Archive for the 'Banh Mi' Category

Discovering Downtown One Bite at a Time: Grand Central Market, Chinatown, and Olvera Street

Grand Central Market - Los Angeles

The weather in Los Angeles was even more gorgeous than usual this past weekend, so The Astronomer and I spent much of it outside soaking in the sunshine. On Saturday afternoon, I curated an urban hike through downtown that included plenty to see and eat.

Our first stop was at Grand Central Market, a bustling place where people gather to eat, meet, and shop. The energy inside was palpable, and everything gleamed with deliciousness.

Sarita's Pupuseria - Grand Central Market - Los Angeles

After perusing the aisles, hemming, hawing, and gawking, we finally chose to sit down for a bite at Sarita’s Pupuseria. Here, the Salvadoran specialty made of thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheeses and meats is made from scratch and griddled to order.

Sarita's Pupuseria - Grand Central Market - Los Angeles

Our pork- and cheese-stuffed pupusa ($2.50) arrived after a ten minute wait.  A watery tomato salsa and curtido, a lightly fermented cabbage slaw with red chilies and vinegar, were available at the counter for us to garnish as we pleased.

The warm pupusa was crisp and golden on the outside and oozed with cheese and shredded pork within. Even with the curtido and salsa curbing the pupusa’s richness, one was more than enough for the two of us. It was muy rico!

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Family Knows Best: Saigon’s Finest Bánh Mì, Glutinous Bananas, and Chicken Sticky Rice

Ba Sau and Di Loan

While I’ve shared quite a bit about my great aunt Bà Sáu (left) on the site [See: here, here, and here], I’ve yet to mention my awesome aunt Loan (right). She is Bà Sáu’s youngest daughter and has an encyclopedic knowledge of anything and everything worth eating in Saigon. From street food to fancy dining rooms, she’s my go-to source for local haunts worth seeking out.

On my trip to Vietnam this past September, she pointed me to her favorite spots for bánh mì, xôi gà (chicken sticky rice), and chuối nếp nướng (glutinous bananas). All three were smashingly good.

Banh Mi Huynh Hoa - Saigon

For the choicest banh mi in Saigon, my aunt sent me to Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa in District 1. The fluorescent lit storefront does brisk takeout business from four in the afternoon until late into the night.

According to my friend Lien, the establishment is run by a family of transgendered individuals, but truth be told, I hardly noticed when I stopped in. All I could focus on was making my way through the crowds and snagging a sandwich as soon as possible.

Banh Mi Huynh Hoa - Saigon

Every banh mi dac biet is made on a fresh and crisp baguette with a heady smear of pork pate and mayonnaise, slices of head cheese and ham, a tangle of pork floss, pickled vegetables, and deadly hot chilies. When taken all together, the flavors and textures meld, enhance one another, and seduce.

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Lunch at The Spice Table – Los Angeles (Downtown)

The Spice Table - Downtown

A glowing review of The Spice Table on Midtown Lunch brought my friend Bill and me to Little Tokyo for a weekday meetup. Vietnamese sandwiches are my passion, and Zach promised “as perfect a banh mi as you would expect to find in, say, Westminster.” High praise from the high priest of midday grubbing, I’d say.

The Spice Table - Downtown

The Spice Table, which opened for business this past March and began serving lunch soon after, is owned by Chef Bryant Ng and his wife Kim. Chef Ng most notably served as the opening chef of Pizzeria Mozza.

The lunchtime menu features Southeast Asian-inspired sandwiches served in a casual atmosphere, while dinner is a full-service affair showcasing the traditional cuisines of Singapore and Vietnam.

The Spice Table - Downtown

After ordering and paying for our food at the counter, Bill and I grabbed a table in the main dining room and sipped our beverages while we waited. He indulged in a glass of red wine ($16), while I chose a bubbly mug of Prosecco ($13). Both pours were stingy as hell, much to our dismay.

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Má Pêche – New York City

Má Pêche - New York City

Every time I visit New York City, I try to squeeze in a meal at a cutting-edge Vietnamese restaurant. It brings me great pleasure to experience the cuisine I grew up on in fresh and innovative ways, even if it means dropping more change than usual.

On our previous visit to the city, The Astronomer and I lunched on the most delectable banh mi at Chef Angelo Sosa’s Xie Xie. We were hoping to experience the same kind of Midtown magic at Má Pêche, the latest restaurant in Chef David Chang’s Momofuku empire.

Má Pêche - New York City

Opened in 2010, Má Pêche is located in the basement of the Chambers Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The windowless room is minimally appointed and feels something like a sterile cave. Here, Tien Ho, the former chef at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, dishes up his brand of French-Vietnamese cooking.

While I wanted to try the restaurant’s upscale rendition of bo bay mon (beef seven ways), which is priced at $450 for parties of four to eight, my dining companions weren’t up for throwing down a Benjamin for the experience. So, we came here for lunch instead.

Má Pêche - New York City

Every table was outfitted with menus, napkins, chopsticks, a squeeze bottle filled with Sriracha, and Maggi seasoning sauce. If you haven’t experienced the umami bomb that is Maggi, you must get your hands on a bottle. It tastes like a dream atop sunny side up eggs.

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