On the Banh Mi Trail in London
Bánh mì are Franco-Vietnamese baguette sandwiches made with thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, coriander, chilli peppers, pâté, mayonnaise and an assortment of meats or tofu. A number of eateries selling these Saigon sarnies have sprouted up in London as of late. A few of my faves are Panda Panda, Banh Mi Bay and Banh Mi 11. Here's the lowdown on these three cheap-n-cheerful baguette busters. Panda Panda Panda Panda is an “oriental sandwich bar” that opened back in the spring at 8 Deptford Broadway (SE8 4PA) providing Southeast Londoners an inspired Southeast Asian variety of banh mi, snacks, desserts and range of hot and cold drinks. Made with freshly baked and crisply toasted baguettes and priced between £2.95 and £3.95, the banh mi offered here are as filling and as yummy a meal as I've yet to discover in London. For a fist sized feast fit for a king but priced for a pauper, consider Panda Panda's “A1”: (rolled pork and Viet ham with mayo, pate, chilli, carrots, cucumber, coriander, salt and pepper and soya sauce). Equally worthy of your contemplation is the “A5” Panda Panda Special (chicken and pork with mayo, chilli, carrots, coriander, spring onion, oil, peanuts and fish sauce). Beyond the baguette, other deliciously exotic goodies here include freshly wrapped summer rolls, noodles with grilled pork, curry fish ball sticks with chilli sauce (£1.45), mango sago pudding and tofu-fa and a refreshingly slurp-down-able rainbow tea (che ba mau). Banh Mi Bay Located at 4-6 Theobald's Road (WC1X 8PN), this Bloomsbury newcomer offers an impressive selection of banh mi and Vietnamese dishes - the vast majority of which are at or under the five quide price mark. That's a bargain and half for a postcode of such centrality. Thankfully, the menu is as tasty as it is affordable. For a mere £3.50, the Banh Mi Dac Biet Bay Special baguette stuffed with home made pate, spiced pork and pork roll along with the usual spread of fillings is especially yummy value for money. The actual baguette itself is crispy and light too. There doesn't seem to be a website up and running yet but the restaurant can be reached by phone (0207 831 4079). Banh Mi 11 Banh mi is classic street food. So, where better to have it than at one of London's best street markets? On Saturdays from 10am-5pm, Banh Mi 11 slings out made to order sandwiches from a stall at Broadway Market (E8 4HP) near the Regent's Canal. For gluttonous gourmands, creations like Quad Meat (home made pork liver pate, home-cured roast pork, home-made Vietnamese ham, finely threaded pork, honey-roasted chicken) is a terrific treat for chowing down while browsing the market or having a picnic in nearby Victoria Park. More? Those are just a few of London's banh mi offerings that I've come across lately. If anybody out there reading this post has some recommendations for other places to try here by all means leave a comment! Word is there's a decent vendor at Brick Lane's Sunday Upmarket. Rumour has it that Greenwich's Baguette + More is delish but now closed. Please share your London banh mi tips here! Of course, if this has inspired you to dream about a trip to stunning Vietnam, why not check out some of the great hotel and flight deals to the Far East from lastminute.com.