ánh mì vendors made on the streets. Bánh Mì is a traditional street sandwich served all over Vietnam, and it is a relic of the French colonial times, when a lot of French food traditions fused and merged with local Vietnamese cuisine. It incorporates a French derived baguette, pâté and mayonnaise, combined with Vietnamese meats, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon radish, cilantro and hot peppers. The world over, in regions where there are vast Vietnamese immigrant communities, bánh mì refers to the classic cold-cut meats variety, which includes sliced pork belly and Vietnamese sausage. But in Vietnam, bánh mì simply means 'bread', and one has to precise which kind of sandwich one would like, such as the cold-cut one (bánh mì thịt nguội), the one with grilled meat (bánh mì thịt nướng), or with meatball (bánh mì xíu mại), amongst others.
Bánh mì is extremely cheap, and typically sells between 12,000 VND to 20,000 VND on the streets (about 60 cents to 1 dollar). Foreigners may be turned off by the bare hands-handling by some vendors or the newspaper used to wrap the sandwich in, but one thing we cannot deny is how amazing it tastes and how it just hits the right spot for a filling snack craving. There is a trend though in making bánh mì more of an upscale snack as is evident in BMV chain (http://www.banhmiviet.net/), a fast-food type restaurant that sells all kinds of bánh mì and even delivers them (I am a huge fan, and I hate to admit I sometimes order delivery from them, even though they are just down the street from my house).
A bánh mì vendor I often go to is this lady who parks herself on the corner of an intersection leading to my alleyway and seems to be doing fine with her stand. People stop by her on their bikes and conveniently pick up a sandwich. I often pick up a sandwich on the way home going into my alleyway.
One day I finally lost all senses of discretion and started asking her about her dealings. She works everyday from about 2pm to around 9pm. She sells 100 sandwiches per day, and she said it with an air which showed that she did not struggle to meet the daily quota. I was puzzled by her small cart and asked her where all the breads were, and she told me that she had bread delivered to her cart in different rotations to help her stock up. She sells a sandwich for 12,000 VND.
So now, with all of these numbers in check, the fun part... If she sells 100 sandwiches a day and each costs 12,000 VND.... that's 1,200,000 VND in sales per day... so about $60.... And times that by 30 days..... WOWWWWZZERSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!! You mean to tell me that she makes 36,000,000 VND per month!!?!! Which is about $1800???!!!! Whattt???? Did I calculate that right??? I did not factor in the cost of the ingredients but I don't assume it's too high. And I am not sure if she has any permit to set up her stand there every day... But in revenue alone, it is extremely high for one local individual, considering that the average monthly salary for a local person is $185!!!
Needless to say, after the eureka moment I had that day I made the calculation, I looked at bánh mì vendors with different eyes... One of "Wow, good for you!". Unless I have overlooked details or the cost of selling the sandwiches is a lot higher than I suspected, I'd say this ain't a bad job at all!