Viet Nam News
Eating bread with pate, sausage, omelette, mashed potato and pork, covered with sweet sauces all inside a pan, is now becoming a new lifestyle for bread lovers. Hoàng Hồ has learnt that the sauces are what decides the taste and difference in bánh mỳ chảo or “bread with combo pan”.
My friend Trần Việt Hưng, a student currently studying in New York City came back to Hà Nội a few days ago. I was delighted to see him and wanted him to have a meal with me.
First I suggested phở, but Hưng said he wanted something new and different, so we decided to settle for "bread with combo pan", a new trend of bread eating developed in the capital some years ago.
When he first heard of bánh mỳ chảo, my friend was really excited about trying it because eating bread with ingredients all inside a pan was a whole new experience.
We started our meal at Cột Điện Quán, 105C3 Nghĩa Tân, a dream street for young food lovers in Hà Nội as its fame has spread far and wide.
When we entered the street, there was a heady mix of aromas wafting towards us but above all, there was a very clear and delicious smell of bread, roast pork, and sauces. They all came from the shop.
Oh! Everything had remained unchanged since the first time I had come here four years before, from the space, the table, the crowded diners to the flavour.
We had to wait for a few minutes to be seated at a table in the corner of the shop because it was always crowded.
It was not a really big space but big enough for everyone to have their own privacy. Despite that there were many diners, but a waiter still managed to serve us as soon as possible. Although it is best known for bánh mỳ chảo, at only VNĐ39,000, the shop is also known for a very good bánh mỳ sốt vang (bread with stewed beef) too. I chose normal pan bread and my friend called for a full pan with sausage added.
Hưng said that because he had been away for a really long time he did not know about the pan bread and was really excited to try it. We smelt the delicious sauces, heard the sound of crispy bread when we were inside the shop.
When the server brought us a plate of bread and a pan with sausage, mashed potatoes, pate and the sauces, we were delighted and impressed by the very attractive designs in the dish and its ingredients.
The pate made from pork liver tasted very good and it was confirmed by the manager, Phan Thanh Bình, that it had no chemical substances. The sausage had been ordered from a guaranteed food company. The mashed potato was so fresh and soft that it melted on our tongues right after the first taste and the combination of sweetness and fat felt quite amazing.
“What make this place a brand as well as the difference between Cột Điện Quán and other pan bread shops are the sauces. We have the only home-made sauce which cannot be found in any other shop,” Bình said.
“I have tested the sauces on numerus occasions using different ingredients, fruits, tomatoes and onions. My effort has paid off, because now we have the most complete version of sauces, sweet and spicy,” he said.
The shop was established five years ago and soon winning passionate reviews and prestige from diners, particular the youth, for its quality, tasty and delicious dishes, Bình said.
We enjoyed the pan bread so much and were pleasantly surprised with the service of the waiters and the prices too.
Despite the crowded space, all the diners still talked comfortably with each other and enjoyed the food.
Hưng later said he would like to try the pan bread at other shops as well and I agreed. I led him to another famous Chú Cuội Shop at 165 Xuân Thủy Road in Cầu Giấy District.
The shop owner Nguyễn Minh Trường was very kind. He politely asked us which seat we would like to sit in.
When the waiter brought us our dishes, we were quite impressed with the well-designed plate and also with the big and brittle size of the bread.
In the plate, there was very well-designed food too. The sausage was skilfully cut and decorated in the shape of a flower, with pate, mashed potato, fried potato, and roast pork, placed very sensibly and covered with sauces.
Compared with Cột Điện Quán, the sauces of Chú Cuội shop were not as thick as the ones there, but the mashed potato was softer and had a better flavour. In addition, the shop here offered diners fried potato, fresh basils and mint leaves.
The sauces – the “soul” of every pan bread – contain various items such as tomato sauce, fresh onion, dried onion and garlic.
The shop was opened in 2013. It was inspired by a pan bread shop near his home in Thái Thịnh Street, where he used to eat the dish often. He realised that besides the really good taste, the pork dumpling was expensive and the quantity too little.
He decided to make his own favourite recipe, and more pork was added at a reasonable price that students could afford.
“To have the completed recipe that I have now, I had to face numerous difficulties such as finding a supplier of organic ingredients, and finally a good recipe.
“Finally, I found a supplier from a farm in Hà Nội’s Ba Vì District to order potatoes and tomatoes. I had to take a lot of advice from culinary experts, especially feedback from my own diners, to improve my recipe day by day.
“Now I have a lot of clients and plan to open one or two shops,” Trường said.
We enjoyed pan bread at Trường’s shop a lot, not only for its tasty and aromatic flavour but its affordable price of VNĐ33,000 per full pan.
Last week, before returning to the United States, Hưng said he seemed to have become addicted to new-found pan bread and would like to eat the dish in downtown.
I introduced him to Hiệu Lực restaurant at 326, Bà Triệu, located near Vincom Trade Centre. Launched five years ago, despite not having a very large space, Hiệu Lực pan bread brand has been well recognized by the youth for its quantity and reasonable prices.
With only VNĐ30,000 for a full set, diners can have a good bread with full pan of egg, pate, sausage, and pork. The shop made it up by the quality of service, the original pate with a sign at the edge and especially since there were no sauces inside the pan. It was a straight but exciting new way to eat it.
Pan bread is one of the newest and most unique dishes in Việt Nam. Let’s try it. VNS