Nancy & I are recent converts of the Vietnamese Sandwich. We stumbled upon Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwich in Brooklyn as we were walking down Atlantic Avenue on a warm fall day last year. It was a cute little shop with very friendly service and we split a “Classic” Vietnamese sandwich.
The sandwich, or Banh Mi, can best be described as truly delightful! Thin slices of pork, chicken, or tofu are laid on a bed of cilantro in a small French baquette. Don’t ask where they get them from, it is a highly guarded secret. The crunch of pickled carrots and daikon round out this spicy little number.
Soon after, another Vietnamese Sandwich restaurant opened in our neighborhood, Carroll Gardens, called Hanco’s Bubble Tea and Vietnamese. Hanco’s is a little closer, and we soon became obsessed with having a Vietnamese Sandwich and Bubble Tea for brunch every Saturday.
I’d like to think that most people understand Nancy’s & my obsession with food, certainly her parents do, as they got us a dvd titled Sandwiches That You Will Likefor Xmas this year. I highly recommend this 2002 PBS documentary by Rick Sebak as he travels the USA sampling unique sandwiches. We also own his A Hot Dog Program, but that is a blog for the summertime.
Anywho, we enjoyed the sandwich movie immensely and were psyched that we had been to about half of them; but there was one restaurant that definitely intrigued us, Huong Lan #1, located in San Jose, which claimed to be the king of banh mi. Now technically I really don’t like to patronize a restaurant that has a number in it but with a trip to San Jose for B&H in the near future I was already planning out my lunch break.
The moment of truth arrived last week as I drove a quick 5 miles to Tulley Road in San Jose and immersed myself in Huong Lan-ishness. Here I was in the mecca of Vietnamese Sandwiches! Suddenly, fear struck my heart as I looked up on the board and noticed no â€œClassicâ€ version but instead 11 varieties of banh mi, half of them with pork, thankfully. I asked the counter person what she would recommend for a newbie to Huong Lan, and she said “The number 7 is the most popular”. Done, a number 7 (thit nuong – grilled pork), Durian Milk with Pearl bubble tea, and bo bia, please. As I waited for the sandwich to get dished up, I meandered around Huong Lan checking out all the other goods on display. The restaurant really wasn’t a restaurant but more of a grocery store with some tables in the corner near the Vietnamese disco-playing plasma TV. Most everything else was a cookie or a version of Bahn Tet wrapped in a green banana leaf and I felt definitely “lost in the supermarket”.
And how did this eating experience go? Scrumdiddlyumptious! I could taste all the individual flavors: carrots, cilantro, jalapeno, pork, and daikon, and they also blended so well together. The sandwich had a snap! of flavors and a crunch to it that some of my local shops were missing. That’s about all I can remember as the meal was done in 5 minutes!
So give Vietnamese Sandwiches a try, Nancy and I are going to finish ours now!