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This is one of the best things you’ll ever put in your mouth, and is one of my top three favorite sandwiches – the other two are fried oyster po-boys, and a good (not fast-food) burger.  It’s a Veitnamese sandwich called Banh Mi, and I was woefully ignorant of the existence of Banh Mi until about 6 or 7 years ago, when a Chinese friend of mine introduced me to them by saying “let’s go to the Vietnamese deli,” which was a phrase that, to me, was only slightly less strange than someone saying “let’s go the Southern Baptist brewery.”  My friend had never led me astray in culinary matters, and so, my curiousity piqued, I took him up on his offer.

We wound up at a place called Ba Le Vietnamese Bakery and Deli, a hole in the wall bearing a logo depicting the Eiffel Tower surrounded by Vietnamese writing.  We walked in, and my friend placed the order for two pork sandwiches.  After a few minutes, we were presented with two warm, paper-wrapped packages.  As I tucked in to my sandwich, it seemed to get better with every bite, and I knew I had found a new addiction.

Looking up banh mi on the web turns up several variations, but for my money, the best banh mi has to be one with cool, crunchy cucumber, shreds of slightly sweet and sour pickled carrot, bright tasting cilantro, firey fresh jalapeno slices, savory-sweet asian style barbeque pork, a good dose of sriracha and garlicky mayonnaise, all inside a warm, crusty loaf.  I could eat one every day and not get tired of it.

After moving to Houston, I was pleased to learn that there’s a restaurant very close to our new home (Mekong Sandwich – a much more sensible name) that makes banh mi that are just as good, and just as cheap, as those we had in Austin.  Mekong is also a hole in the wall, and the one banh mi that I ate at a slightly more posh restaurant was not nearly as good.  So, if you’ve never had banh mi, and you like asian food, you are morally obliged to seek out a place that makes them.  You won’t be sorry.

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