A labor of love that is well worth the effort
In my series, “How the World Eats Spam,” I learned about a Vietnamese-American dish that’s worth sharing. Spam bánh mì, or a Vietnamese sandwich with spam, is a simple yet satisfying creation that even picky eaters are sure to enjoy. It is versatile like any other sandwich, so you can add whatever ingredients you like in addition to spam!
This recipe comes from Irene, a Vietnamese American born and raised in Southern California. She now resides in Minnesota, which happens to be the birthplace of spam. “Bánh mì” actually means sandwich in Vietnamese, so this spam sandwich is just a slight variation on an everyday lunch item in Vietnam. Irene’s mom hails from central Vietnam, where people prefer cucumber, tomato, and lettuce on their sandwiches. However, Irene tells us she has no idea whether people eat this dish in Vietnam; she just wanted to share this delicious sandwich with Vietnamese and American parts, and I thank her profusely for her generosity!
Spam bánh mì is a sandwich built on a Vietnamese baguette. It is stuffed with slices of lightly fried spam, tomato, cucumber, and black pepper. Even with just four ingredients, this dish is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The salty, fatty spam contrasts the fresh vegetables, and it all goes together beautifully! I would liken spam bánh mì to a BLT… but better, dare I say.
I love the idea of food being made outside its country of origin. It transforms yet maintains steadfast flavor and history, and I think that’s beautiful. Iren’s parents grew up in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, which was the catalyst for spam’s introduction to Vietnam. Irene’s mother recalls thinking of spam as an exotic delicacy since the only way to get it was through Americans, and she grew up to make spam bánh mì every Saturday for her family. Irene has since carried on this tradition.
I hope you’ll try spam bánh mì and enjoy the fresh yet salty taste of a spam-based Vietnamese sandwich. This lunch is definitely one I’ll be adding to the rotation.
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