Being a fan of Asian foods, I have come across numerous kinds of egg rolls like lumpia and breads like roti. I Have come to learn how important these crepe-like wrappers or bread are in bringing a lot of Asian delicacies and street foods to life.
I initially used to have my favorite Asian foods, but now I no longer say that as I have been overwhelmed with lots of great-tasting foods and I don’t want to make a choice anymore; I just want to keep enjoying the decadent goodness.
However, gluten sensitivity says hi! Which means we have to be careful about what we eat. So, Is banh mi gluten free? Here is all you need to know.
What Is Banh Mi?
Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich whose birthplace is said to be Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon City, but it imbibes both French and Vietnamese culinary traditions. The baguette, which has been appropriated by the Vietnamese, was introduced by the French influence in Indochina.
Banh Mi is translated as “bread”, but it is more than just bread, it is a staple Vietnamese cuisine and has achieved a cult following with people queuing all the time to have some, with growing popularity in Australia, New Zealand, and around the globe.
Banh mi is made of Vietnamese baguette which is airier and shorter than French baguette and features a thin, crisp crust. This bread is the result of mixing a high-hydration dough and a high-protein flour with some vinegar which enhances the activities of the yeast, resulting in the signature airy crumb.
Preparing a Bahn Mi is as simple as splitting up the baguette lengthwise and stocking it up with savory fillings. The sandwich is often accompanied by a spread of mayonnaise (I sometimes use aioli, and it turns out great).
What Is The Difference Between A Banh Mi And A Regular Sandwich?
A sandwich is referred to as food packed between two slices of bread, and a banh mi is just a type of sandwich. Regular sandwiches may use any kind of bread, but the banh mi uses a baguette.
While banh mi’s fillings may have different variations, they are still built around the same base, while a regular sandwich could use any form of filling, including ham, lettuce, turkey, mustard, etc.
What Is Banh Mi Made Of?
There are over 10 variations of banh mi you’ll come across with each having a unique character either in protein, vegetables, or sauce used.
- Baguette: This Vietnamese bread is the base of the sandwich, and the fillings have to be packed in between. This bread is usually made with a combination of rice flour and, sometimes, wheat flour.
- Proteins: Proteins like pork, chicken, tofu, and beef are commonly used, but sometimes eggs or a combination of two or more proteins are used. To achieve unique tastes, the proteins are either roasted, marinated, or grilled.
- Veggies: Pickled carrots, cucumber, daikon, and cilantro are among the common vegetables and herbs used in banh mi. They contribute their nutrients while also adding a burst of colors, flavors, and texture.
- Condiments and sauce: Mayonnaise, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce are common inclusions in a banh mi sandwich. Mayonnaise-like kewpie introduces that irresistible umami flavor. When paired with a sauce or hoisin sauce, we get that depth of sweet and savory flavors.
- Chili Pepper: When condiments, bread, proteins, and sauces are mixed, it can be nauseating sometimes; hence, the use of chili pepper creates that perfect balance while also contributing to its heat and intensity.
Other ingredients may include butter (optional) for a creamy indulgence, lime, or vinegar, whose acidity adds a tangy flavor that balances the condiments and proteins, garlic, and shallot.
What Does Banh Mi Taste Like?
Banh mi can be likened to a rich ham sandwich, but it brings all that Asian goodness. It is a “symphony in a sandwich” as Anthony Bourdain describes it. Banh mi can be described as greasy, chewy, crisp, sour, salty, sweet, spicy, and fragrant.
Is Banh Mi Gluten Free?
Unfortunately, Banh Mi is not gluten-free. The baguette used for banh mi is made of a combination of wheat and rice flour. Also, the hoisin sauce, pate, or soy sauce could contain gluten, making this sandwich not safe for individuals with celiac or nonceliac gluten sensitivity.
The best way to get a gluten-free banh mi is to make them yourself, however, you could still ask the street vendor or the server at the restaurant to alternate the bread and sauce, while also making sure they don’t cross-contaminate. If you have the time to put this sandwich together, it is always worth it, plus you can customize it as you like.
Is Banh Mi Healthy?
The majority of banh mi’s calories are derived from carbs and fats such as BBQ pork, roast beef, and pate. We humans tend to overeat high-calorie diets, which could lead to weight gain.
Banh mi could be a healthy inclusion in your diet alongside the vitamins and minerals provided by the veggies if eaten in moderation, because once portion control is not checked, it could become an unhealthy food for you.
Nutritionix details that a typical Bahn mi with mayonnaise, pork, and hot sauce could supply over 600 calories, 798 milligrams of sodium, and 23 grams of fat per sandwich.
This amount of fat and sodium could lead to heart disease and high blood pressure if you consume the banh mi sandwich regularly.
On the brighter side, banh mi supplies 30 – 50 grams of protein which is essential for the repair and growth of our muscles, and 6.7 grams of fiber which would aid digestion and help regulate blood sugar.
Choosing leaner meat like chicken or tofu, adding more veggies, using less mayo and sauce, or using low-fat mayo and low-sodium sauce could make your banh mi experience a healthier one.
Gluten-Free Alternatives in Banh Mi
To get a gluten-free version of banh mi, you will need to replace ingredients that contain gluten with those free from gluten that could still provide you with that great experience.
- Baguette: The Vietnamese baguette is one of the main sources of gluten in banh mi. It contributes to that chewy texture but can be replaced with gluten-free bread rolls like Schar’s sandwich rolls, lettuce wraps, or even rice wrappers.
- Mayo: As for the mayonnaise, you can go for the kewpie vegan mayonnaise or any other gluten-free mayonnaise, made without any addition of wheat.
- Hoisin and Soy Sauce: You can use coconut aminos or simply order gluten-free soy sauce from your favorite brand.
Banh mi is one of those sandwiches you become addicted to after one bite. They contain that Vietnamese taste, which is always irresistible, but they are not gluten-free. To eat a gluten-free version, the baguette, hoisin, and soy sauce have to be substituted for a gluten-free alternative.