When Life Gives You Baguettes, Make Banh Mi

The banh mi has quietly risen in popularity over the past several years and has become a staple in many American cities. Lynda and Iris decided to look into the story of this humble Vietnamese sandwich. If you thought our Japanese was bad after our Japanese Whisky episode, wait till you hear our Vietnamese.

We interview two Vietnamese chefs who provide awesome insight into the banh mi and Vietnamese cuisine: Matt Le-Khac, head chef at An Choi in NYC, as well as Peter Cuong Franklin, former executive chef at Chom Chom and Viet Kitchen in Hong Kong.

Iris discusses her recent trip to Vietnam and how impossible the language is to her, while Lynda has some recommendations for where to get a good banh mi in New York. (Get the no.1 House Special at Saigon Vietnamese in Chinatown.) We also take a moment to remember the no longer existent Baoguette chain. #RIP

Matt helps us define a traditional banh mi, and Peter guides us through the different regional variations in Vietnam. Lynda and Iris contribute with a sexy definition of head cheese. #fleshofthehead

We then go into the history of the banh mi and how it's a positive by-product of years of colonization. Lynda explains how the Vietnamese market was flooded with discounted European food products during the First World War, and how that contributed to the cuisine. Shout out to Maggi sauce, which Iris will always think of as ghetto soy sauce and not a Swiss product.

"All these beautiful things came out of [colonization]. I love that about Vietnam, because we can make the best out of it, even though we're always in these oppressive, dire situations." - Matt Le-Khac on Vietnam's various colonial influences on the cuisine. 

Lynda and Iris then get into the banh mi's journey to the US, but how it didn't make it big in France. Tune in to find out how it became a staple, and possibly even trendy in cities where there isn't a huge Vietnamese community like NYC. Hint: it's to do with street food becoming legitimized. And of course, Americans' love for meat between two pieces of bread.

But the best part of the episode, by far, is when Lynda forgets how to speak and uses the word "flaccid" instead of "wilted". Hmmm.

We finish with a quick discussion on the future of the banh mi, and a great thought about the necessity of evolution and adaptation in the culinary world from Peter.

"I think it will continue to evolve and change and that's the nature of food. It's not static; it doesn't stay the same. If it does, it'll become a museum piece, and it dies." - Peter Cuong Franklin on the future of the banh mi.

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Taiwan's SpecialTea

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Lynda's Neighborhood Guide: Greenpoint Edition