It all started innocently enough. We were all cookied and candied out from the holidays and thought a stop in Chinatown for a sumptious banh mi would be the perfect antidote to all that sweet fare. The sandwich, a miraculous blend of Vietnamese and French tastes, is food you can eat on the run for breakfast, lunch, snack, or supper.
The baguette, an important element of banh mi, is made with both rice and wheat flours. It looks like a sub roll, but the super crusty exterior leaves mountains of crumbs down your coat if you’re standing — and most banh mi places only have a few stand-up counter spots. The inside is exceptionally soft, the better to absorb mayonnaise, garlic hot sauce (like sriracha), and meat juices. Add to that lightly pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber sticks, fresh cilantro, and sliced jalapeno (seeds too), and there are plenty of tastes swirling around. The classic contains what are called “cold cuts,” sometimes a liverwurst-like spread, pressed ham, and sliced pork. Others are made with beef, all pork, chicken, meatballs, tofu, and all vegetables.