Sunday, 2 September 2012

banhmi11 and the architecture of a sandwich

op la di beef banh mi
over the recent months i have become quite concerned with the architecture of sandwiches. this concern was brought on by a encounter with a sandwich that had a delightful filling. however, the bread that held it together was so crumbly that it kept falling apart. in his trusty oxford companion to food davidson writes of the sandwich in its classic formulation as ‘two pieces of bread either side of a filling’. 

but what happens when the bread is not able to hold up the filling? or does not compliment it. so we can agree that there is a difference between a sandwich and a good sandwich. i’ve had many of the former at my desk. think of the ones that emerge from cardboard boxes, the bread soggy with the contents and mostly tasting of nothing. then there are those that i have assembled myself or bought from delis or street markets. they are the kinds that turn the humble sandwich into something worth writing about. banhmi11’s banh mi is just that kind of sandwich. 


in its literal sense bánh mi is the vietnamese word for bread. in more popular parlance it is a vietnamese sandwich. it is a fusion of french and vietnamese flavours as it origins are from french colonial days. it comprises a baguette stuffed with distinctly vietnamese ingredients such as cold cuts of meat, pate and condiments such as carrot pickles, shredded daikon and chilli. 

a cross section of my banh mi
the baguettes at banhmi11 have reached the kind of perfection that puts them firmly into the category of a good sandwich. much thought has been given to the architecture of the sandwich. quite often crusty baguettes are difficult to eat. it is as if your bite is locked in a contest with trying to tear the bread. at banhmi11 the crust is not compromised, instead it is just made thinner. i was told that the recipe for the baguette is their own. also, the inner bulk of the baguette is reduced to create a hollow bed for a more generous filling. i had the op la di beef, which is sirloin steak in a marinade of vodka and pear bbq sauce. it is grilled on the spot. the meatiness is accessorised by layers of flavour. there is the heat from a slick of chilli sauce, cooling coins of cucumber and the fresh sharpness of carrot and daikon pickle. stalks of coriander are the final flourish. to me banhmi is the best of a marriage between far eastern flavours in ubiquitously western bread. 

banhmi11 have a stationary presence in shoreditch but the good news is if you are not in the city you can still get a banhmi fix at street markets in london. they also deliver to the food desert also known as canary wharf.

Bánhmì11 on Urbanspoon

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