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Banh Mi, Oh My!

Travels4Food | Jan 31, 2008 06:31 AM

I am overjoyed to write that last night, I may well have had the best Banh Mi sandwich of my entire life, and it may also have been the best meal deal in all of NYC (I'm really not kidding). There used to be an excellent Banh Mi takeout place on Broome Street between Mott and Elizabeth, but then one day last year I wanted to introduce someone to it, and they'd been closed down by the Health Department. Well, yesterday, I was looking for a parking space and happened to notice a new sign on what looked like the same place - it's now called Saigon. I walked in and asked for the #1, also called a Banh Mi Dac Biet.

For those of you who are new to the Banh Mi experience, you can look up older posts on this site, but to briefly describe it: a Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich made on a baguette-style loaf that has a high content of rice flour, so it's very fluffy inside, and crispy on the outside. They stuff this glorious bread with barbecued pork, a "pork roll" resembling a pate, julienned pickled carrots, fresh cilantro, fresh cucumber, and spicy sauce if you say yes when they ask if you want it spicy. It is a gorgeous harmony of sweet and spicy, warm and cool, soft and crunchy.

After about 3 minutes, the proprietor handed me a foot-long, slightly warm sandwich in a paper bag. When I took it out and bit into it, my tastebuds had a little party: it was everything I want a Banh Mi to be, plus it was huge enough that I could save half for tomorrow (aka today - yay!)'s lunch. The cilantro came in long, fresh sprigs, there was a very generous amount of pork, and the bread was both pillowy-light and flaky-crisp in my mouth. What would you pay for such a sandwich? $7.50? $5.00? How about $3.95? Even if you give them a dollar tip, it's a steal.

The place is solely take-out, and they have a fun array of beverages, both western and Asian, plus a smattering of other Vietnamese prepared foods. I can't wait to go back and try one of the other versions - I've heard that the meatball Banh Mi is also delicious, and there's a great chance this place does it beautifully.

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