A fresh, crusty, crunchy bánh mi is a two-handed power meal that belongs among sandwich royalty like the BLT and Reuben. What makes the bánh mi so good starts with the bread. In Vietnam, its origin country, bánh mi refers to both the sandwich and the baguette with which it is made.
The baguette, brought by French colonists in the 1860s, should have a thin, crisp crust – not so crusty that your jaw is struggling – and light, pillowy interior. Then comes a slathering of mayo, Maggi seasoning sauce, followed by layers of meat (pork pâté or sausage, typically), thin-sliced cucumber, pickled daikon radish, carrot, jalapenos and fresh cilantro. It all makes for a refreshing, texture-rich combination. Now the question is just how to get your hands on one.
Here are three best bets:
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222 W. WELLS ST., 414-817-0241
Offers eight kinds of bánh mi, including one topped with sardines. My favorite is the house special, which has pork pâté, the typical crunchy cool vegetables and that addictive, meaty-flavored Maggi sauce. Jalapenos are optional but they’re sliced thin, with the seeds removed, so not too hot! $7.
2. Pho 4 U
3835 N. 124TH ST., BROOKFIELD, 262-439-9149
The sandwich comes in two sizes here, both generously packed with fillings. The 6-inch classic bánh mi ($6) comes with cha lua (Vietnamese ham) and pâté, but my favorite is the 13.5-inch bánh mi thit nuong with saucy, tender grilled pork ($9).
3. Pho Viet
5475 S. 27TH ST., GREENFIELD, 414-282-8852
Grilled beef and grilled chicken are also common bánh mi fillings, but I’d still stick with traditional pork, especially the combo here of pork meatloaf and pâté. So good. $7.