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New Business Ideas No. 2: Banh Mi

Professor and businessman Murray Hunter presents another business idea from East: Banh Mi.
New Business Ideas No. 2: Banh Mi
Photo : Phil Lees

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The ultimate fusion between east and west in fast food is probably the "Banh Mi" roast meat baguette. "Banh Mi" roast meat baguettes originated in Vietnam, probably during the French colonial period where French baguettes were filled with local flavored meats and indigenous vegetables to Vietnam.  The result is a unique roast and oriental flavored meat roll that has a distinct oriental taste.

Basically, a "Banh Mi" is a roasted marinated meat like beef, roast or barbecued chicken, lamb, pate, or pork spiced up the local way, ala, soy, char siu, lemongrass, or even curried, rested upon a host of both local and common vegetables like cilantro leaves and coriander. Tofu could also be used as a replacement for meat. These are usually used as cold cuts. This is all on a base of lettuce, enhanced with sliced chill peppers, cucumber strips, pickled carrot, daikon, finely chopped garlic, and onion. This is topped with a little soy sauce, chili sauce and homemade mayonnaise recipe. Finally, the meat and filing is all rested within a cut crispy traditional French baguette, which makes a scrumptious meal for anyone.

I have seen "Banh Mi" rolls served out of a stall in Laos and Vietnam, "Banh Mi" bars attached to stores also in Vietnam, and as sandwich shops in Melbourne and Sydney, where there are extremely long queues at lunch time with people making their orders.

Currently "Banh Mi" rolls can be found anywhere in the world where there are Vietnamese communities. They are also very popular in the United States.

However today, "Bahn Mi" as a fast food roast roll is very rarely seen throughout any of the major SE-Asian cities, Europe, and Africa. "Banh Mi" is truly a treat that is yet to reach most of the world.

And this tastes of a great opportunity.

This cross cultural delight can be readily adapted to any region of the world, thus allowing any potential entrepreneur so much creative scope in developing his or her range of recipes. Could you imagine a "Nusantara" rendang overtone, or a spicy roasted meet flavored with the cumin of Meditation Europe and  Middle East?  The blandness of sandwiches can be spiced up to become a new exotic happening around town. Just imagine the spicy synergy of mint and basil over your roast lamb "Banh Mi" roll? Absolutely unique and appetizing.

You are not restricted to the traditional here. Veal or turkey would serve as great meats within the "Banh Mi" concept. One could also go teriyaki with wasabi to give it a Japanese twist. The limit to where you can go is up to your imagination. The whole concept could be made Halal to penetrate the large Islamic market around the region.

"Banh Mi" is a real yin yang style of culinary experience, and this is where through some experimentation at home, you can come up with that magic avant garde recipe that will give your stall or cafe notoriety.

You could also turn the rolls into a full roast dinner, by roasting potatoes with special toppings, and offering creamed corn. People can then get a wholesome roast dinner on the run. Roll-over "Kenny Rogers".

This is an opportunity for something new. Pioneer it right and there could be great rewards. The concept would suit a stall, mobile van, as part of a shopping centre or as a stand-alone cafe.

As a stall, you only need an area to prepare the rolls (see video clip), where the cooking and preparation would be done at home each night. All this for only a couple of Thousand Dollars.

However for those who want to go big time, there is great flexibility in the business model you could employ. There is even an opportunity to develop a range of recipes, a catchy brand, and franchise the concept around your region. You could develop a central depot that makes bread, cooks the roasts and  prepares sauces and vegetables ready for franchisee stalls to use on a daily basis.

Those who pioneer the "Banh Mi" concept are very likely to be successful if all the details are attended to carefully and the recipes developed creatively to capture suitable tastes for local customers. All it needs is a bit of research and most information you need is easily available online. Then develop the stall and create a food preparation area at home, where the roasted meats and prepared vegetables and sauces can be transported to your stall or shop each day. You can make or buy your own baguettes. Baguette making is time consuming and is only a small proportion of the total product cost, so buying might be the most economic thing to do.

Get into the "Banh Mi" or "subs" business. It’s going to be the next big fast food.

Good luck.

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