A couple weeks after rocking the party at Disneyland to celebrate my birthday, The Astronomer and I returned to Anaheim to cash in our 2fer California Adventure passes. Disney has been most generous to us this month. Grazie!
Sticking with tradition, we stopped in Alhambra to pick up some Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch and dinner. An amusement park outing just wouldn’t be complete without our third wheel—banh mi.
Bánh Mì Mỹ Tho was recommended to me by gas•tron•o•my reader William. “My favorite banh mi shop is Bánh Mì Mỹ Tho,” he writes. “The shop is small, but the taste is big at this place. I think they have the best tasting banh mi around. Even better than the fancy schmancy Mr. Baguette.” I really do love receiving reader recs, especially from folks who hail from the San Gabriel Valley. Thanks, William!
The petite shop was was crammed with banh mi-goers and prepared foods the morning we stopped in. In addition to sandwiches, Bánh Mì Mỹ Tho also sells com tam (broken rice plates), bun (vermicelli rice noodles), and banh uot (thin rice noodle sheets).
Not knowing how huge the sandwiches were going to be, The Astronomer and I purchased four of them to-go. I dug into the banh mi thit nguoi ($2) on the car ride down to Anaheim for breakfast. The array of cold cuts present were plentiful and mild in flavor—even the pate was quite subdued. The bread was firm and substantial.
The banh mi xiu mai ($2.25) was the tastiest of the bunch. The bits of ground pork were sauteed in a sweet and savory marinade with onions. The saucy marinade served to flavor the meat and moisten the bread.
The banh mi thit nuong ($2.25) was sweet and savory as well, but not executed as successfully as the xiu mai. We prefer our thit nuong with a deeper lemongrass flavor.
The banh mi nem nuong ($2.25) was decent—the meatballs provided more texture than flavor due to the overly bread-y baguette.
From what I’ve sampled so far, the downfall of banh mi in the San Gabriel Valley are the baguettes—they’re far too large and much, much too thick. A proper Vietnamese baguette is made entirely of rice flour, which yields a crisp exterior and hollow center, thus allowing the fixins to really shine through. (See: A Chau in San Diego and our banh mi thit nuong vendor in Saigon for some perfect specimens.) The banh mi makers in this town need to move away from super-sized baguettes because the resulting product packs a watered-down punch. Quality always trumps quantity, and good taste rules all.
The banh mi I’ve tasted in the San Gabriel Valley are good, but I’m looking for stellar.
Bánh Mì Mỹ Tho
304 W Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91803