MADAM KHANH: THE BÁNH MÌ QUEEN

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You know you’re in the right place when there’s only one thing on the menu. With the Bánh Mì Queen, you’re in good hands.

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You know you're in the right place when there's only one thing on the thực đơn. With the Bánh Mì Queen, you're in good hands.


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Nguyễn Thị Lộc, 79, makes the best bánh mì in Hoi An—and probably all of Vietphái mạnh. When translated khổng lồ English, bánh mì means "bread," but it's also a general term for Vietnamese sandwiches. Lộc's bánh mì attracts tourists to Hoi An, a beach đô thị in central Vietphái mạnh that has placid riverside cafes, a lantern market, & a các buổi tiệc nhỏ scene that hints at too much Chinese money & influence.


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

Aside from being called the Bánh Mí Queen, Lộc is sometimes called Madam Kkhô nóng, 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 XiaoMi MI QUEEN." She's a street food ibé & welcomes the hype that comes with it.


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From 7 AM lớn 7 PM, she makes up to 200 sandwiches, và the first is generally the same as the last: pâté, pork char siu, sausage, fried egg, homemade pickles, papaya, carrots, parsley, chili sauce, soy sauce, & her secret sauce. The result is a well-balanced sandwich that's sweet & salty, spicy but basic, crunchy yet creamy.

Street food runs in Lộc's blood. At 20 years old, she got her first job selling sweet bean soup, which isn't a soup at all by Western standards. It looks something like an eyeball smoothie—gelatinous, opaque, served on ice—but it's a surprisingly sweet và refreshing drink. During the American war, she was restricted to lớn selling from home page, though the conflict steered relatively clear of Hoi An. After the war, she carried her soup on a bamboo stiông chồng with baskets on either side. And finally, she settled bachồng at her house & started her bánh mì business in 1985.


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She strives to make an impression upon eaters và create an unforgettable sandwich. Nothing pleases her more than receiving letters from tourists expressing how much they enjoyed her bánh mì. She displays such letters in a glass case just behind where she stands. And she admitted she feels sad when she's forgotten by tourists, passed over as just another meal.

"I'm careful with every step of the process khổng lồ make the perfect sandwich. Every step—slicing the meat, picking the vegetables, cooking the eggs—to make the tourist feel happy," she said via translator Nguyên Trần Trung.

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Her perfectionist approach to street food has made her a steward of the street foodie movement. When travelling in Vietnam giới, you never need khổng lồ step foot in a restaurant; the street food is cheaper & better. Because of its popularity, the government has mandated measures of cleanliness to ensure a steady flow of tourists, although those efforts sometimes fall short. Still, Vietnamese food has emerged on the international radar, và the Bánh Mì Queen isn't just riding the waves: she's making them.

She's up every day with her husb& Bùi Văn Khánh lớn purchase & prepare the day's ingredients. After a quiông chồng trip to lớn the local market, she's bachồng in time khổng lồ receive the baguettes, one of the few cultural holdovers from French colonialism for which the Vietnamese seem thankful. The bread is baked in Hoi An every morning và is the perfect phối of crispy on the outside và airy on the inside.


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Once the store opens, she waits at her st&, watching scooters buzz by on the street. Her sister-in-law & daughter serve clients that choose to lớn stay, và her husbvà wanders in and out of the siêu thị with his hands folded behind his baông chồng, never saying a word. In the afternoon, her granddaughter joins them, giggling và chatting with locals.


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The sandwich—lượt thích everything in Vietnam—has two prices. There's the local price of 8,000 lớn 10,000 Vietnamese dong (40 to 50 cents) và the foreigner price of 20,000 VND ($1). If a tourist is smart enough to lớn haggle with her, Lộc is happy khổng lồ concede the lower price.

She takes great pleasure piling each sandwich with ingredients. Then she hands the customer the sandwich in a bag: It's so juicy, it will drip on your clothes.

"One hundred percent of the customers eat my sandwich & give sầu it thumbs up—no thumbs down," Lộc said with a modest smile.

The sandwich love sầu isn't lost on her daughter Bùi Thị Nga, whom Lộc expects khổng lồ take over the business once she retires. But it's definitely still Lộc's operation.

"I sometimes want my mother to rest, but I fear that if she stops, she will fall ill," Nga said. "She has lớn vì something to keep the toàn thân motivated."

Lộc emphasized the idea, too. Bánh mì production keeps the Bánh Mì Queen alive.

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There are countless bánh mì stands in the thành phố, but the locals và tourists adore her, và Lộc doesn't sweat the competition. People know her name, she reasoned, và her reputation precedes her. She's a street food icon, and eating her banh mì is a Vietnamese tourist's rite of passage.