Banh Mi Saigon Review: Banh Mi Saigon and stuff you can skip over
When people around you tell me to stop drinking so much haterade, I listen. Because life is short, and it’s more important to be happy and eat chocolate. Lately there’s a lot of pre-Easter candy on sale and mmmm.. my belly is full. When I’m not eating chocolate or drinking haterade, lately I’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches, banh mi’s to be exact. Whether it’s Hanco’s in Park Slope or Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich in Chinatown or a catfish sandwich from Baoguette, my life is just full of sandwiches. Well, I can’t get enough of a good thing. This past weekend I ventured inside of a jewelry store, and found Banh Mi Saigon.
This was actually my first return trip to Banh Mi Saigon in about three or four years. It was one of my favorites after my friends introduced me to banh mi sandwiches. Then, I went all the time and experienced an over saturation of banh mi and had to stop. Now, maybe it’s the economy, or maybe it’s just me being cheap, but $3.75 sandwiches have great appeal again.
It helps that this sandwich shop has the novelty of being inside of a jewelry store in Chinatown. I’m not sure anyone ever buys jewelry in there. The only thing of value seems to be the delicious sandwiches that they serve up in Banh Mi Saigon. I like the idea that the sandwich shop is located in a place where rent is affordable for them and they can offer sandwiches at this ridiculous price. But what I’ve seen happen lately is that when Chinatown places get blog coverage, their prices go up. Hon Cafe cakes are all more expensive now. Even the blue collar noodle shop, Sheng Wang upped the prices of their frozen dumplings. Hopefully Banh Mi Saigon doesn’t follow suit during the sandwich craze of 2009.
If you go during a peak time, Banh Mi Saigon is going to be packed. Half of the jewelry store will be filled with people waiting for sandwiches. That’s how you know it’s a good place. It’s like the other day I walked into this Mexican hole in the wall and inside were a bunch of Spanish speakers waiting for their food. Lines are a good sign.
Right now, the weather is a bit unpredictable. It could be sunny where you are, but windy and cloudy by Coney Island. That’s exactly what happened to Steph and me. Eating banh mi by the ocean is actually really nice, especially accompanied by great company. Sure, the toasted bread aspect of the sandwich would be irrelevant by the time you carry your sandwich to the beach. But there’s nothing like eating a banh mi by the sand and water. With some warmer weather, it’ll be an even better option.
What I love about Banh Mi Saigon is their roast pork. They fill it up and it’s a great balance between the roast pork and the pickled daikon and carrots. Mmmm… yummy. Good bread and good roast pork is the key to this sandwich. I think having great company with me could have possibly skewed my experience in favor of Banh Mi Saigon’s sandwich. But hey, who cares? It’s awesome.
Ok, some word vomit in the next couple of paragraphs, but I’ll be brief. Revisiting the idea of food moralists, I want to clarify something. The United States could definitely eat a greater variety of food that would promote long term health. How we get there is not really my thing, but if someone likes driving that train, so be it. My only beef is with how that train is driven.
The other thing regarding the food moralists and the eating sustainably thing… I actually think it’s a good idea sometimes for us to really understand the repercussions of our actions. These days environmentalists want us to be aware of our carbon footprint when it comes to driving. They don’t talk to you about the fact that when you drive to work, you help to contribute not only to pollution, but to congestion, to an increased risk of a traffic accident. Increased congestion means an increase in travel time to work, and thus you help to reduce general worker productivity.
All that! And it happens because people all get on the road at the same time, during rush hour. One way to combat that would be to institute congestion pricing and a gas tax. But in the best and most liberal city in America, we would have none of that Bloomberg shit.
While that particular attempt failed, I admire the methodology. It’s pretty cool when you can change certain rules that will help alter people’s actions, and in turn, end up helping the people. A new study on obesity just came out and it said that school kids are more likely to be obese if the school is close to fast food. Now if we employ the same methodology of implementing rules that will help alter people’s actions for the better…. then we could enact zoning laws that prevent fast food places from operating near schools. It’s a low cost way to help the fight against obesity, and you don’t even have to beat down doors and make people eat better.
Similarly, what if we can get people to eat better if we take some simple actions? What if we take a page out of Alice Water’s book of symbolism. What if we pressed the farmers market to accept food stamps/EBT? What if we get famous chefs to petition for such a thing and make the list public so we can see which chefs support bringing farmers market goods to those on low income? The largest farmers market in New York doesn’t accept food stamps. All the while, all the top chefs in the city champion the green market. I know top chefs do a shitload of charitable work, especially in the fight against hunger. Why not extend that charitable heart to help out people who want to shop at farmers markets? Another idea is if we offered tax credits and zoning privileges to those stores offering fresh produce?
I still drink the haterade, and I also believe there are pragmatic things we can do as a country before we focus on things like the slow food movement. Before we take that step, maybe there are inventive things that can be done that will spur people to just eat a more balanced diet. A persistent and pragmatic approach is what we should be after, not some pie in the sky ideal that the country is not ready for.
Banh Mi Saigon138 Mott St.New York, NY 10013212-941-1541