If you haven’t tried Vietnamese banh mi by now, you’ve been missing out on a truly remarkable sandwich. At once exotic, but at the same time decidedly familiar, these guys are unlike anything in the American lunchtime lineup. No cheese or mustard here, just the perfect marriage of sour, salty and savory Vietnamese flavors on a sweet, light-as-air, French baguette all harmoniously coming together in one killer snack.
Topped with crunchy pickled carrots and daikon, cool sliced cucumber, aromatic cilantro and spicy chilies, a good banh mi is a melange of flavors and textures. Not unlike a BLT, banh mi are salty, crunchy and juicy with a nice counterpoint of warm meats. Packed with savory roast pork or my version with grilled five-spice chicken shown above, the real beauty of this sandwich is its variety of delicious proteins. From grilled lemongrass beef or sardine, to the deli combo loaded with roast pork, mortadella and paté there are plenty of options out there to satisfy any hankering. Here in San Francisco, Saigon Sandwich on Larkin Street is home to some of the finest banh mi around. At $3.50 apiece, I defy you to find a better quality, more filling sandwich for cheaper anywhere in the city. This is the Asian sandwich.