Last week, I developed a food crush after grabbing my first Banh Mi on the way to a Thursday evening Canadians game at Nat Bailey stadium. For those of you who don't know, a Banh Mi is a Vietnamese baguette sandwich.
It starts with a Viet style french baguette, very light and not overly dense, with a crackly crust and fairly chewy on the inside.
Inside the length of the cut baguette, a Banh mi will be filled with all sorts of luscious, Viet flavoured fillings: juicy meat balls, grilled chicken, sardine, bbq pork, shredded pork, cold cut combinations.
Other than the meat, other key ingredients in the sandwich are: liver pate, homemade mayo, touch of soy sauce, shredded pickled carrots and daikon, fresh cilantro, slices of japelepeno, and crispy shredded/slices of cucumber.
They are made fresh to order, usually take about 5 minutes to make (depending on how busy the place its) and you can omit some of the above ingredients if you don't like.
One of the best things about banh mi....most of these sandwiches will set you back less than 4 bucks.
Thursday's Banh Mi was from Bon Cafe on 33rd and Main. I ordered an grilled shredded chicken option and asked for them to make it spicy. 5 min and $3.50 later, I stuffed the warm, freshly-made sandwich in my purse and finished peddling to the Nat. I had a good feeling about this sandwich....and my expectations were exceeded. It was stuffed with warm, saucy, flavourful chicken, just the right amount of mayo sauce, but the kicker was that it was really loaded with the fresh fillings: jalepeno slices, cilantro, daikon, cucumber, and carrots. Super fresh and a great mix of textures.
Paired with a beer, baseball, and a beautiful sunny summer evening with friends, I savoured every bite.
After a North Shore hike on Saturday morning. I had Banh Mi on the brain again. I fought crazy Kingsway street construction to reach Ba Le at the corner of Kingsway and Fraser.
This place was pretty busy at 1pm, but even with a lunch rush and a full shop, I was still out the door in about 10 minutes, with a chicken Banh Mi for $3.50. I took this home to gobble down before heading out to set up decorations for a friend's birthday party.
The bread for this sandwich was the stand-out. It was ever-so slightly flaky and crusty but was light, with a great "chew" level and tasted really fresh. They forgot to add the pepper slices to make it spicy, so I added some sriracha sauce when I got home.
While the bread was a stand-out, she was a bit disappointed with the amount of veggie and meat fillings and actually felt like it was a bit skimpy compared to my previous banh mi experience.
I still really liked this sandwich and will definitely go back to both places for Banh Mi's again. I'm really looking forward to going back to these places and trying Banh Mi all over the city. Apparantly, Ba Le's House Special is filled with a combo of cold cuts and pate, looks kinda freaky, but tastes awesome.
If anyone has a favourite Banh Mi in Vancouver, please pass along any tips or places I should go.