The “Banh Mi Queen” of Hoi An presides over a modest kingdom — just two tables and a glass cabinet arranged on the sidewalk at 115 Tran Cao Van Street.
Though she draws a lot of customers, Nguyen Thi Loc, 78, says she never gave her shop a name.
“It’s embarrassing giving myself a title for selling street food.”
Adoring tourists dubbed her “The Banh Mi Queen” and continue to keep the title alive in notes they leave in her cabinet, thanking her for “the best banh mi ever.”
Some call her Madam Khanh — an erroneous reference to her husband’s name.
Regardless, she proudly posts them in her shop.
A tourist named Gary from Sydney left one note that read: “many people said it was the best banh mi in the ancient town. Wrong! It’s the best banh mi, better than any in the world.”
Loc makes her banh mi on large crispy loaves, which she insists must be tough and fragrant.
She wakes up early in the morning to stock her shop with roughly ten fillings.
She makes her own pate, mayonnaise and pickles and sells around 100 loaves of banh mi a day for only US$1 each. Extras usually cost 50 cents.
Customers can take the loaves away or sit at the tables where they can also order drinks.
Another tourist said: “This is the best banh mi I have ever tasted. The service is lovely and friendly. And you will surely have a fresh cup of tea afterward.”
Loc kept many other notes of tourists from the UK, France, India, Japan and South Korea.
Many tourists described Loc as “a generous and lovely lady,” who always smiles and treats locals and foreigners alike.
Her sandwiches have also managed to win the hearts of hardened locals.
A tourist named Duong Hong from Ho Chi Minh City said she tried Madam Khanh’s after hearing a lot about it, and found it “very delicious and very different from banh mi elsewhere.”
The shop is ranked No.8 among 408 restaurants in Hoi An on TripAdvisor for its cheap price and good service.
One Australian customer posted a photo of Loc at work and printed it into a leaflet to give to anyone heading to Hoi An.
Not surprisingly, Australians typically dominate her dining room.
Loc said she’s too old to care about fame.
“But I’m very happy that I can do something to make Hoi An beautiful and make the tourists feel welcome.”