When Trang Nguyen and Nghiem Hoang moved from Vietnam to Austin less than seven months ago, they decided the best way to stay close to home was through food.
The couple quickly found themselves opening their first restaurant in America, Bon Bon Banh Mi.
“They figured Banh Mi would be a great fit in the American culture,” their son Khoa Hoang said. “It’s a sandwich so it’s very easy for people to try. It’s nothing crazy.”
Upon opening their first brick and mortar seven months ago, Nguyen and Nghiem Hoang noticed an impressive following from UT students. This eventually led to the addition of a Bon Bon Banh Mi food truck behind the University Co-Op this month.
“We got a lot of UT students coming into our restaurants and suggesting that (we) open a food truck (at) UT,” Nghiem Hoang said. “It’s a good way to introduce authentic Vietnamese cuisine to the students.”
Bon Bon Banh Mi interestingly serves banh mi and nothing else. Khoa Hoang said his parents’ decision to only serve one type of dish comes from the culture of Vietnam where people believe that in order to be truly good at any one thing, they must put all their focus into a single idea at a time.
“That’s a very different perspective than most people here,” Khoa Hoang said. “People want to get as much of a profit as possible, and I think that’s good, but my mom doesn’t care about making a profit. She cares about making the best product she can for her customers. She doesn’t want to sell average banh mi, she wants to serve the best.”
Khoa Hoang said another key aspect of his parents’ business is their unwavering allegiance to authenticity.
“My parents are very picky about their food,” Khoa Hoang said. “They think the places here change the ingredients to satisfy American customers. We are the opposite. We want to keep the original recipes to show people how good Vietnamese food really is.”
The prices at Bon Bon Banh Mi are very reasonable. At only $7, each meal comes with a soft drink and a side of chips.
The authentic preparation of the banh mi is clearly noticeable and sets Bon Bon Banh Mi apart from other Vietnamese joints in the area, at least in the sandwich category.
With a thin crunchy outer layer and a wonderfully soft and warm inside, the bread alone is enough to make anyone pay the food truck a second visit. The protein in the sandwich, specifically the grilled pork, is clearly marinated for a substantial amount of time based on its flavor and juiciness. The veggies also appear to be marinated, as the carrots and cucumber have a tangy taste infused with their natural flavors. What makes this banh mi truly notable though, is the housemade mayo and pâté.
The mayo has an almost citrusy flavor to it, similar to a lemon aioli, which blends exceptionally well with the marinade used on the meat and the vegetables. The pâté, which is ground chicken liver, adds a great extra layer of savory taste to the sandwich.
Although Bon Bon Banh Mi primarily serves banh mi, they are introducing a new menu item this week which includes grilled pork and a spring roll served over rice noodles with fresh vegetables and housemade fish sauce. Khoa Hoang said it is an old recipe of his grandmother’s that his parents decided to relaunch. Though similar in flavor to the banh mi, this dish is a much lighter option for anyone who doesn’t want a sandwich.
With a simple menu, attention to detail and low prices, the Bon Bon Banh Mi food truck is definitely one of the better deals on the Drag.