Yes, I know banh mis are so early 2009, and yes, I know everyone knows about Banh Mi Saigon, the small Vietnamese sandwich shop in the back of a jewelry store on Mott Street, but I recently made an invaluable discovery. For the longest time, although I love the Pork Banh Mi ($3.75) at Banh Mi Saigon, I missed the pâté the other famous Vietnamese shop in Alphabet City has in their pork sandwiches. (As I mentioned in a previous post, I actually prefer the Alphabet City store, but for some weird reason I got food poisoning once, and now I go almost exclusively to Banh Mi Saigon.) So on a recent trip to Banh Mi Saigon, I asked if there was a way I could get some pâté in the Pork Banh Mi, and of course, it was just a matter of asking. For one dollar extra ($4.75 total), the wonderful people at Banh Mi Saigon will spread a very generous layer of creamy pâté, even possibly too much, into an already overstuffed sandwich of roast barbecued pork, Vietnamese bologna, fresh cucumber sticks, cilantro, jalapeno slices, pickled daikon, and pickled carrots. One bite and you’ll be serious umami heaven. Now if only I could get them to add some Vietnamese headcheese (giò thủ), life would be closer to perfect.
The same day I made the “pâté discovery,” I also stopped by Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich at the request of my brother. It was a crazy day of banh mi shop hopping, after which I went bodega hopping because my little nephew, Adam, requested Sour Patch Kids. So with two pork Vietnamese sandwiches in tow to New Jersey, it was a perfect opportunity to do another Bite vs. Bite.
The Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich House Special ($3.95, pictured left) is more compact, has less pickled daikon, and although has a slice of Vietnamese salami (thit nguội) which the Pork Banh Mi from Banh Mi Saigon (pictured right) does not, it still doesn’t make up for the less flavorful barbecue pork. It’s still an explosion of flavors (sweet, salty, tangy, spicy, and savory), but compared to Banh Mi Saigon, Saigon Vietnamese is just firecrackers whereas Banh Mi Saigon’s Vietnamese sandwich is Fourth of July fireworks in your mouth.
However, my brother still prefers to eat the sandwiches from Saigon Vietnamese because he’s convinced Banh Mi Saigon uses more MSG. According to him, he “can’t trust something so delicious.” Me, maybe I’m a little naive, but I can’t believe something so delicious could be so bad for you. But then again, I have pâté on the brain.
Banh Mi Saigon
138 Mott Street (betw Grand St & Hester St; map)
New York, NY 10013
Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich
369 Broome Street (betw Mott St & Elizabeth St; map)
New York, NY 10013