There's a Vietnamese sandwich craze taking over New York City. Just look at this week's New York Times story on the banh mi trend.
The banh mi - a crusty demi-baguette filled with pate, pickled vegetables and an assortment of meats or pates - is a favorite of mine. I'm half Vietnamese and Chinese but grew up eating Vietnamese food at home. For my friends and I who grew up in strong Vietnamese enclaves throughout America (such as Houston, Orange County and Seattle), the banh mi is nothing new. It's a little funny to see it catching on in the Big Apple.
But what's there not to like? The sandwiches are often cheap. In New York they can cost up to $8 per sandwich, but I've mostly paid between $1.50 and $3 for a hearty banh mi. When done right, the banh mi is warm, filled with fresh, savory ingredients and leaves you comfortably full. It's not like a Subway sandwich with soft, flimsy breading and bland meats.
Just steps from school in Chinatown, I can find a number of shops hawking banh mi. One is a Vietnamese jewelry store with a deli tucked in the back. Another is a hole-in-the-wall that attracts hipsters, Chinatown residents and foodies alike.
While I have yet to taste a stellar banh mi in New York, it's a vast improvement on a number of Vietnamese dishes I've sampled in New York. It's virtually impossible to find good pho (the classic Vietnamese noodle soup) and other ethnic dishes from my motherland. So if the banh mi craze grows even more, I'll be one happy budget-minded culinary student.