The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tet, falls on February 12 this year. The day is a significant holiday at Macrina. Our head bakers, Phuong Hoang Bui and Thanh Huyen Dang, are Vietnamese, as are many of our bakers. Artisanal French and Italian traditions influence most of our bread, and the food in our cafes hews Mediterranean with a few American favorites thrown in, but an exception is our Bui Bun, made for banh mi, which was developed by Phuong with help from the bread team.
Banh Mi, the classic street-vendor Vietnamese sandwich, is one of the best comfort foods around. In Seattle, options abound, from traditional to hybrid. The one constant, in our favorites at least, is the right bread—fresh and airy, with the right mix of crackle, spring, and chew.
The baguette was introduced to Vietnam during French colonial rule in the early twentieth century. The earliest “banh mi” were straightforward, sometimes just a smear of butter and some ham or pâté, in the traditional Parisian fashion. But over time, both the bread and toppings evolved to become the unique, zesty Vietnamese sandwich that has claimed a spot in the global hall of culinary fame. Stacked with variations on satisfying fillings like cured and cooked pork, sliced ham, chicken liver pâté, green herbs, pickled vegetables, chili peppers, and spiced-up mayonnaise, the banh mi toppings are held together by a Vietnamese-style baguette or roll. The complex flavor of banh mi is a swirl of history, complementary and contrasting flavors, and a riot of textures—crunchy and tender—that make many other sandwiches seem boring in comparison.
For years, we served a bahn mi sandwich in the Macrina cafés on our Giuseppe Panini Baguette. We filled them with tofu, roast pork, chicken or flank steak, and classic banh mi toppings. It was good, but not quite right—we needed the right bread.
We turned to Phuong, who has been our head baker for over 20 years. Phuong started at Macrina as a dishwasher in early 1994, just after Macrina opened, and quickly proved himself to be a quick learner and skilled with bread in all its phases—dough, proofing, shaping, and baking.
“Phuong took the lead on developing an authentic banh mi bun, a product we’d later name after him,” says Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder. “He involved many of his fellow Vietnamese bakers at Macrina, bringing the whole bread production team together, including seeking out recipes from various cousins and parents, here and back in Vietnam. After months of testing, getting special pans, and testing it with our staff, customers, we launched our Bui Buns named after Phuong.”
The Bui Bun has a crisp crust and tender, airy crumb, just right for the perfect banh mi sandwich. Moreover, the bun, its creators, and the team-oriented approach symbolize one of our core values at Macrina: celebrating diversity.
To Phuong, Huyen, our fantastic crew, and everyone who celebrates the Lunar New Year, we wish you a year full of blessings and good fortune. Thank you for everything.