Monday, January 25, 2010

Banh You - Banh Mi

What's in a sandwich?

By any other name would it taste as sweet?

Take everything you know about sandwiches - your love of hefty versions overly stuffed with lunch meat, or perhaps your favorite flat pressed, cheesy variety - and throw it out the window while you're crossing the Brent Spence Bridge.

And when your brain has eradicated any hint of the traditional, two-pieces-of-bread variety hackneyed by an English earl in the 1700s, I want you to envision a concoction that the masses of Cincinnati have failed to embrace.

That concoction is Banh Mi.

Liz has extolled the virtues of this Vietnamese sandwich before; I'm told that Take the Cake sometimes includes it on its daily lunch menu.

But there are few other places I know of in town where I can enjoy one of these culinary achievements.

Wingman and I had just arrived to our hotel on a Thursday afternoon, our stomachs believing it was 3:30 in the afternoon, when we decided to set out for cheap Vietnamese in the nearby Tenderloin district. Not the most safe/clean/glamorous of neighborhoods in San Francisco, we were confident we'd discover a cheap meal to offset the decadence planned for later that evening.

I clicked on one of my Droid's apps and discovered Saigon Sandwich was just a few blocks away from our hotel.

That this bodega was honored with Best Sandwich in San Francisco a couple years ago should have been a sign of things to come.

That these sandwiches were around $3 a piece was just a bonus.

As we walked, Wingman waxed poetic about a Vietnamese sandwich he had 10 years ago. He said it was one of the best things he's ever eaten, and he's been searching the ends of the earth for another taste.

We walked to the little shop and found a line of people waiting to order their version of Banh Mi. The traditional Vietnamese sandwich is served on small baguette with pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, chili peppers, cucumbers, mayo and a variety of protein fillings.

W went with a combo with ham, pork and pate, whereas I went with the "fancy pork" option.

We waited as two ladies made around a dozen sandwiches for the waiting crowd. Five minutes later, the older lady handed us our sandwiches in little plastic baggies.

We hit the street and chowed down while passing crack whore trannys, alleys reeking of urine and homeless people sleeping under bundles of blankets.

It was hard to focus on the sandwich, as my taste buds and eyes were facing an onslaught of sensory overload. That said, I only had to take a few bites before admitting I hadn't had a sandwich this good in quite some time.

The cilantro, carrots, cucumbers all crunched with flavorful freshness, and the "fancy pork" was tasty, but apparently Vietnamese code for pork lunch meat. The bread's exterior was firm but not too hard to compromise the consistency of the sandwich, and the dressing at the base of the sandwich was creamy, tangy and a perfect contrast to the fresh flavors in the sandwich.

This version of Banh Mi was sprinkled with a bit of spicy hot seasoning that only made itself known at the finish of each bite.

We downed what was left of our respective sandwiches before walking to Twitter headquarters for a photo-op and then the Yerba Buena Gardens.

I hope to God I don't have to fly to San Francisco to enjoy my next Banh Mi sandwich.

Life just shouldn't be that cruel.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Jeregano said...

That sounds delicious! I've really wanted to try more Vietnamese foods aside from the standard Pho.

Rumor: Bahn Mi, in addition to take the cake, might be found in Chopsticks in West Chester. I can't confirm that as true as I have never been there but it is a rumor I have heard. (I heard it was good but always assumed it was spelled Bon). You might take to twitter in an attempt to confirm that.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

You are a stitch! I missed your blog when you were on vacation! The way you explain food is, I am not sure the word is poetic, but certainly much more interesting than poetic!

Ara said...

That sandwich sounds absolutely DIVINE!!! I'm going to have to look and do some research to see if I can find that kind of sandwich in my neck of the woods so I can give it a try. :)

liz said...

yum, i'm so glad you finally got to try one! take the cake does one but it's vegetarian so no fancy pork :( you can also get them at north market in columbus

GeekJames said...

Take the Cake does in fact serve Banh mi, it's usually on the menu twice a week. They always have the veggie version, but will make a meat version depending on what else is on the menu. My favorite is pork - no, chicken - no, beef - no, shrimp!

Really stupid , I guess ??? said...

Who made you the grammer God??? We all didn't have the luxury of a coledge education !!!!

Really stupid , I guess ??? said...

Who made you the grammer God??? We all didn't have the luxury of a coledge education !!!!