May 15, 2004

Bánh Mi

by peterb

How do you know it's Spring in Pittsburgh? When Lucy, the best Bánh Mi vendor in the world (aka "The Saigon Sandwich Lady") sets up her outdoor stand and starts vending her wares.


photo:Krista Schinagl, Post-Gazette

A good Bánh Mi (literally "French Sandwich," colloquially "Saigon Sandwich") is a transcendent experience. Along with Phó, their beef noodle soup, it is empirical evidence for classifying the Vietnamese palate as the best in the world. Bánh Mi is about fresh ingredients, contrasting textures, and intriguing tastes combining to provide perfection in handheld form.

Start with the best baguettes you can find. Into them put some form of meat (ideally thinly sliced roast pork, but you can get them with chicken or other meats; once I actually had one made with braunschweiger). Not too much -- the meat is just an accent. Add shredded and pickled carrots, cucumbers, hot jalapeno peppers, and finish with a healthy garnish of fresh cilantro.

You can find Lucy right outside My Ngoc on Penn Avenue most days of the week in good weather. If she doesn't know you, she'll tend to put in a bit too much meat, because that's the fashion in sandwiches around here. Try a Bánh Mi once, and I guarantee you'll keep going back again and again.

Welcome to Spring, finally.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently did an article on street food in Pittsbugrh, profiling Lucy specifically. I'm glad of that, but they failed to point out that although there are a few stars here, street vendor culture in general is lousy because the City makes it very difficult to cheaply acquire licenses. Compared to some place like Toronto, street food culture in Pittsburgh is practically nonexistent. I hope that changes.

Posted by peterb at May 15, 2004 07:41 AM | Bookmark This

Nat and I happened to drive by the first day she was back, and we returned for lunch.

God. It's heaven in a sandwich, it is.

Posted by Laura at May 15, 2004 11:14 AM

All of the Bánh Mi I have eaten always begins with a layer of liver pâté. Braunschweiger is a liver sausage that is similar in taste and texture to pâté. To that is added your choice of roast pork or chicken and all of the ingredients you describe. The next time I get to Pittsburgh I'll check her out!

Posted by Nigel at September 19, 2004 05:55 PM

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