The Vietnamese Sandwich

Tabitha Carvan writes wonderful observations about her stay in Vietnam. her latest story, discussing the inclusion of “banh mi” – the Vietnamese Sandwich – in the OED, is a hoot:

It was pretty exciting to read in the news that “banh mi”, the Vietnamese sandwich, has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (although the prestige associated with this event was considerably undermined by the fact that “muffin top” also made the grade).

Of course, it would have been more exciting if the Hanoi banh mi were actually as delicious as the definition made them sound. Unlike in Saigon, or indeed, in Vietnamese bakeries anywhere else in the world, the banh mi in Hanoi (or bánh mỳ as they’re actually called here) consist not of a crunchy explosion of sweet pickles and herbs, but of a smear of grey pâté and, if you’re lucky, one smidgen (technical culinary term) of carrot. They do not, for example, look like this Wikipedia image:

Bitterness aside, I found this news exciting nevertheless as there surely can’t be too many other words that Vietnam has gifted to English. Straining my brain very hard, I can think only of “pho”, and “Viet Cong”. Vietnamese is instead one of those languages that has usually received the linguistic gifts, mostly from Chinese way back in the day (I don’t think Vietnam has been in the habit of receiving gifts of any sort from China for quite a while since then).

See also her posts on the ubiquitous Vietnamese font, Vinafont, and watch how she melds the word for westerner, or foreigner, Tây into the hit song by Mel and Kim – respectably outstanding!

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