Posts Tagged ‘Banh Mi’

Tam Deli and Cafe – Austin, TX

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 by virginia

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The last day of our Louisiana/Texas trip was really just a travel day. We had an early afternoon flight out of Austin and needed to return our rental car by midday, so we took it easy in the morning. We did have one last stop planned though, on our way to the airport. Rather than suffering through bad airplane food, we picked up some banh mis from Tam Deli and Cafe to tide us over.

The banh mi that I had read the most about during my research was the fried garlic shrimp banh mi. When we opened up the sandwich though, it looked more like a po’ boy than a typical banh mi, as it was dressed with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, rather than cilantro, jalapenos, and pickled vegetables. We laughed that our trip had come full circle, considering we started out in New Orleans and ate more than our fair share of po’ boys while we were there. Nevertheless, it was a delicious sandwich – the shrimp were perfectly fried and covered with crunchy, pungent bits of garlic. The garlic flavor wasn’t overwhelming, but it definitely makes its presence known. The french bread was crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside, and wrapped around the fillings nicely, without getting soggy or too messy.

Garlic shrimp banh mi

Garlic shrimp banh mi

We also ordered a grilled pork banh mi, which ended up being more like the traditional banh mi that we’re used to. It was filled with flavorful strips of savory grilled pork and topped with pickled shredded carrots, sliced cucumber and jalapeno, and of course, cilantro. It wasn’t as stuffed to the brim as the banh mis we’re used to from back home, but it was still tasty nonetheless.

Grilled pork banh mi

Grilled pork banh mi

Lastly, we also got two cream puffs, because, why not? These were fresh when we ordered them (and we devoured them right away), with a delicate choux pastry exterior and creamy custard inside. They were two lovely petite bites.

Cream puffs

Cream puffs

Overall, we thought the banh mis from Tam Deli and Cafe were pretty solid. The fried garlic shrimp sandwich was delicious in its po’ boy format, but might have been even better dressed with the traditional banh mi ingredients; I’m not sure if you can request it that way, but it’s worth a shot. The garlic shrimp itself is worth the detour, though this place is pretty far outside of downtown Austin. But if you have a car and are heading to the airport, it’s not too out of the way. Don’t forget to get a cream puff for dessert. We ended up eating our banh mis by the gate while waiting for our flight, and they held up really well. It was a nice conclusion to our week and a half of pigging out through Louisiana and Texas, and it definitely made us want to do more food-related road trips in the future.

Tam Deli and Cafe
8222 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery and Di Palo’s Fine Foods

Monday, December 14th, 2009 by virginia

Since we were finally back in Chinatown there was no way we were going to leave without picking up some banh mi sandwiches from Banh Mi Saigon Bakery and some fresh mozzarella from Di Palo’s.

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery

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Out of all the banh mi sandwiches that we’ve tried so far, Banh Mi Saigon Bakery is by far my favorite. It’s located in the back of a jewelry shop so it’s basically just a counter and there isn’t much room inside the shop. The last time we were in Chinatown we had to go to Paris Sandwich for banh mis instead of Banh Mi Saigon Bakery due to the extremely long line and no real sitting area to eat. This time we were there at an off peak hour so there was no line whatsoever. Phew! I was worried that due to all the positive press the place has received in the last few months, we wouldn’t be able to get in. Too stuffed from our dumpling and noodle feast, we picked up some sandwiches to go.

I ended up reheating the sandwiches a few days later briefly in the oven to crisp up the bread. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees then stuck the sandwiches in for about 5 minutes so that the bread was warm through but the fillings remained relatively cool.

Pork banh mi with pate, pickled vegetables, and cilantro

Pork banh mi with pate, pickled vegetables, and cilantro

Even left in the fridge for a few days and then reheated, the sandwiches were spectacular. The toasted bread shattered delightfully when I bit into it, and although the pork filling is a bit tough, it’s cut into tiny pieces, which makes it easier to eat. The pate adds a bit of moisture, and the pickled carrots and daikon are sweet and tangy. We requested the sandwiches to be hot so they put on both a squirt of hot sauce and some jalapeno slices. If it gets to be too spicy, I just pick out the jalapenos, plus the cucumber spears in the sandwich are a cool refreshing comfort for my mouth.

Banh mi innards - look at all the great layers of flavors!

Banh mi innards - look at all the great layers of flavors!

Though the debate about the best banh mi sandwich in the city rages on, much like the debates about the best pizza or burger in the city, Banh Mi Saigon Bakery has my vote. True, I haven’t tried a lot of places, like Nicky’s on the Lower East Side, the famed joints in Brooklyn, or the new Ma Peche version in midtown, but of the ones that I have tried (Paris Sandwich, Vietnam Banh Mi So. 1), this one takes the cake. I’ll make my rounds through the other places sometime soon though, I hope.

Di Palo’s Fine Foods

We stopped into Di Palo’s to pick up a ball of fresh mozzarella and some proscuitto for our lunch the next day. The last time I was there, six months ago, the store had moved its wares into the space next door while they were making renovations. Now I see that it has expanded to both spaces, making it huge and spacious. The meat and cheese counters are more spread out, and the imported Italian goods are also spaced out so that you no longer have to be backed up against the shelves while you wait for your number to be called.

Spacious new interior

Spacious new interior

We got a pound of mozzarella and half a pound of San Daniele prosciutto, which was about $22/lb. It sounds expensive but it’s actually cheaper than the ones you can get at the supermarket, and a million times better. The prosciutto was soft and delicate in texture, not tough or stringy. It had a deep, almost gamey flavor to it, and wasn’t too salty. We put together our favorite spread and noshed to our hearts’ content while watching football the next day.

San Daniele prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and a baguette

San Daniele prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and a baguette

Josh was traveling yet again for work so one night I made a quick and tasty caprese salad with the leftover mozzarella and prosciutto. I simply cut up a tomato and salted the slices, layered on slices of the mozzarella, sprinkled on freshly cracked pepper and thin ribbons of fresh basil, piled on the prosciutto, and drizzled olive oil over the top of everything. Fast, easy, and delicious!

Fresh caprese salad topped with prosciutto

Fresh caprese salad topped with prosciutto

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery
138 Mott St. between Grand and Hester St.
New York, NY

Di Palo’s Fine Foods
200 Grand St. between Mulberry and Mott St.
New York, NY

A Perfect Saturday (Lan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles, Paris Sandwich, Di Palo’s, Lansdowne Road, Famous 53rd Street Halal Cart)

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009 by virginia

When Josh and I lived downtown, we would walk over to Chinatown almost every weekend. It was a bit of a hike but that just gave us an excuse to eat more, since we figured that we’d at least be walking off some of the calories we consumed. Some days we spent trying to find the best soup dumplings and other days we would navigate through the hustle and bustle of the steam carts at dim sum. After our meals, we would always wander through the fruit/vegetable markets and fish stalls and pick up some fresh groceries for the rest of the week. Our treks to Chinatown will always hold a special place in my heart, as it is on the way home from one of these trips that Josh proposed to me, on the steps in front of the Federal court house.

But I digress; this is a food blog after all! So at lunchtime on Saturday, we headed downtown with Claire and Sean, who are staying with us for the weekend, to introduce them to some of our favorite Chinatown foods.

Lan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles

We started out with hand pulled noodles at Lan Zhou on East Broadway. I know hand pulled noodles have been blogged to death in the last few months, but they are definitely worth talking about. Josh and I have tried Super Taste and Sheng Weng, but we always come back to Lan Zhou because of their tastier broth. We got seats along the wall right next to the noodle maker and proceeded to watch him intently for 10 minutes while we waited for our soups. We’ve seen him make the noodles a hundred times, yet we still can’t grasp how it’s done. It’s simply amazing to see him take a ball of dough, bang it against the table a few times, twist his hands around, and somehow he always winds up with perfectly formed strands of noodles.

Hand pulling noodle man

Hand pulling noodle man

Claire and Sean shared a bowl of beef noodles, while Josh and I opted for the beef brisket noodles (both $4.50 each). The broths are similar – deep, rich and peppery – but the beef brisket is fattier and chewier, which I like better.

Noodle soup with beef brisket

Noodle soup with beef brisket

The noodles here are just perfect – tender yet chewy. They’re thinner than I generally like, but they still have a lot of spring and bite to them.

Yummy yummy noodles

Yummy yummy noodles

We also shared a large order of pan-fried dumplings (12/$3.00). Thin-skinned, crispy, hot and greasy, topped with soy sauce and Sriracha, these are just perfect. Josh and I currently have several bags of frozen dumplings from Lan Zhou in our freezer. They’re perfect for days when we’re just too lazy to cook. You can just pan fry them or boil them straight from the freezer – no need to defrost.

Yummy yummy dumplings

Yummy yummy dumplings

We love this place because you get to watch the noodles and dumplings made right in front of you, and a few minutes later, you’re digging into a steaming bowl or sizzling plate of that same stuff. It just doesn’t get better than that.

Woman hand making rows upon rows of dumplings

Woman hand making rows upon rows of dumplings

We had planned to stop at Prosperity Dumpling on our way to the more touristy side of Chinatown but decided to bypass it so that we could save room for our next stop, Banh Mi Saigon Bakery. Unfortunately, due to the recent amount of press that banh mis have received, the line was almost out the door of the tiny shop. It’s really quite a change from when we used to go and the place would be empty so you could sit on the boxes along the side wall and eat your banh mi right there. Instead of waiting on the ridiculously long line, we headed across the street and down the block to Paris Sandwich, which was almost barren in comparison.

Paris Sandwich

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There was no wait to order two grilled pork ban mis, and we nabbed a table in the back to eat our freshly made sandwiches. The seating area is the only advantage of Paris Sandwich, as you can have your sandwich made to order and eat it right away. The bread, however, while super light and crispy, is pretty tasteless. The grilled pork is tender and the vegetables are fresh but there isn’t enough filling overall. I prefer Banh Mi Saigon Bakery handily over Paris Sandwich, and even if the sandwich is pre-made or if it gets soggy on the way home, I just pop it in the oven for a few minutes and the bread crisps right back up. The filling is ample and the pickled vegetables are perfectly tangy and crunchy. Regardless, the banh mis at Paris Sandwich made for a refreshing “snack,” as we were still pretty full from the hand pulled noodles and dumplings.

Grilled pork banh mi

Grilled pork banh mi

Di Palo’s Fine Foods

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The next stop on our tour was Di Palo’s to pick up some supplies for our planned picnic in Central Park during the afternoon. We got two loaves of excellent Sullivan Street Bakery bread, a one-pound ball of fresh mozzarella ($6.99/lb) and, most exciting of all, a ball of burrata ($7.99). A friend told us about it and we’ve been itching to try it ever since, so this was the perfect time. We picked up some white wine and headed back uptown to meet up with another friend for our picnic.

After debating whether we could get away with drinking the wine in the park, however, we ultimately decided to bring some chairs and a table up to our roof deck and enjoy the outdoors without the hassle. It turned out to be the perfect plan. The weather was just right – warm, not too sunny, with a nice breeze – and the view from our roof is spectacular. It’s basically a 360 degree view of the whole city; we can see all the way down to the Statue of Liberty to the south, the Hudson to the west, all the way up to the GWB to the north, and all of Central Park to the east. Really really stunning.

View of Central Park from our roof deck

View of Central Park from our roof deck

Southern view

Southern view

Northwestern view

Northwestern view

Southeastern view

Southeastern view

Ok back to food. We supplemented our supplies from Di Palo’s with some prosciutto, genoa salami and more fresh mozzarella that our other friend brought in from a deli in Hoboken. We also had some prosciutto and manchego cheese that Josh got from the supermarket nearby, as well as ripe tomatoes on the vine, and some fresh basil from our windowsill planter. It really was quite the spread.

Meats, breads and produce

Meats, breads and produce

Selection of cheeses

Selection of cheeses

The highly anticipated burrata did not disappoint. The smooth exterior of the ball was broken open to reveal the creamy innards, which we spread on the bread with a knife, like ricotta.

Burrata innards

Burrata innards

Creamy and delicious

Creamy and delicious

We tried all the different combinations of the mozzarellas and the prosciuttos, and ate slices of manchego cheese wrapped with salami.

Prosciutto, mozzarella, fresh basil and tomato on Sullivan St. bread

Prosciutto, mozzarella, fresh basil and tomato on Sullivan St. bread

Salami and mozzarella

Salami and mozzarella

We ate until we could eat no more, and there were still tons left over. We spent the next few hours eating, drinking and chatting, and only headed back inside when the sun went down and it got too cold up on the roof. Then we proceeded to eat and drink some more, moving on to strawberries and scotch.

Lansdowne Road

Later in the evening, we headed out for a reunion of sorts at Lansdowne Road (Claire and Sean used to live in NYC and still have tons of friends here). Claire had called ahead to reserve several tables in the back room, and we worked our way through several beer bongs of Magic Hat #9 (my favorite beer), Stone IPA and Blue Moon.

Mmmmmm beer

Mmmmmm beer

Famous 53rd Street Halal Cart

Afterward, Claire and I stumbled our way home (bathroom emergency!) while Sean and Josh headed to 53rd St. and 6th Ave. to get some streetcart food from the Famous Halal cart. The cart, which has a pretty long line during the day, apparently is even more crowded at night, judging from the blurry shots Josh took with his iphone.

The food though is just as good, if not better, after you’ve had a few beer bongs worth of drinks! It was the perfect way to end a perfect day of eating.

Chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce

Chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce

Lan Zhou
144 East Broadway between Pike and Rutgers St.
New York, NY

Paris Sandwich
113 Mott St. between Hester and Canal St.
New York, NY

Di Palo’s Fine Foods
200 Grand St. between Mulberry and Mott St.
New York, NY

Lansdowne Road
599 10th Ave. between 43rd and 44th St.
New York, NY

Famous Halal Cart
Corner of 53rd St. and 6th Ave. (SE Corner during the day, SW Corner at night)
New York, NY