Bánh mì is generally served in small shops and at some phở noodle eateries. Bánh mì shops can be found in many countries, especially in areas with a Vietnamese immigrant community. The contrasting flavors and textures of the sandwich — as well as its relatively low cost — make it a popular dish.
The genesis of the bánh mì sandwich stems from the French countryside "salad sandwich" which consists of lettuces, tomatoes and sometimes vegetables as well as dressing served on a baguette. The sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, pate and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients like coriander, hot peppers, fish sauce and pickled carrots.
The ingredients in a Vietnamese sandwich vary most notably in their meat selections. The most common varieties are bánh mì gà made with chicken, bánh mì trứng with scrambled egg, bánh mì bì made with shredded pork skin and roasted rice powder, bánh mì thịt nướng made with grilled pork, bánh mì xíu mại made with juicy crushed pork meatballs, with the most popular bánh mì đặc biệt or "special combo" which comprises all the ingredients. Also occasionally available is bánh mì chay, a vegetarian option, usually made with tofu or textured vegetable protein. The most common variety is made with various Vietnamese coldcuts made of pork, along with pickled carrots and radishes. Chili peppers and pate are often added as well. In the United States, the typical Vietnamese sandwich is known as the bánh mì Sài Gòn and it is usually made with broiled pork and goose liver pate.
Another popular option is the breakfast bánh mì, either with fried scrambled eggs served in a baguette, or the more popular version eaten widely for breakfast in Vietnam: Eggs fried sunny-side-up with onions, sprinkled with soy sauce or maggi sauce, and eaten with a fresh (and sometimes buttered) baguette.