Tired of the same old tired orange chicken and California rolls? Want to venture beyond the standard suburbian-stale take-out? Here comes Chop PHX, with the Valley's rarer Asian offerings.
This Week: Bánh mì (Vietnamese Sandwich) from Christine Le-Gilbert of Lee's Sandwiches
The Basics: They say you can discover the history and culture of a nation through its cuisine, and there is no better example of this than Vietnamese Bánh mì. The Vietnamese sandwich is the product of surviving influences from the French and Indochinese colonizations that characterized Vietnam's past. It is fusion food at its most pure.
The west began to see an influx of Bánh mì as more Vietnamese began emigrating. Traditionally, Bánh mì is served on a French baguette, and features grilled pork or chicken topped off with pickled carrots and daikon, and cilantro. Mayonnaise, pâté, cucumbers and chili peppers are also sometimes added.
Check out Lee's Sandwiches' delicious takes on Bánh mì after the jump.
Lee's Sandwiches' Bánh mì: Lee's Sandwiches offers a multitude of varying Bánh mì sandwiches, ranging from grilled chicken and pork to sardines and headcheese. However, the two most popular variants are the #6 Xa Xiu (BBQ Pork) and the #11 Dae Biet (Special Combination). The Xa Xiu comes loaded with tangy and tender Chinese-style BBQ Pork, while the Dae Biet is a more exotic, yet extremely delicious offering of headcheese, jambon (French ham), pâté, and Vietnamese pork roll.
Both sandwiches are served on a fresh 10-inch baguette, and feature pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, onions, jalapeños, and house mayo.
Lee's is one of the best deals for Bánh mì in the valley, with their all of their Bánh mì being under $4. The bread was undeniably fresh, with a crisp, crunchy outside, and soft, still-warm interior. The meat for both sandwiches was flavorful and tender, further enhanced by the house mayo. The pickled carrots and daikon, as well as the jalapeños, added a refreshing kick to the dishes as well.
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The Process: The secret to Lee's Bánh mì success is the same that applies to all quality Asian cuisine: freshness. Fresh baguettes are made every 30 minutes with the restaurants in-store bakery. The meat is grilled fresh daily and never reused.
"Our bread does not stay in the bag. We don't reuse anything," says Le-Gilbert.
Ying and Yuck: Good French bread, as stated above, is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and, ideally, still warm. Anything else and the bread is anything but fresh.