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.
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.
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.
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.