Meet Hoi An’s Oldest Banh Mi Seller

This street vendor cart selling Banh Mi, which is located on Hung Vuong street, Hoi An, has been around for a very long time and attracts many domestic tourists and foreigners from all over the world. This is considered the oldest street vendor in Hoi An that has gained a lot of love and respect from the diners, even served a family for four generations.


Renewed and beautifully painted by a French artist

Hoi An ancient town has been a favorite destination of many travelers for a variety of reasons. It is a heaven for foodies and food bloggers to find the best traditional dishes in Vietnam, with small restaurants, and street vendors nestled in every corner of the bustling city.

Once you have a taste of the delicious dishes sold by street vendors, you will not be able to forget them. There are many significant choices for you to try, but Banh Mi is one of the most famous plates among them.

Thu has spent more than 40 years selling Banh Mi with her street vendor cart. Photo: Manh Cuong
Thu has spent more than 40 years selling Banh Mi with her street vendor cart. Photo: Manh Cuong

Located at 83 Hung Vuong (Hoi An), the small street vendor cart of Doan Thi Kim Thu, who is 66 years old, has been here for over 40 years. To many people, this is the oldest street vendor cart in Hoi An. During these days, tourists are astonished when they come to this place and buy a load of the Banh Mi that is made by Thu. It is not because of the taste of the food, but because the vendor cart has a stunning and colorful new appearance.

“Who has decorated your cart? It is so beautiful,” a guest asked. Thu replied with a smile, “Isn’t it? A foreign man painted it for me.”

“The foreign man” that she mentioned was Adam PalmeTer, a talented young French artist.

According to Thu, a foreign tourist came to her vendor to buy Banh Mi and ended up eating two loaves of bread.

Each loaf of bread costs about VND10.000. Photo: Manh Cuong
Each loaf of bread costs about VND10.000. Photo: Manh Cuong

“He ate the Banh Mi, then held up his fingers and said “gut, gut” (Good, good). What he meant is it tasted delicious and the flavors were unique,” she said.

After finishing eating, the foreigner introduced himself. He said he came from France and was an artist. He offered to paint her bread cabinet for free and asked for her permisson.

When Thu agreed, the guest looked very happy and asked when he could begin his painting job.

“I told him to come here around noon when there were no guests around. In the next 3 days, he arrived at my place and drew for about 1 hour. When it was all done, he was so excited that he could not stop thanking me,” she said with a smile.

Days after that, the man also visited her street vendor with his girlfriend to eat the loaf of Banh Mi that was made by Thu and said goodbye to the lovely old woman, before flying back to France.

The cart was painted beautifully by the French artist. Photo: Manh Cuong
The cart was painted beautifully by the French artist. Photo: Manh Cuong

“Before going, he showed me a note that was translated on his phone for me to read, and it wrote: ‘I will leave Vietnam tomorrow. Please do not move away, wait for me, because when I travel to Hoi An again in the future, I would love to eat your Banh Mi. I will never forget how delicious it is, and will definitely miss it a lot,” Thu said.

Fall in love at the first bite

In 1985, Thu began her business selling Banh Mi with a street vendor cart. This cart has helped her provide for her family, raised her two children, and got them to school. She started working at 5 am and came home at 11 pm every day, and sold about 250 – 300 loaves of bread.

“In the past, it was only VND3.000 – VND5.000/ loaf, but now everything has become expensive, so the price has also increased. The current price for each loaf of bread is VND10.000. This cart of mine is probably older than me now,” Thu said cheerfully.

Not only do Vietnamese visitors love this street vendor, but also foreign tourists from other countries come to Hoi An for beautiful scenery and excellent traditional food.

Photo: Manh Cuong
Photo: Manh Cuong

“There is a family that has bought bread from my cart for 4 generations. Parents came here first, then they brought their children and grandchildren…come to eat. they still enjoy buying Banh Mi from my cart,” Thu said proudly.

Selling bread for nearly 40 years, what makes Thu regret the most is that her two children have gone to school for 12 years, but have never been to a parent meeting once.

“My busy work caused me to have less time to be with my children. I got up before the sunshine and came home very late in the evening when they had already gone to bed. I teared up when I saw them sleep,” Thu recalled.

When Thanh Nien’s reporter asked if Thu would quit selling Banh Mi because of her old age, she said, “I have many guests who have been buying food from my vendor cart for years, and I can not quit. I have been selling Banh Mi for decades and never worry about losing customers since they trust the quality and taste of the bread that I make. I am still healthy, and feel happy to serve everyone coming here to have a nice meal.”

Her street vendor cart is located on 83 Nguyen Hung Vuong Street. Photo: Manh Cuong
Her street vendor cart is located at 83 Hung Vuong Street. Photo: Manh Cuong

Le Thi Hanh, who is 35 years old and living on Hung Vuong street, said her family has been Thu’s familiar guests for a long time.

“Her bread street vendor cart is not just beautiful on the outside, but the taste and flavors are also extraordinary. As to say, you will fall in love at the first bite,” she said.

Charlotte Pho