Friday, July 24, 2009
(photo courtesy of the NY Times)
Make sure to scroll down for the official Word is Banh playlist.
I finally faced my fears and tackled 2009's most popular food item, the Banh Mi, or versions very similar to it. Yeah man, this shit freaked me out. It didn't make much sense to me- the ingredients didn't seem like they worked well together. The carrots, the pate, the terine, the ham- basically the odd cuts of pork. It freaked me out to the point of aversion. Just writing this and conjuring up the image of these swine cuts makes me half nauseous, but truth be told, if done right, the sandwich is delicious. Fuck the fear, we're going in on this one. That's why I had 3 different versions this past week. I haven't ventured into Chinatown yet for the real deal half jewelry store/half banh mi shops, but you need to crawl before you walk. Maybe later today.
It all kind of happened by accident. I hit Stand for their fabled Toasted Marshmallow shake and right across the street was Num Pang, a Cambodian sandwich spot. There will be a post for the shake very shortly, Best I Ever Had- no Drake status, that had me coming back 2 days later to re-up on the chilled nectar. I was disappointed with the burger, so this was a liquid only endeavor. Carbs would have to be acquired elsewhere and Num Pang fit the bill. The little stand overlooking 12th Street looked welcoming so the order was placed.
The menu didn't provide the "typical" banh mi so I went with the next best thing, the 5 spiced pork belly ($7.50) with its assortment of pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro and an interesting yet delicious addition of pickled rhubarb. It was missing the pate and terine so the trepidation was at level blue, just a bit guarded.
One bite and it was a wrap. This is the problem with fear- it keeps you from life's pleasures. And I'm throwing banh mi and the like into that category for the present moment. Freshly baked bread from Parisi Bakery on Mott Street housing a flavor jumpoff (read: party, pause). Tart, sweet, sour, bitter, pork, crunch, crisp- the sandwich encompasses it all. Shit had me open.
My boy, aka the Gatekeeper, had the Lemongrass chicken liver pate with grilled pickled red scallions ($7.25). Not a fan of liver- the stuff dries me out- however this dude is a certified liver specialist and it received a high mark. So for all you liverheads, do you. I should note that both of these sandwiches were daily specials, but they have been on the menu for a little while. Not sure how often they switch things up.
And that's why after an afternoon of eating and drinking I found myself at Baoguette on St. Mark's off 2nd Ave. ordering the Sloppy Bao, a banh mi-esque creation consisting of spicy burry beef, green mango, cilantro, and lemongrass. This meal too followed a toasted marshmallow milkshake, as well as a burger, half dozen oysters, a bunch of peronis and a San Loco cheese quesadilla. Yeah man, the worms were working OT in the tummy. A victim of the big eyes, the sandwich didn't meet its maker till the next day.
With that said, I ate it after a brief stay in the fridge. Tried heating it up, but the inside was still pretty cold. Didn't even matter. Hot or cold, it was enjoyable and all the flavors were accounted for. Basically an Indochine Sloppy Joe, as the name indicates. Spicy ground meat with the mandatory pickled element (green papaya) and some cilantro on their in-house baked bread. I could see this sandwich being messy, but it's worth it. Just go in Guy Fieri style, elbows out and sneakers protected from splatter, skeet skeet. Easy.
I needed 3 sandwiches to make this a substantial post. So on a rainy Tuesday I ventured out to Baoguette's most uptown baby, uptown baby location on Lexington between 25th and 26th Steets. The $5 namesake Baoguette was on the hit list. The menu describes it as pork terine, pate, pulled Pork, and fresh herbs, but my take was a crumbled terine with whole peppercorns, pate, ham, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon, and sliced jalapeno. The fear was at level orange shook ones, high. The pork was showing out in all its glory.
First let me say that eating this fresh, I was really impressed with the bread. Light, with a nice bite. And now the good stuff. Every bite had me wondering what I was getting in to. That aside, it was delicious. Aside from a rogue piece of gristle, fat or bone (?) the flight was smooth. Pork reigns supreme but not in an overpowering way. All of the other ingredients temper the swinesthenics. To follow up on the whole cracked peppercorns- my first encounter had me about to spit out the entire bite, thinking I was eating into some crazy head cheese product. Once I settled down, I looked forward to the other hidden crunch berries.
Baoguette also serves several varieties of bun noodles and salads. Never one to say no to a noodle dish, I ordered the roasted fish vermicelli noodle. A spicy roasted fish served over a cold bed of white vermicelli noodles sitting over a bed of lettuce and mint leaves. Mad support serta style, ya dig? Pickled carrots and daikon as well as thinly sliced cucumber and sliced jalapeno were also part of the mix. A sweet honey colored sauce was on the side.
This was the dish. A refreshing light dish. Not sure what kind of fish- light pink in color, but tender, and some major heat. The mint leaves caught me offguard, thinking it was cilantro, but the coolness of the mint offset the spice real well. The crunch of the cucumber and pickled veggies added to the fun. A little extra srirscha hot sauce and I'll be heading back for this one.
21 East 12th St. between University and 5th Ave., closer to University
New York, NY 10003
Monday – Saturday 11am to 10pm
Sunday 12pm to 9pm
37 Saint Marks Place between 2nd & 3rd Ave.
New York, NY 10003
Sun - Thurs 11:00am - 12:00am
Fri - Sat 11:00am - 2:00am
61 Lexington between 25th & 26th St.
Mon - Sat 11 - 8pm
Sun 12pm - 5pm
Below we have the OFFICIAL Banh Mi playlist. Grab yourself a sandwich, press play and enjoy.
Word is Banh- Brand Nubian
Word is Banh Remix- Brand Nubian
Word is Banh- House of Pain
Word is Banh Remix- House of Pain
Run DMC- Word is Banh
Banh to Roll- Masta Ace
Banh 2 Live- O.C.
Banh 2 Live Remix- O.C.
Banh Killer- Scarface
Banh 2 Kill- M.O.P.
Natural Banh Killaz- Dr. Dre & Ice Cube
Banh Gangsta- Boss
Hits From the Banh- Cypress Hill
I Woke Up Early on my Banh Day...- Nas
Banh Alone, Die Alone, No Crew Keep My Crown or Throne...- Nas
Mo' Money Mo' Murder/Banh Alone, Die Alone- AZ