vietnam.

 “I want to spread Vietnamese Banh Mi all over Sri Lanka and internationally,” Chef Phu says.

 He has helped set up a bakery named “Pho and banh mi” in Nagoya, Japa “Banh mi” in Osaka, Japan, as well as “Banh mi Thuy” in Taiwan.

Lonely Planet illustrates the sandwich with the bread and the filling laid out separately. This might suit Sri Lanka as it is hard to open your mouth wide enough to crunch through the real McCoy.

A typical Banh Mi has slices of Vietnamese ham (chả lụa), coriander leaf (cilantro), cucumber, pickled carrots, pickled daikon and red chili combined with elements from French cuisine such as pâté, and mayonnaise.The online portal TasteAtlas has ranked Banh Mi as the best sandwich in the world in 2024.

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