According to some researchers, banh mi may have appeared in Vietnam very early through the European trade. But banh mi is only known and spread throughout the regions of Vietnam when the arrival of the French happened since 1859.
The origin of Saigon's banh mi in particular and Vietnamese banh mi in general is from the Baguette bread brought by the French. The first Vietnamese customers of the banh mi were those who worked with the French: waiters, interpreters etc. After that, Chinese-Vietnamese people learned how to make banh mi and bring it to market. Because it is considered as a fast food, in the early years of the previous century, people from other provinces who had the opportunity to go to Saigon always bought banh mi as gifts for their friends and relatives.
In 1958, a banh mi shop named Hoa Ma was opened at 511 Phan Dinh Phung Street (now is Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, District 3). After two years, the shop moved to 53 Cao Thang Street. Hoa Ma is considered one of the first Vietnamese banh mi shop in Saigon. The majority of Hoa Ma's customers at that time were employees and students who did not have much time for breakfast. Therefore, Hoa Ma banh mi had meats, pork baloney, pâté so customers could take banh mi away and enjoyed it anytime they wanted to. Some time later, many banh mi shops like Hoa Ma began to appear in the city.
Due to favorable natural conditions, the food of South Vietnamese people often has a lot of vegetables. Therefore, in addition to the basic ingredients mentioned, there are many types of vegetables that are addded in banh mi. Banh mi is no longer a fast food, it can be used to replace the main meals of the day due to high nutrition.
Saigon is a land of many different cultures, so Saigon people are very open and creative in labor. They made many variations of banh mi such as banh mi served with omelette, banh mi served with roast pork etc.
Banh mi is a typical kind of food of Saigon connecting closely to Saigon people for more than 150 years. It is delicious and affordable. In Saigon, you can find banh mi on any streets, from the ordinary labor streets to the busy trade centers, from the low-cost to luxury hotels. The characteristic flavors of banh mi may come from the taste of openness coming from the banh mi filling as well as the crispy taste of banh mi crust. You can eat banh mi anywhere, anytime you want.