Tuesday, 6 July 2010
Banh mi in the city
What is banh mi?
Banh mi is a Vietnamese baguette, a kind of half French half South-east Asian sub. A legacy of the French occupation of Vietnam, these little beauties are normally filled with a delicious combo of pickled veg, 'Vietnamese' pate, fresh herb (usually coriander) and then some other meat, normally pork, but sometimes chicken or even something like egg or tofu. Condiments wise we're talking mainly mayo & chilli sauce.
If you land yourself a good one you won't be disappointed - think light crisp baguette (apparently because they're made with both wheat and rice flour), crunchy sweet-sharp veg rich pate and meat, fresh herbs, some chilli kick and perhaps a lubing of mayo.
Banh mi joints have been popping up around london for couple of years now and they're getting ever more popular (the English are scared of eating anything that doesn't resemble a sandwich, so they're perfect). Broadway market, Greenwich, various places on Kingsland rd to name but a few and now one right by me - Theobalds rd, near Holborn / Farringdon, called Banh Mi Bay. Quite a modern looking place where you can take away or eat in, the place also does pho, the famous Vietnamese soup.
I went down there for a bit o lunch recently.....had classic pork banh mi: which was pretty good really - v.fresh veg and herbs, nice pate & cooked pork in there, only minor complaint was that bread, while, authentic, could perhaps have been bit lighter an more crisp, plus wanted a little more chilli kick, but no doubt that was my fault for not asking for them to fling more in at the key moment.
In the name of research I also found room for a soup - banh canh, which i believe refers to the thick noodles in there. I had it with prawns, but crab, meat or veg options were also chalked up as I remember.
Was not too shabby. Nice clean tasting broth, fresh prawns cut nicely & obviously not pre cooked, slippery noodles and a bit of herbage (pak chii, coriander, spring onion), some lemon and fresh chilli on the side. More DIY garnish (esp herbs) would have gone down well, but generally a good bowl of grub.
All in all Banh Mi Bay is a v.welcome addition to my locality, and with my exotic themed baguette costing a v.reasonable £3.50 I think I'll be back as soon as I next open my fridge to find I've got bugger all for lunch....so probably tomorrow then.
Vietnamese sambos - search them out!
Banh Mi Bay: 4-6 Theobald's Rd (WC1X 8PN).