On Monday Otherhalf and I went to the grocery store. Normally this is an errand I dread. Some people find it relaxing or spiritual or something. I think it’s a pain in the ass. If only I could open the fridge door and the groceries would magically already be there. But we don’t mind going so much when we can stop at Nhu’ Lan Bakery just across the parking lot. It is a teeny tiny wholeinthewall Vietnamese bakery that makes their own fresh French baguettes all day long. And they make my most favorite sandwich in the whole wide world. The Number 16 Banh Mi. (insert angels singing – aaaaahhhhh!)
A “banh mi” is a Vietnamese sandwich with French influence, from back when the Frenchies colonized in southeast Asia. Banh mi (which actually translates to “bread”) starts with a baguette and is filled with any number of meaty options like pate, headcheese, ham, bbq pork, pork belly, pork rolls, meatballs, etc. They are then topped with sweet pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeno slices. And there are usually some vegetarian varieties as well. I have had these sandwiches in a number of different Vietnamese eateries, but in my humble opinion, Nhu’ Lan makes the best. Otherhalf and I could eat there everyday. And sometimes we do. Like we did on Monday. (aaaaaand also on Sunday . . .) They know us there.
So there are the banh mi, and also a bunch of ready-made muncheroos like pork steam buns, and spring rolls and sesame balls. They make exceptional Vietnamese iced coffee (cafe sua da) and offer bubble tea smoothies as well as cans of “exotic” juices. The place is tiny. We usually manage to have pretty good timing though, and are able to sit at one of TWO, count em, TWO tables.
Now back to the Number 16: it’s pate, ham, and a FRIED EGG. The pate and ham are a savory meaty base. Oh, and there’s some kind of sweet delicious mayo in there too. The egg just makes it amazing- it’s warm, and soft, but not runny. Er, it’s that special place where the yolk is not runny anymore, but hasn’t yet turned into a dry, pale yellow, hard cake. It’s still vibrant and almost looks like lemon curd. It’s perfect for the sandwich because it doesn’t run all over the place (like up your arm) meaning you don’t miss any of the yolky goodness. The veggies on top add super important crunch factor and a bit of freshness. Don’t pussy out and get it without the jalapenos.
The first time I tried it was on one of our treks to the burbs. Otherhalf was driving and I was riding shotgun, stuffing my face with the egg sammich- moaning and such with carnal food pleasure, while he had one of the other usuals. The next time we went he ordered the eggy one also, and I watched his paradigm shift. Together with the thick, supersweet, superstrong iced coffee, it’s a perfect combination that makes my heart go pitterpat. It has become our “usual.”
Sure the crusty baguette tears up the roof of your mouth, but it doesn’t matter. The immediate overload of the pleasure receptors completely outweigh any chance of slowing your roll and eating with caution. We are talking serious foodgasm here, people. But don’t forget to savor it. What’s your favorite sandwich?