Inspired by Vietnamese street food classics, Banh Wagon was started in 2019 by Jamie Brooks. Catering at festivals, music events, markets as well as private catering, Banh Wagon serves up the traditional bánh mì sandwich, with a slight twist.
Jamie’s take on the Vietnamese classic substitutes the usual chả lụa (pork sausage) with a choice of pan roasted pork, slow cooked chicken and a vegan-friendly option of 5 spiced tofu.
1) Where did the idea for Banh Wagon come from?
Well I spent a bit of time in Vietnam doing the usual backpacker thing through South East Asia. I ended up teaching English in Hanoi, which is where I came across the Bánh mì sandwich. It was something I ate on almost a daily basis. The thing that separated this sandwich from any other was the distinct taste of coriander and the beautiful richness of the pâté. As a sandwich lover I realised this is nothing like what I’ve had before. I thought to myself ‘this would make great street food back home’.
2) What does your typical day look like?
For me, a lot of work is done in the preparation. I operate out of my home kitchen where I marinate the meats, pickle the veg and bake the breads. For a day spent out selling sandwiches, an equal amount of time is spent in the kitchen.
3) What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?
Booking myself in for regular street food events. Once I’ve got it in the calendar then there’s no going back. All my energy and focus goes on making that day a success.
4) What advice would you give your younger self?
Just get out there and do it. The first meal you sell will give you that fire in your belly to continue and make it a hit.
5) What is the one thing you do over and over again and recommend everyone else do?
Keep showing up. I think that’s half the battle. As long as you’re there with a product to sell you’ll know how to improve for the next time, then the next time, then the next. It’s a great feeling when you start getting repeat customers.
6) What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Making sure I minimise my waste. Having to throw away vast amounts of food at the beginning killed me. I use an app called Too Good To Go which connects food businesses with users to sell off any unsold food at the end of the day. It’s been a lifesaver in recovering sunk costs. A really simple but effective tool that I’d recommend everyone in the food business use.
7) What’s one trend in the F&B industry that excites you?
I think for me it’s regional foods coming to the fore. Going for a curry hasn’t been the same for me since I tried Mumbai street food. There are 4 main states in India, each of these states has its own unique types of cuisines. I’m enjoying the vast differences in cuisine that regional cooking provides.
8) What is the best £20 you recently spent? What and why?
I was hoping it would’ve been a £20 (strictly speaking £21.99) flight to Porto this Spring, however it wasn’t meant to be. Twenty quid on a flight abroad has to be a good spend (as long as pandemics don’t get in the way).
9) What is your favourite quote?
I’ve had to do some soul searching for this one as quotes aren’t something I keep a note of. I guess if I had to pick it would be “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I like the idea of breaking things down and making life more manageable.
10) What are some of your favourite places to eat at?
I’m a big fan of Eatchu in Bristol, just off St Nic’s Market. They do incredible Gyoza dumplings that I simply cannot get enough of.
11) What’s the best thing to order from Banh Wagon?
It’s without doubt the 5 Spiced Pork Bánh mì. This is a pan-roasted pork loin marinated in a blended concoction of spring onions, garlic, lime juice, 5 spice, ginger, and hoisin sauce. It’s thinly sliced and packed tightly into ciabatta rolls. It’s served with pickled daikon & carrot, cucumber, jalapeños and of course; coriander & pâté. You get a choice of siracha mayo, sriracha and hoisin sauce to top it off with.
12) Are there any exciting plans coming from Banh Wagon soon?
I’m currently working on another sandwich filling – roasted belly of pork. Just got to perfect that crackling!