Breakfast for a hurried morning

banh mi

Banh mi, or bread filled with pork liver pâté and mayonnaise combined with herbs and pickles, is the most popular street food for breakfast in Vietnam
Photo: Tuoi Tre

It is undeniable that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Nutritionists advise never to skip this first meal in the morning, since it provides energy to kick start a long working day. As life gets busier, it has become too luxurious for many to sit down, have a bowl of pho and drink ca phe sua da in the morning. However, in Vietnam, you still can have a healthy and tasty breakfast as takeaway, to bring to school or the office, or just to take a bite while you’re driving (some actually do so).

The most popular street food for breakfast is probably banh mi, or Vietnamese bread filled with pork liver pâté and mayonnaise combined with herbs and pickles. If you do not want to go with the tradition, you can choose other fillings like ca moi (canned sardine), bi (pork skin), thit nuong (Vietnamese marinated grilled pork), thit nguoi (cured pork cold cuts) or xa xiu (pork cooked in the style of Chinese BBQ). In Ho Chi Minh City, you actually can find banh mi carts anywhere. As soon as you step out of your house, a banh mi lady will immediately wave and smile at you. And before you arrive at her cart, she will have already finished making the banh mi in your style.

If you prefer quality over quantity, try Banh Mi Nhu Lan or Banh Mi Ha Noi for an unforgettable taste of this Vietnamese bread. Last June, banh mi was listed as one of the most lip-smacking street foods around the world by Lonely Planet. Consider how lucky you are to have one of the world’s most delicious dishes as breakfast for less than 50 US cents!

Although not as popular as banh mi, xoi or sticky rice is also a cheap and popular choice on a busy morning. There are two kinds of sticky rice: xoi man (savory) and xoi ngot (sweet). For the former, xoi ga, or sticky rice with chicken — shredded meat, fried wing or thigh, is the all time favorite. If you want a sweet start in the morning, xoi gac (made with gac fruit), xoi bap (made with corn) or xoi vo (coated with ground peeled-and-boiled mung beans) will surely please your hungry stomach. Like banh mi, sticky rice can be found on any corner in the city or in chain shops like Xoi Che on Bui Thi Xuan Street or Xoi La Chuoi on Tran Hung Dao Street.

Last but not least, a variety of banh can fit in your bag and fill you up in the morning. Banh bao, or steamed bun, is perfect for a cold morning. Especially when winter is approaching, there is nothing like taking a bite of a warm bun filled with juicy meat. Also a hot dish, banh gio is a kind of pyramid-shaped rice dough dumpling filled with pork, shallot, and wood ear mushroom. Banh chung (square glutinous rice cake) and banh day(round glutinous rice cake) are traditional delicacies which used to be served only during the Tet holiday, but now have become a year-round dish for morning takeaway.

Banh cuon, a crêpe-like roll made using a thin, wide sheet of rolled rice flour filled with ground pork and various kinds of mushrooms is a light and healthy breakfast dish. Once only served at street stands, this tasty dish now can be packed into a box, including a pair of bamboo chopsticks. As banh cuon is served withnuoc mam, or fish sauce, make sure not to eat this tasty breakfast in the middle of your office, or your colleagues may experience a distracting morning at work!



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