Sunday, June 8, 2008

Carb me up: Saigon Bánh Mì So 1, Deluxe Food Market

After Brighton Beach, I stopped off in Chinatown to pick up some groceries, and just as I stepped out of the station I got a text from MH: "Where are you? Are you coming home for dinner?" She had been stuck in the apartment all day studying for her finals, and knowing she had looked for bánh mì just the week before to no avail, I decided to bring a few back to ease her pain.
The first time I ever tried a bánh mì, almost a decade ago, it was from Viet-Nam Bánh Mì So 1. I was enchanted after my first bite: the combination of cucumber, sweet marinated pork, pâté, pickled carrots, sriracha, and slices of pork roll between crisp French bread was like nothing I'd ever tasted before, and I considered the sandwich one of my greatest finds. Viet-Nam Bánh Mì So 1 has therefore always held a special place in my memory, but it had been years since I'd gotten one from here.
Now the place is called Saigon Bánh Mì So 1, but as far as I could tell nothing else had changed...aside from the sandwiches, that is. The two I brought back to my apartment (one house special, one pâté) were nothing special: coarsely prepared ingredients layered between a load of dry, hard bread. I suppose they could have always been this underwhelming and only my inexperience had made them delicious—I have eaten a number of other bánh mì since—but still, they were disappointing.
Luckily there were other good things to be had: the mai fun I got from a random street vendor, who spooned a thin, oily peanut sauce over the pile of stir-fried rice noodles before closing the lid, and nuòmǐ fan from Deluxe Food Market, glutinous rice prepared with sweet, fatty Chinese sausage, roast pork, dried shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, and cilantro. I only had several bites of each, considering everything else I had eaten that day, but both were quite delicious.

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