Vancouver is blessed with a wealth of Vietnamese restaurants. But which serves the best banh mi? We asked food blogger Fernando Medrano, to compile a definitive list.
Banh mi (pronounced BUN-Mee, Vietnamese for 'bread') is the colonial love child of French and Vietnamese cuisines. French techniques (baking and charcuterie) localized by the Vietnamese using Asian ingredients created a sandwich which rightly belongs in the pantheon of world fusion food.
Traditional banh mi are variations on this theme: a Vietnamese-style baguette sliced and slathered with a special yellow mayonnaise and pate (often made with pork liver); then layered with a crisp quick-pickle made with carrot and daikon; then filled with sliced cold cuts, steamed meatballs, shredded meat, grilled meat or tofu; then garnished with cucumber and cilantro; and finally drizzled with soy sauce or Maggi Seasoning sauce. Regional variants can include fried egg, duck, meat floss, sardines, peanuts, and wheat gluten.
The most critical component of the banh mi is the bread; Vietnamese baguettes have an airy crumb and an egg shell-thin, brittle crust, which like its authentic French counterpart does not keep well and becomes stale and chewy within a couple of hours of baking. Most shops will keep just enough bread to last through the lunch rush. As a rule, the best banh mi operations - ones with steady supplies of fresh bread - are therefore bakeries. And in Vancouver, you can apply a second rule: the best banh mi are all along Kingsway, the epicenter of Vancouver's Vietnamese community. However, there are a few notable exceptions.
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