22 July, 2016

Grilled Pork Banh Mi - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - July 2016

Banh Mi - McDonald's Vietnam July 2016 McCafe
McDonald's Vietnam Ban Mi Bag
Consumed on 17 July 2016
Location - McDonald's Nguyen Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Price - 45,000VND = $2.02USD
Calories - Unknown

McDonald's Vietnam 2016 Receipt
All the other options.
My first trip to Vietnam was back in 2010, and since McDonald's only opened their doors in Vietnam in early 2014, this recent trip was my first chance to finally give their menu a try. I knew for the first year or two, they only served the "standard" McDonald's fare like Big Macs, Oreo McFlurries and McPork's so I half expected that my next eventual trip might turn into a "Brunei" where the local menu didn't have anything worth trying for a review because I still stand by my rule that I'll only eat something if it's special enough for a review here on the blog.  In early 2016, a Vietnamese colleague of mine sent a photo of a few McRice dishes that McDonald's Vietnam started selling, but upon close inspection they were pretty much identical to the ones I've reviewed in Thailand, so I felt like I might have to give those a pass as well.  When I entered the Ho Chi Minh City branch this July, I saw that the McRice dishes were still available, but there was also a large poster for 3 different Banh Mi options.  I was conflicted since these were actually a part of the McCafe menu and not the regular menu, so I posted my question to Twitter, where the result was a resounding, Yes - I needed to give it a try.

Banh Mi - McDonald's Vietnam July 2016 McCafe 
Just to get this out of the way, I was in Vietnam for 5 days on this trip.  Excluding this McDonald's sandwich, I had 7 different Banh Mi over 5 days, varying from a street corner at 10pm, to a kiosk before a meeting to posh "Bistro" style.  Every one I tried was different and unique in it's own way, and I loved every single one.  There were 3 options for toppings at McDonald's, Ham & Cheese with Vegetables, Ham & Cheese with Round Egg (breakfast eggs), and Grilled Pork.  I went with the Grilled Pork as that seemed the most in tune with Banh Mi that you can get almost everywhere, and well, the Ham & Cheese looked a bit pathetic with a tiny thin slide of Ham like you'd get on an Egg McMuffin dwarfed by the rather large baguette.  

McDonald's Vietnam Sweet Chilli Sauce & Garlic Soy Sauce
The sandwich took a couple minutes to be prepared by the team working the McCafe kiosk. The standard McDonald's table was doing decent business with locals and tourists coming and going, but no one other than me was at the McCafe.  I watched one of the staff cut take a baguette out of a breadbox and cut it down the centre, which was a very good sign, as they weren't pre-made sandwiches like at most McCafes. The bread definitely didn't look like it came from a bag shipped in or was frozen, this looked like it came from a bakery and delivered directly to McDonald's.  The bread was filled with the required ingredients and toasted.  It was then placed in a paper bag and served together with Sweet Chilli Sauce (from Thailand) and Garlic Soy Sauce, made in Vietnam, but by a Korean company Ottoggi, the same company that makes the sauces in Korea.

Now, I've eaten a lot of McDonald's, and usually when there's an item tailored to local diners, especially when trying to be something "traditional" like Banh Mi, there's usually an attempt to use local ingredients and at least try and re-create the local flavours, sometimes with a McDonald's twist.  In this case, excluding the bread, there was absolutely no attempt to try and make it taste like a Banh Mi.  The ingredients were identical to the ones you'd have in a Sausage McMuffin, and that's it - Sausage Patty, Tomato, Lettuce and Cheese.  

I will admit, the bread was probably the best bread I've ever had at a McDonald's, as it was both extremely light, fluffy and fresh, but the filling just smelt and tasted exactly like a standard McDonald's breakfast sandwich. This also influenced the taste, apart from the texture of the bread it didn't really taste any different from a Sausage McMuffin and to be completely honest, the bread, although very good, was far too large for the mediocre amount of filling inside. If they could have just put a little bit if cilantro or even just a bit of Mayo it would have been better than it was and it could be something at least somewhat similar to a genuine Banh Mi. A couple pieces of chilli could have made a difference too, and the inclusion of that process cheese slice really made it take a wrong turn. That said, if they were marketing this as a Breakfast Baguette, or Sausage McMuffin on Baguette, or something similar it would have easily been a 5/5 review, it just wasn't a Banh Mi whatsoever..
Rating - 2/5

This is one of those items that gets a low score not simply by how it tastes, but what it represents.  I did however wrap half the sandwich up and ate it on my flight back to Bangkok.  It still didn't taste any better, in fact it tasted even more like a McMuffin now that the bread was cold. But it wasn't something that was so bad, I had to throw it away.