Did the Founder of Ba Le Bakery Invent the Bánh Mì?
Missed in all the excitement of Ba Le Bakery's opening, was the redesign of its website. It features a soothing French soundtrack, a stylish menu, and some pictures of various people riding bikes. But Mike Sula also caught another interesting addition in the about us page, which seems to make the case that the founder of Ba Le Bakery actually invented the bánh mì! This outlandish claim seems dubious for many reasons, but we honestly can't stop thinking about it. Is there any proof for this?
The claim is that founder, Le Vo, invented the sandwich in the early 1950's in Saigon based on bread that the French had brought over while occupying the country. Vo then moved to San Jose in 1972 to escape the war, where he opened the first Ba Le Bakery in 1982. The headquarters then moved to Chicago in 1989, where they still reside today.
What's really, really odd about the claim is that some of these details match up. The bánh mì is a dish that features both French and Vietnamese influences, and might have been developed around 50 years ago. And Ba Le is often mentioned as one of the best places for bánh mì's in the city. Still, this is the first time we've ever heard someone actually claim to have invented it. We initially just wanted to call bullshit on the whole thing, but figured we'd see if someone knew anything more. The full text is below.
Ba Le, founded by Le Vo, stemmed from a simple drink stand in Saigon, Vietnam in the early 1950's.
Vo was in his early 20's when he began his own business selling smoothies and various drinks from a stand he built out of found wood. His beverages sold well, but he needed an item to go complement his drinks. Sandwiches seemed ideal because they are quick to make , easy to take to go, and customizable . He began experimenting with different flavors and techniques for the vegetables and meat that would go into his sandwiches. He looked to the French, who were occupying the country at the time, for culinary inspiration. He then came up with the union of picked vegetables, savory meats, and the French baguette.
The Vietnamese "banh mi" sandwich was a big hit with Vo's customers. He had a unique way of preparing his meat that made him stand out from other sandwich's shop in Vietnam. His success led him to open up a warehouse to produce more than he could by himself at his stand. After much progression and growth. Vo unfortunately had to close up shop to escape the war in 1972.
He brought his family to the San Jose, California where Vo opened up Ba Le Bakery in 1982. The opening of the Chicago Ba Le followed after in 1989 which is now the headquarter of Ba Le products. Americans took well to his French-inpired sandwich, which is why Vo's family has continued to provide authentic Vietnamese food for their customers. Today his sons and daugthers have taken it upon themselves to open up more of his bakeries and serve his food through out the U.S.