When you think of Vietnamese street food, naturally doner kebab is not the first thing that comes to mind. Originally a Turkish dish, doner kebabs have undergone many variations and adopted numerous nationalities, including Vietnamese. Over the past decade, the banh my kebab has become incredibly popular in Hanoi, earning itself credit as a staple street food.
So what exactly distinguishes a banh my kebab from its Turkish predecessor? Most importantly, the meat in a banh my doner kebab is usually pork, a sacrilegious take on an originally halal dish of beef or lamb. The meat, however, is still cooked in the traditional rotisserie fashion.
The other most notable difference is the bread. Instead of using pita to hold the ingredients like the popular version found around the world, the Vietnamese rendition uses the popular German variation — toasted flatbread. The rest of the sandwich is more or less the same as any adaptation. In addition to pork, banh my kebabs are also filled with a mix of fresh and pickled vegetables and some kind of oniony mayonnaise sauce.
2 Hang Bac
Banh my kebab stalls are everywhere in Hanoi, but there is talk that the eatery at 2 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem was the first shop in the city to serve the sandwich. Their kebabs are by far the best. For VND30,000 customers get a hefty sandwich filled with sliced pork, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, onion, and seasoned mayo sauce. Seating is limited, but there are a handful of plastic stools out front to enjoy your sandwich on the spot.
The stand is technically open daily from 7.30am to 11.30pm, but if you’re looking for a late-night snack, you better get there before 10pm on the weekends because sandwiches run out quickly on Friday and Saturday nights. Once the rotisserie is gone, it’s time to close up shop.
4 Luong Ngoc Quyen
At 4 Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hoan Kiem you’ll find the Duc Long Banh My Doner Kebab shop, a joint that boldly claims to be chinh goc 2 Hang Bac cu or the original 2 Hang Bac, which means that if they are, they were the people who brought the German version of the doner kebab to Hanoi. Whether that’s true is up for debate; regardless, the slogan is a testament to 2 Hang Bac’s good reputation.
Duc Long’s offers a wide variety of sandwiches including vegetarian banh my kebab (a slight oxymoron, VND20,000), doner kebab with rice (VND45,000), banh my kebab on a baguette instead of flatbread (VND30,000) and of course a regular banh my kebab (VND30,000). The shop also offers a choice of chicken and pork.
2 Hang Bac might beat them for reputation, but Duc Long’s wins for seating. There are plenty of tables and stools out front and in the small room behind the prep stand for customers to enjoy their meals. They’re open daily from 9.30am to 11.30pm.
5 Ma May
Across the street from the Old Quarter’s infamous Bia Hoi Corner on Ma May there is more often than not a woman selling banh my kebabs from a portable stand. There’s only one thing on the menu; classic pork banh my kebabs for VND30,000. While this stand may not seem like anything extraordinary, it is a convenient snack for when you’re having a beer on the corner.
Outside the Old Quarter
While the Old Quarter might have some of the best banh my kebab shops, it’s not always the closest option. Alternatively, look for shops at 178 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho or 471 Lac Long Quan, Tay Ho for less elaborate but equally delicious sandwiches.
PHOTOS BY TEIGUE JOHN BLOKPOEL