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Jun 10, 2008 09:49 AM

Seeking: Vietnamese-style baguettes

Does anyone know of a good Vietnamese bakery where I can purchase Vietnamese-style baguettes in bulk to make bahn-mi for a crowd? I'm willing to travel to Brooklyn or Queens, too. Thanks!

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  1. Paris Sandwiches on Mott St. in Chinatown. They sell the baguettes themselves and I am pretty sure you'd be able to get them in bulk.

    4 Replies
      1. re: yumyumyogi

        The baguettes at Paris sandwiches are pretty awful - rubbery and chewy. No offense to Scarlet but I really cannot recommend that place.

        They do serve decent Vietnamese desserts, but their sandwiches and the bread were way below average.

        1. re: kobetobiko

          Oof. Kobetobiko, no can do with rubbery baguettes. The beauty of bahn-mi is all in the crunchy crust. Do you have any other recommendations?

          1. re: yumyumyogi

            O dear, this thread is 2 years old! Yumyumyogi - did you ever find a good place that you could recommend? Before I saw how old this thread was, I was going to suggest for you to visit Paris Sandwich and try one out for yourself, since they do bake their breads fresh on the premises every hour or so, and it's been wonderful every time I've bought sandwiches there. Perhaps kobetobiko didn't eat the sandwiches fresh?

            Paris Sandwich
            213 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

    1. I may be wrong about this, but isn't the banh mi a result of French colonialism in Viet Nam? And isn't a banh mi Vietnamese ingredients on a French baguette? A "real" French baguette? Is there any reason not to use a Pain Quotidian baguette, which I think is one of the better ones around.

      9 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        A Vietnamese baguette is supposed to have some rice flour in it. It creates a crispy-chewiness that you don't get from a traditional French baguette. But if you can't find one, I think a decent French one will do.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          Ah! Thank you all for the education. I've had banh mi most often at Saigon Bakery and (embarrassedly) I never realized by the taste or texture that there was a significant difference from a French baguette. I'll have to pay closer attention next time.

          1. re: JoanN

            Yes, it's some how lighter and crispier than a typical baguette. Though I loved the banh mi at Ssam, my sense, as an inexperienced banh mi eater, was that it was a traditional baguette, fwiw.

          2. re: Miss Needle

            Just wanna make sure unreliable information won't spread: do you have a citation for this claim that "Vietnamese baguette is supposed to have some rice flour in it"?

            Given that rice flour has no gluten in it, my years of baking bread tells me that using rice flour in bread would be a huge mistake. Here are some real life experiences that back that up:


            1. re: aqn

              certainly, there will be sites that claim both but yes, the traditional bread used for banh mi indeed contains rice flour. those two links appear to be the same or at least, someone is copying from someone else.

              here is a comprehensive recipe for the whole sandwich:

              1. re: bigjeff

                It appears that *SOME* rice flour is used, but more in the way that, say, butter or oil, is used in the dough, to make the dough less "lean" and makes their crumb softer and crust thinner than in a French baguette. It probably affects the loaves' flavor as well, but I can barely tell. In any case, it's more the "flavoring" and not the major ingredient.

                Tonight was my baking night, so I decided to bake Vietnamese baguettes using my French baguette recipe, adding a "paste" of cooked rice+water (based on this recipe: I did not add the paste to the pre-ferment as called for in that recipe, since my pre-ferment had already been fermenting for two days and was ready to go. Instead, I added the cooked-rice paste to the final dough, using the same amount of flour as called for in my recipe but reducing the amount of water.

                In a nod to the proper banh mi, I shaped the dough into loaves about 6" long and 1" wide instead of my usual time-saving two big loaves. The resulting loaves are about 8" long and 3" wide.

                The result was surprising and impressive! At the proper doneness (loaf internal temperature of approximately 205'F) the crust is a <em>little</em> too thick, but still more delicate than in my French bread. The crumb is softer than French bread crumb. The flavor is not markedly different than French baguette, but I think it's different enough to differentiate it in a side-by-side taste test.

                I'll probably try various proportions of rice flour and cooked-rice paste in my French bread dough and see what happens...

                1. re: aqn

                  thank you for the report; looks good! will have to do my own investigations; interesting to use cooked rice.

          3. re: JoanN

            Vietnamese baguettes contain rice flour. That's why they're so light, and you have to eat them the day you buy them or they'll just dry up. Vietnamese baguettes are also shorter and wider than the French baguettes.

            Please say NO to Paris Sandwiches. They are the worst banh mi I have ever had anywhere.

            1. re: JoanN

              Yes, Joan, it is French-inspired, but the best sandwiches are made with a baguette with a special texture, a crispy light chewiness, lending to a nice toothiness. For me, the bread is what makes one bahn-mi better than another.