There is nothing more quintessentially Vietnamese than the banh mi – the iconic sandwich is devoured and loved by visitors and residents alike all over the country. Paperman, however, is set to transform old recipes of the dish and infuse them with new and revamped flavours. Owner Quan Dang, who also manages Hanoi’s popular brunch-spot Lifted, set the solid foundations for what the sandwich shop has now come to be. Although Dang was born in Hanoi he spent over ten years in Melbourne which ultimately sparked his love for food – especially in a country where culinary fusion reigns king. “Local Vietnamese restaurants are very keen on preserving traditional tastes in their dishes and are a little afraid to experiment,” explains Dang. “After living in Australia for so long I wanted to experiment with dishes from Vietnam but with Western touches.”
In an attempt to change this, the sandwiches served at Paperman are made in a more Southern style, which is also the type of Vietnamese cuisine also more prevalent in Australia due to immigration during the war. These banh mi’s are slightly smaller than those found up north, a lot rounder and have an extra crunchiness to their bite. The advantage of serving something as elementary as a sandwich is in fact the endless opportunities one has to be creative: the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can stuff bread with. Paperman isn’t afraid of being experimental, and although they do serve the classic banh mi options like paté or omelette, their menu is also packed with bolder choices such as Chinese roast duck and the beastly peanut butter crackling roast pork. Dang is also hoping to expand the menu as time goes on, adding pulled pork and blue cheese and some more vegetarian options, but for only being open a month the shop has already taken the city by storm.
Located smack bang in the middle of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the shop is conveniently stationed nearby popular tourist trails – meaning streams of Japanese, Korean and European visitors would be hard pressed not to stumble upon Paperman’s bright yellow outdoor lettering.
After a year and a half of success with Lifted, Dang has garnered a fair amount of local foodie fans too, which has helped spread the word about his new venture. For all of his innovations in the kitchen, Dang is old-school when it comes to advertising. “We’ve virtually done no social media marketing. We prefer to let the venues speak for themselves and let people find our cafés in a natural way.” In a city where local communities are tight knit, word of mouth is possibly the most valuable forms of customer persuasion, and renders any fancy online ads virtually unnecessary – especially in a venue that is quite niche already. “What we do isn’t for everyone, there are quite a few people that don’t like trying new flavours and that is totally fine too. But for me, I just love to eat and to be be creative with food.”
“Opening Paperman was not as challenging as it was with Lifted as we already had the experience in what was needed to open a restaurant here and a lot of our staff has helped out in making the opening go smoothly. We’re just excited to see how it all progresses from here.”
You can chomp down on one of Paperman’s baguette creations at 24 Nha Tho, Hanoi.