I love a good sandwich. I don’t discriminate (except against seitan) – I love all good sandwiches equally. Sound disingenuous? Of course it is. Some sandwiches rise mightily above the rest and we all know it. So let’s stop pretending everyone’s a winner and bask, for a moment, in the savory glow of superiority. The banh mi is a winning culinary argument for colonialism. Well, at least by the French, because lord knows no one has ever thanked Britain for invading their native cuisine. Tantalizing Vietnamese staples like cilantro, carrots and cukes nestle inside a Vietnamese baguette, airier than its French cousin and spread with mayo.
Then things get interesting. Some banh mi lovers like it hot, with lemongrass grilled meats. Some play it cool, with Vietnamese ham or sliced meatballs. Some are weak of spirit and get tofu. I keep the post-colonial fusion theme going with grilled pork and peppery country-style pate.
Is your mouth watering? It should be. The banh mi is a seductive dance of contrasts – crispy and chewy, savory and sweet, hot and cold, sultry and bright. It handily surpasses ordinary sandwiches to join such lunchtime titans as the lobster roll, the bacon cheeseburger, the chicken parm, and the BLT on the lofty pedestal reserved for none but the finest combinations ever to cozy up between two slices of bread. Colonialism never tasted so good….