“bánh mì” is a Vietnamese catch-all word for wheat-based breads but today, I’m talking about the glorious Vietnamese sandwich:


Here is the checklist: rice-and-wheat-flour baguette, pâté, head cheese, ham, homemade mayonnaise, pickled daikon and carrot, cilantro, jalapeño, and a bit of soy sauce to finish. It may be known as bánh mì th???t ngu???i (bánh mì with cold meats) AKA bánh mì ?????c bi???t (bánh mì “special combo”).

Stop by a Vietnamese deli and you’ll probably encounter other variations including roast chicken or grilled pork but I’ve yet to try any of these because I always go for the ?????c bi???t. This East-meets-West culinary concoction probably evolved from the simple French sandwich of baguette, butter, and pâté or ham. The pâté, buttery homemade mayonnaise, and deli meats are rich complements to the crispy baguette. This itself is a tasty sandwich experience, but the bánh mì takes this to the next level with lightly pickled and slightly sweet daikon and carrot which bring acid and a juicy crunch, fresh jalapeño which brings a cool, grassy heat, and stalks of cilantro which bring bright herbaceousness. The bánh mì achieves such a balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy that I feel like I could eat two of these [usually substantial sandwiches] in one sitting because my palate just won’t tire of the taste. So far, I’ve managed to restrain myself. Give it a shot/get your fix here:

In Chicago, hit up Ba Le Bakery:
5016 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 561-4424

I’ve been sorely delinquent in my Bay Area bánh mì adventures, so the only place I’ve tried so far is:
Huong Lan Sandwich IV
41 Serra Way # 108
Milpitas, CA 95035-8531
(408) 942-7777
the verdict: not bad with a selection of Vietnamese desserts too. They’re just lacking my favorites, so I’m still hunting. 

Found: When I was a kid, my parents used to pick up what they called bánh mì ba l??? (don’t yet know the history behind the name). As a kid, I thought the bread was strangely brittle (that’s the rice flour), the headcheese was a bit weird (being the meat/skin/gelatin combination that it is), but I’ve always loved pâté and cilantro. At any rate, I always ate it all, so today, I can’t do without the whole shebang.

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