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Vietnamese baguette sandwiches, called Banh Mi, have attracted a loyal fan base like never before. Like a musical band with rock star status, these sandwiches have an almost cult-like following of epicurean devotees. The uniqueness of these sandwiches not only lies within the french influenced baguette, but it’s also the flavor packed, savory Viet fillings that what makes the marriage of the two main ingredients a true love affair.
It starts with a Viet style french baguette; usually made with a combination of rice and/or wheat flour, resulting in a very light, crackly crust and not overly dense bread. The majority of Viet bakeries strive & compete to achieve a golden, crackly crust with just a touch of center, where most of the baguette is more crust than center. A few other may be content on creating a Viet baguette that is a little more soft and chewy on the outside, and a little more “hoagie” like. So there is a bread for almost everyone.
Inside the length of the cut baguette or (occasionally a full demi-baguette), a great banh mi should have luscious, Viet flavored fillings such as pork prepared in numerous ways; juicy pork meat ball (xiu mai), bar-b-que (thit nuong), shredded (bi) and pork roll (cha lua).
Cold cut combinations (pork roll, ham, and/or head cheese), grilled chicken (ga nuong), sardine (ca moi), scrambled egg (trung chien) and vegetarian (chay) are just a sampling of the plethora of possibilities one may be offered on the menu.
Other common ingredients used to finish the sandwich often are: liver pate, homemade mayo, touch of soy sauce, shredded pickled carrots & daikon, fresh cilantro, jalapeño heat and crispy cucumber slices. Most any of these condiments may be omitted since, banh mi are nearly always made to order.
To top off that banh mi high”, they are still “light” on the pocketbook. Rock on!
Some of the more contemporary locations makes it easy to order and pick up with state-of-the-art, bi-lingual, computerized voice systems. But the real novelty behind these sandwiches lies behind the cultural experience, occasional language barriers and sometimes challenge of righting your way to the front to order your bánh mì. This is priceless.
For the bakeries that haven’t adapted to America quite so quickly, you’ll have to push your way to the front just as hard as the little old lady next to ya. Here, it’s not “first come, first serve” but more like whom evers’ order gets heard first by the cashier. Don’t expect to get the friendliest service either sometimes, but don’t ever take it personal. They’re just focused on getting you the best sandwich they can in record speed.
Just know that if it’s busy with a Vietnamese crowd, you’re getting a respectable sandwich. A true banh mi quest wouldn’t be as authentic and fun without experiencing the latter of the two scenarios.
One note of caution though: in-consistency can run rampant at some of these places. Depending on the mood of who’s working the sandwich station that day, a sandwich can leave you satisfied or aching for more filling.
We’ve debated over the better Việt baguette on the battlefields of Little Saigon, now the real battle of the banh mi continues on culinary battlefields all across America. There are so many independent banh mi shops/bakeries that deserve our time and cravings. Some heated discussions may argue over factors based on the quality of the bread, fillings or vice versa. Our personal battles over our favorite banh mi starts with the bread, continues with the fillings and still has ho end in sight.
Attention all banh mi buddies!! We now we seek the opinion of banh mi junkies from all around. Where is your favorite banh mi place?
Share your favorite place so that if any of us are far away from home, we can satisfy our cravings for a good sandwich in any part of the country. Visit the link of where your favorite shop is and post about where you think they make the best banh mi.
Difference of opinions will arise, but remember that we are all bound by one common thread- the search and appreciation of a good banh mi sandwich. So please, house rules are to post only your favorite. Lets just discuss the positives and where the recommended eateries are.
Do not post any negative comments about any banh mi place, because we would rather spend our precious time eating than reading any negative, non-constructive posts. No haters, only banh mi lovers.