By Marilyn Kitzes
Vietnam’s most famous sandwich, the bánh mì, usually fetches about one dollar in Ho Chi Minh City, still known today as Saigon. Traditionally, it’s a simple baguette spread with thinly sliced marinated pork, pickled veggies, and spicy mayo. But at the fun and welcoming Anan Saigon (the first word translates as “eat eat”), celebrated chef Peter Cuong Franklin has elevated the humble sandwich to luxurious new levels.
Franklin’s version includes a truffle mayonnaise and a pâté created by a French charcuterie in the city of Da Lat. It also stars a sous vide pork chop (almost one whole chop) that is slow-cooked for six hours. When the order is placed, the meat is taken out of its sous vide bag and thrown on the grill for a charred, smoky flavor. To complete the experience, Franklin adds what he calls his herbes de Saigon—cilantro, basil, and mint—and cucumber. As a side dish, customers are usually treated to sweet potato fries dipped in caviar.
Would you assume Anan is located on a trendy Saigon street? Think again. Located in one of the city’s most famous wet markets, the “Cho Cu” or Old Market, the restaurant is just feet away from bustling street stalls and market vendors selling produce, meat, and fish. It’s no coincidence. Chef Franklin’s culinary vision is to specialize in street-food-inspired dishes that are “deeply respectful of [Saigon’s] history and traditions yet progressive and international in [their] outlook.”
Of course, it’s not just the bánh mì that has earned Anan Saigon great publicity. Franklin has leveraged his inspiration of the street market for other signature dishes such as Dà Lat Pizza (a Vietnamese-style, rice paper pizza), Bánh Xèo Taco (think Vietnamese tacos), and Foie Gras Imperial Roll (with pork, black truffle, and sweet chili lime sauce). He’s also recently mastered a unique pho with black truffle and quail egg. These inventive dishes not only have attracted visits from Michelin-star chefs, but the Vietcetera Grand Jury Award for Saigon’s Restaurant of 2018. What’s the chef’s next move? Franklin is thinking of opening another version of Anan and perhaps a restaurant in Da Lat with a farm-to-table concept. Stay tuned, and save your pennies.