On 369 Broome St in Manhattan lives the real deal Banh Mi (as far as Manhattan is concerned). The Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich shop is ready to stand up tell all the pretenders to shut up. This is no overpriced and undersized crap like at Hanco's in Park Slope. The Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich shop serves up banh mi sandwiches for $4 bucks and they have a banh mi that's leaps and bounds better than the $7 thing that Hanco's serves. Last week I promised to show you a better place for your taste buds and today I'm delivering.
With the Dow Jones Industrial at a twelve year low, it makes me think about just what the hell I was doing twelve years ago. The answer? I was trying to squeeze as much as you could out of a 56k modem. Yea, back in those days, we had dial up modems. Kids these days and their broadbands and 3G iPhones. They don't know how good they have it! I used to pay per hour on AOL! Internet addiction representin'!
I remember when I was fifteen, food had to be filling. It wasn't about nuance. It wasn't about getting a good taste in your mouth and then craving it for the rest of the day. It was about value. With the economy like it is now, value plays a bigger part in swaying my food decisions. If you give me a $4 dollar banh mi that's bigger and better than a $7 banh mi? Well, I'll take the $4 dollar one every time. As you can see in the size comparison, the Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich classic banh mi is longer than three sticks of gum. That's some good stuff right there. My Midwestern sensibility tells me that when it comes to sandwiches, size matters. So does taste for that matter.
Biting into the warm bread, you get this nice combo of pork and pate. It's just awesome. The pickled carrots and daikon is a nice complement to the savory and porky bits stuffed into the bread. One thing to note about the breads used for most banh mi's... even though this sandwich is French-influenced, the bread is not your typical baguette. The crust is just not the same. Crust on a banh mi is more yielding to the bite and the crunch factor is different. It's nice when a sandwich doesn't cute the upper part of your mouth so I guess the Vietnamese baguette made with wheat and rice flour is a good thing.
If you look at the bits of pork from Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich, and you compare it to the bits of pork from Hanco's, you see the distinct difference in coloration. This is not just your eyes playing tricks on you, your mouth would tell you the same thing. Pickled carrots and daikon probably are the same at most places with only subtle variations. But sometimes the porky flavor is just more dominating in some sandwiches than in others. Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich's pork is like Shaq. Hanco's is like Manute Bol. In other words, it's not even close. If you want a Shaqtastic sandwich, stay in Manhattan.
Speaking of pretenders versus the real thing... if you've been paying attention to the food scene in New York for the last few months, you would have noticed that special deals keep appearing. If you check Grub Street or Eater show you special deals that restaurants use as bait to lure you into propping up the economy. Usually these deals are like special burger deal on Monday or cheaper prix fixe menu on Sundays or if you come in before 6 or after 10 it's a better deal or blah blah blah. It makes me head explode trying to keep up with it all.
It's like this. When you're walking along a beach, you notice things like grains of sand as your toes burrow into the sandy beach. When you're far away, you just noticed the sand as one big blob of beach front. That's what these deals are like. They're like grains of sand. When you pay attention everyday to food news, sometimes a few stick out. But when you don't really pay attention, all the 'deals' blend together because none of the deals really stand out as deals. If however, you build a sand castle, anyone far away will see it.
So if you had a restaurant, how would you build your sand castle? How long would you keep it up? How big would you make it?
Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich
369 Broome St.
New York, NY 10013
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