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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mon Me: Vietnamese Baguettes and More - London - United Kingdom

I was in London exactly four years ago today. I scored a last-minute plane ticket for a non-stop flight from LAX to Heathrow for $377. Cousin Q's youngest aunt had moved from Sydney, Australia to London earlier that year and said I could stay with her. With a free place to stay and a plane ticket that was just too good to pass up, I went for a four-day weekend. Even though I hadn't seen her since my trip to Australia years before that, "auntie" H (she's not really my auntie and she's several years younger than me) generously took me around and fed me.

A few months ago, cousin E left for a year's study abroad in London. Again, auntie H generously offered up her place. Then, when she asked cousin E what I was up to these days, the blog came up. And guess what? Turns out, without knowing it was me, auntie H reads the blog too! :)

Mon Me Vietnamese Baguettes and More - London - United Kingdom 1

Of course, when I asked what auntie H was up to, the biggest news was that she and a friend are opening a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) stall at the Sunday UpMarket. Mon Me, mom's (or mum's if you're Aussie or English) recipes, starts Sunday, October 18, in fact!

I asked her why she decided to sell banh mi, especially since she's busy with a day job the rest of the week. Auntie H said she felt there weren't enough places in central London selling Vietnamese sandwiches.

"We are really passionate about our banh mi and felt that if we brought it to London, it would become as popular as it is in Sydney... where you can find a good banh mi ANYWHERE," said auntie H. "I miss having big Asian supermarkets where you can get fresh meat/seafood/veggies at a really good price. They don't have places like Little Saigon in London."

Granted this was years ago and I didn't really know where to go at the time, but the entire three months that I worked in London, the only Vietnamese restaurant I could remember seeing was in Greenwich. I didn't think the restaurant looked authentic and I didn't want my friends' introduction to Vietnamese food to be bad, so we didn't go in. Oh! How I missed readily available and good Vietnamese food when I lived there!

"We tried the new banh mi places, but still felt that ours was better," said auntie H. "I've tried banh mi all over the world -- LA, Paris, NYC, Vietnam, but none compares to the Sydney banh mi, which is similar to ours, but we've added our own twist."

So she started Mon Me with a friend from high school, who somehow ended up in London too. They've been testing out recipes for months and months.

Ingredients include a slow-cooked pork belly that's tender and oozing with flavor, said auntie H. And cha lua (Vietnamese steamed pork loaf) that's steamed in the traditional style with banana leaves for aroma and flavor. Everything is made from scratch, except the baguettes, which come from a local baker.

Great! Send me a photo and I will tell my London readers about your banh mi I told auntie H. And she sends me this. Aww, nicely packaged for the market, except she's not thinking like a food blogger! People want to see what they'll be eating. Where are all the homecooked ingredients she told me about?

Mon Me Vietnamese Baguettes and More - London - United Kingdom 2

Then she sent close-up photos, but in tiny thumbnail sizes.

Bigger photos please!

Finally! Much better! Here's the slow-cooked pork and chicken fillings. Ooh! More enticing, yeah?

Mon Me Vietnamese Baguettes and More - London - United Kingdom 3

How 'bout this? The Vietnamese pork loaf steamed in banana leaves that she mentioned. Aaah!

Mon Me Vietnamese Baguettes and More - London - United Kingdom 4

Put it all together, and you'll get this! Now, don't you want to rush out and try her banh mi!?

Mon Me Vietnamese Baguettes and More - London - United Kingdom 5

I joked that she's not really using her mom's recipe if her pate recipe came from me. (I think that's how she originally found my blog?)

"The pate recipe has been changed...," said auntie H. "...to my mum's. Ha!"

Hmm. I should've asked her mom for her recipe then when she came last December for cousin Q's older brother's wedding.

Apparently, there's also a "secret sauce" for the banh mi that auntie H won't tell me.

So if you're in London and have a hankering for banh mi, come try auntie H's! Tell her I sent ya!

Updated October 19, 2009:
Auntie H says she sold out in 3.5 hours so do come early! She'll be closed next week so check the website for updates on hours, menu, and specials before going.

Updated November 1, 2010:
Mon Me is moving to a new location so check their website or follow them on Mon Me Twitter for updates on where and when.

Mon Me: Vietnamese Baguettes and More
Sunday (Up)Market (corner of Dray Walk and Hanbury Street)
Ely's Yard
The Old Truman Brewery
London, E1 6QL
United Kingdom
(Tube – Aldgate east/Liverpool Street)
Sundays only, 10 a.m. to 5pm, or until they sell out

1 year ago today, Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste).
2 years ago today, crimini, king oyster, monkey head, and shiitake mushrooms in my Cream of Four Mushroom Soup.


  1. aww tht's in east london where i am! i know there are some vietnamese restaurants down in shoreditch 10mins walk from my place but havent tried em yet! will def find time to go for a lil visit though. oooo :) i'm excited. thanks for sharing!

  2. What a fun post! I've never had banh mi. Of course the bread isn't diet-friendly for me, but I do need to try it at least once. Maybe when I come to LA I can try it. (Soon I hope! If only I could get my brother to stop working for a few days.)

  3. Great idea! People in London should be used to the idea of sandwiches and they are bound to be hooked when they try the Vietnamese version! Good luck with this venture.

  4. Holy Bonkers, i chose the wrong time to read the blog, so apparently it's the 15th on our lunar calender so I must eat vegetarian however I am now craving a Banh Mi so bad after reading this blog. Delicious!and the packaging is great!

  5. wanting the Vietnamese PORK LOAF steamed in banana leaves!

  6. I love the polka-dot pic. Hilarious.

  7. Fantastic! That pork loaf looks amazing. I've yet to travel to the east to try these new banh mi places popping up but I must soon!

  8. Fantastic and beautiful! The picture of the ingredients in the banh mi are so tantalizing. Like the polka dot basket and the last photo a lot :).

    And I also got the linking thing I asked you on Ask Wandering Chopsticks to work. Yay :)

  9. my mouth is watering oh I so want one right now. I especially love cha lua

    oh btw $377 for London-LAX is a very good deal. I've been looking at prices for France for Christmas... I wish I could find the same deal. Which travel site did you use?

    Jackie at PhamFatale.com

  10. i was at a graduation party this summer and met your 'aunty' there through mutual friends. I remember her saying that the only thing she couldn't get is proper vietnamese banhmi made with rice flour, she was going to use her mum's recipes etc. I live in manchester so have not had a chance to sample the goodies but i told her i would definitely give it a try next time I'm down there. small world hey?

  11. I am eating lunch right this minute and no matter how I try to ignore this post, I want to reach into the monitor and pull out the Banh Mi. Looks ymmm. Also looking for a recipe on Vietnamese Mayonaise, if you can help.

  12. Diva,
    I hope you stop by. Tell auntie H I sent ya!

    Yes! I can't wait until you visit. There's so many things I can show you.

    I think it's just finally catching on now! Well, in London anyway.

    I need to come up with a good veggie banh mi. Not a wheat gluten one but just a good caramelized tofu banh mi.

    I've never seen anyone so excited over cha lua. :P

    Weezer Monkey,
    I guess for non-bloggers, they just don't understand the need to photograph the ingredients. :P

    Oh, I hope you do soon. Seems like they're all concentrated on that end of town?

    Glad my directions were clear.

    My London ticket was a last-minute deal on United so it was only good for that week and for a long weekend. I usually check Orbitz to monitor air fares.

    I asked auntie H and she says she doesn't remember meeting you. But she says there's so many people setting up banh mi places these days.

    I've made my own mayonnaise before, just been too lazy to do it lately. Just beat eggs and slowly add in oil. :P


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