Banh Mi? Banh U!

The banh mi Vietnamese sandwich is, at its best, superdelicious, with pork and pate and pickled veggies and cilantro, perhaps among other things, stuffed inside a crunchy-outside soft-inside baguette. Locally there has been lots of love lately for the Saigonese banh mi, but the Hung Phat version also has had fans for many years. So I bought a couple of each, and Mrs. Me had ourselves a tasty taste test.

Dueling Banh Mi

Banh Mi from Saigonese (L) and Hung Phat (R)

That’s Saigonese (11232 Grandview) on the left and Hung Phat (11315 Fern) on the right, and I think it is obvious from the photo which one was destined to win, and why (and no, in this instance size doesn’t matter).

Meat:  both had roast pork but Saigonese’s was higher quality (gristle-free) with more porky flavor; Saigonese had ham while Hung Phat’s had some pressed-meat-product; I think both had pate but Hung Phat’s was barely evident while Saigonese’s was spread thicker and salty-savory-delicious; a clear advantage to Saigonese.

Hung Phat Banh Mi

Hung Phat Banh Mi

Veggies: Saigonese’s pickled carrot, cucumber, and daikon were thicker cut and more attractive, but Hung Phat’s actually had a bolder flavor, and little more kick; slight advantage Hung Phat. Both included cilantro and a fairly mild jalapeno slice.

Bread: from Saigonese, a perfect Vietnamese baguette, crusty outside but just barely enough inside to support the filling; from Hung Phat, a regular old too-dense sandwich roll; huge advantage Saigonese.

Saigonese Banh Mi

Saigonese Banh Mi

Cost: $2.50 apiece at both establishments.

And at that price, it’s not a bad deal at Hung Phat, but it’s a great deal at Saigonese, where the sandwich is more attractive, boasts better ingredients, especially bread, and although Hung Phat’s tastes good, Saigonese’s is even better. If I’m hungry and in a hurry East of Georgia, Hung Phat will do just fine, but the Saigonese banh mi is well worth crossing Georgia (and Triangle) for. Saigonese also has several other sandwich variations that I’m sure are worth exploring.

No, the limes in the photos don’t come with the sandwiches at either place — those juicy green babies were purchased at a rate of five for $2 at Hung Phat, this week’s lime index winner. They may have lost the banh mi battle but they are winning the lime war.

The only thing missing from these sandwiches, generally speaking, is a fried element to balance the pickled, the starch, and the protein; there needs to be a kind of hybrid Frankensandwich banh mi-po’boy. Maybe there is and I just don’t know about it.  Fried oysters, roast pork, pickles, pate, jalapeno, cilantro, a little cajun mayonnaise…does that not already exist? That needs to exist.  On my plate. Soon.


9 responses to “Banh Mi? Banh U!

  1. Nice taste test! This is exactly the kind of thing that I’d like to do with the classic Italian sub featuring the best from Litteri’s, Mangialardo & Sons and Taylor Deli to see who is king in DC. Let me know if you’re up for it sometime because I’m going to need some help eating 3 subs!

  2. I’m totally in, but I’m bringing Marchone’s to serve as the control sandwich.

  3. Great review! Just curious, which sandwich did you get from Saigonese? Was it the ‘combo’? The bahn mi I’ve gotten from them so far just had pork, but I’d like to try the one with the ham and pate in it too.

  4. It may have been the combo, I had trouble understanding the different options. I asked for the “regular” one, “with roast pork” and so maybe I ended up with a combo, not sure. Next time I need to bring a few friends and try one of each! Biggest “problem” with Saigonese is their menu is huge and too many things look good. Also like twenty vegetarian dishes, very nice if you like that kind of thing.

  5. Sounds good, and feel free to bring the ringer (Marchone’s) along. My guess is that it may all come down to who uses the best bread – often the most overlooked component! Not sure if we should do a single-blind test or not.

  6. Great Post!

  7. The tofu bahn mi at Saigonese is really tasty. It is a great vegetarian sandwich.

  8. Pingback: Wheaton Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese in a Nutshell « Good eatin’ in Wheaton

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