Banh mi is the sandwich love child of France and Vietnam.
A basic sandwich usually contains sliced Vietnamese meats, pickled veggies, fresh cilantro, jalapeño slices, and a smear of mayo, all nestled between a freshly sliced French baguette. For a while now, our go-to banh mi spot has been Lee's Sandwiches, but this time we switched it up to try Mekong Sandwich at Asian dining destination Mekong Plaza in Mesa.
Mekong Sandwiches sticks to the classic banh mi formula — meat, pickled veggies, cilantro, jalapeño, and mayo — varying only the protein portion of the sandwich to give diners 12 options in total.
Before digging into our order, we should point out that the emphasis with banh mi is on balance of flavors, so the ratio of meat to toppings to bread is supposed to be quite even. This is common of Parisian-style sandwiches — but if you Americans yearn for a meatier bite, you'll want to order your banh mi with extra meat.
We started with Mekong's jambon and paté banh mi, which features sliced ham (hence "jambon," French for ham), sliced pork roll, and paté. The sliced ham and pork roll were mild in flavor and, unlike in an American sandwich, aren't meant to be the defining trait of the sandwich. Still, we could have used a bit more pate on this particular banh mi to lend a bit more moisture to each bite. But combination of tangy pickled carrots and daikon, spicy jalapeño, savory meat, and mayo was delicious.
We also ordered the grilled chicken banh mi, a departure from cold-cut meats. The chicken was, again, a milder flavor that paired nicely with the standard pickled veggies and spicy jalapeños. We did add a squirt of Sriracha — whether this is considered sacrilegious or not we're not sure, but the addition certainly gave the sandwich an extra bit of firepower we found immensely enjoyable.
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We couldn't leave Mekong sandwich without ordering the Mekong Special, a sandwich filled with pork, pork belly, paté, and headcheese. And in case you're wondering, headcheese is not a type of specialty cheese. It's a type of cold cut made by boiling the head of a cow or pig— we know it sounds scary, but the flavor is great, and you can feel good that no part of the animal is wasted. Compared to the other banh mi we tried, the Mekong Special sandwich had the perfect amount of meat, veggies, and bread making for the most satisfying banh mi we tried.
What separates Mekong Sandwich from its banh mi counterparts is definitely the quality of baguette bread, an important element of a great banh mi. The fresh baked bread at Mekong Sandwich has a very good, crusty exterior and soft, spongy interior. While the fillings are on par with other banh mi eateries in the Valley, the exceptionally good bread is what will bring us back.
66 S. Dobson Road, Mesa