I have a new obsession! I was already in love with the cuisine of Vietnam. I was fully hooked on Pho and Bun, two classic noodle dishes for which 'Nam has been credited. I have been partaking of the crisp, cool, refreshing virtues of "Spring" rolls for at least a decade.
My most recent fixation, however, is in the form a baguette sandwich. Banh Mi, which is literally translated into English: "Flour Biscuit," is the name for the bread itself rather than the sandwich, despite the common connotation.
Made either from a blend of rice and wheat or simply rice flour, the consistency is quite airy yet surprisingly substantial. They can be filled with a variety of meats; commonly grilled or roasted pork, chicken, and meatballs. And of course, the famous Banh Mi Dac Biet or "special combo," which contains Vietnamese ham, sausage, head cheese (look it up), and liver pate. It sounds creepy, but it is classic for a reason.
The sandwiches are then topped with pickled vegetables (daikon radish and carrot), sliced fresh jalapeño, cucumber, and cilantro. Sometimes mayonnaise is also spread on the bread.
Banh Mi is a perfect example of blended cultures positively contributing to the world of food. French influence is evident in the use of mayo, baguette, and liver pate. Talk about fusion...it doesn't get much better than this!
If you are wondering where you can try these delicious Viet-treats, I have some bad news. Short of driving to Chicago, making them at home is really your best bet. The Internet is a wonderful resource for just such a task. With a few hours advance notice and minimal preparation, you can enjoy these wonderfully exotic "subs" with family and friends.