Locally Grown

Sandwich Sarcasm From Little ol (Banh) Mi?
2010/04/14, 12:59 pm
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In a recent blog post by our illustrious Datebook Diner, she “gets down” with one of the greatest sandwiches invented since the invention of sandwiches, the Vietnamese/French delight Bahn Mi. She even takes a little advice from your humble Cook and hits Pho All Seasons (I would eat here just because of the witty name, but luckily the food is good) which has top notch Banh Mi.
She loved it.

History Break:

The Banh Mi (pronounced “bun ME”) is a Vietnamese sandwich named for the crusty-ish French baguette (actually named Banh Mi) it is served on and usually includes Pate (very French), pickled vegetables (often including carrots, Japanese radish (Daikon), peppers, and onions), Aioli, cilantro, cucumber, and some sort of pork. The sandwich has its origins, if my memory serves me correctly, in the French occupation of the Southeast Asia territory in the late 1800s to the mid-1900’s. The French brought bread and pate into the region which was combined with local staples such as pickles and pork. Did I mention that they are super inexpensive? Well, they are!

I know a guy whom also does a Vegan Banh Mi with braised Seitan. Ask me about it sometime.

Then she asks for advice on where to go for her next Bahn Mi adventure. Herein lies the problem.

How has a critic who has been eating, writing, and passing judgement in Des Moines for TWELVE YEARS managed to avoid eating what evidently really is the city’s BEST KEPT FOOD SECRET? Hmmm. Doesn’t add up. I wouldn’t blame the average person for not knowing about this treat, but would definitely expect a Foodie Veteran to be on top of this. NOT TO MENTION that the Banh Mi has been listed along side Korean food as a TOP FOOD TREND FOR THIS DECADE. C’mon, sista! Get with it!

There are plenty of outlets for your Bahn Mi needs, the afformentioned Pho All Seasons on east 9th a few blocks south of University, Le’s Chinese BBQ on 2nd avenue north of University, Mekong Deli (top secret, you have to find this one on your own), Paris Cafe just north of Le’s (which serves their sandwich with homemade liverwurst and head cheese!), New Oriental Market serves them from a carryout case, as does Double Dragon. Pho Hadao and I believe Lucky Dragon also dish up their version of the Banh Mi. There are more, but the real fun is asking around and finding that next Pate-smeared fix for yourself.

So, now that you all know a little more about a sandwich most of my friends obsess over, buying 6 or 8 at a time, go out and spread the word or just try it for yourself. And for all of you Vegetarian/Vegans who are interested, contact me and we will talk about the Veggie Banh Mi.

Oh, and maybe someone could pass this info on to the Food Writer crowd (not Food Dude, though. He is an in-the-know cat).


The Cook


13 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Veggie Banh Mi, please!

Comment by Christa

god bless the banh mi. one of lifes great little treasures.

Comment by philly

Interesting info, and I won’t say I disagree. Any clues on Mikong Deli? If not, I will have to ask Kim next week at Pho All Seasons. By the way, they will be closing soon (again) to move back to Arizona (again) and run another restaurant. At least, that was what I was told on a recent visit, and there is a for sale sign on the door, and the owner was talking to the landlord about selling the property. 😦 Boo.

Le’s Chinese BBQ, is one place I have never been on your list. I am always intimidated, not by the locale but by the fact that I fear I will not be able to communicate with the staff. Is it worth a visit?


Comment by Inthewater

Mekong Deli is in a house at 2nd Ave and Ovid. Pretty good hint.

Comment by locallygrown

Stopped and tried this spot. Great sandwich. Not sure if they have just the one type (the banh mi dac biet or combo) or if they have other choices. The interior was a ncie little, clean space. The gal at the counter was very nice, but she didn’t speak much English.

In any case, great sandwich, nice, crispy baguette, tasty cold cust, pate…all the right stuff. Plus, she must have had some super hot jalapenos. WOW, toasty!

Still need to get into Le’s. Haven’t had a chance yet.

Comment by Inthewater

Have you tries Cafe Paris yet?

Comment by locallygrown

Yes, I was underwhelmed by the soup I had, but the banh mi was very good. Just a little light on ingredients.

Had a nice crispy baguette, reminicient Pho All Seasons.

Comment by Inthewater

Mr. Late response says… Definitely hit Le’s. All of my “trusted” associates approve. BBQ Duck. That is the real specialty served in whole or half portions. It looks a little daunting from outside, but never fear. Make the plunge.

When you are at Pho All Seasons ask Kim where they get their bread. It is one of my favorites in town, but I forget to pop the question. Too busy eating and smiling.

Comment by locallygrown

I will head that way today for a bowl or pho and see what she says. Gonna shed a tear when that place closes. Already have a few others on my list for pho, but none are as awesome.

Drove by Mekong, couldn’t see it from 2nd ave. Is it East or West from 2nd?

Just haven’t had time to go exploring, then I have been near death with Capt. Tripps the last few days. I was waiting for a visit from Randall Flagg….

Comment by Inthewater

Kim said they make their own bread.

Comment by Inthewater

That is amazing. I need more of that bread in my life.

Comment by locallygrown

Forgive my late response. I was doing real work. Like fact-checking the articles I write, which I do without fail. The reason I do that is because I don’t EVER want to lead ANYONE on a WILD GOOSE CHASE.

Which is what you did by telling us to go to Pho Ha Dao for Banh Mi. Went there on my quest. No Banh Mi. Thanks a lot.

But I guess there are different standards for blogs versus print….attitude versus information. I like both.

As for my not getting on the Bahn Mi Bandwagon before now: Didn’t I already kind of beat myself up about that in my own blog? And while I’ve been reviewing restaurants in this town for 12 years, Banh Mi’s splash around here is relatively recent. Looking at the Cityview archives, I see that your Food Dude wrote his piece about it in February. It’s not like I’m 12 years behind the curve on this…

That said, here’s what I do when I encounter this kind of criticism. I grouse about it for a while, do the writerly equivalent of throwing a few pans around the kitchen and slamming a few drawers. And then I say to myself: “I’m JUST SURE. But then again, how is this criticism valid and how can it nudge me to do better work?”

Because like any good food writer, I DO want to find these hidden gems. It’s part of the gig.

Which is why, even before your posting, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work on finding more such things. More driving around town and going so far as to inviting readers to lunch (on my dime!) if they can lead me to some wonderful discovery (more on my blog at desmoinesregister.com/diner).

So, thank you for nudging me to do better….and it’s only fair, I think, that the critic gets criticized.

The Critic

Comment by Datebook Diner

I definitely want to know more about this seitan bahn mi. What’s the pate made out of? Beans? Mushrooms?

Comment by maria

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