Thursday, July 07, 2005

Gabriel Brings Me Bahn Mi But Fernando Doesn't: Bahn Mi My Tho

Whenever I stay home sick from work, whether I'm playing hooky and taking a "personal health day" or when I feel like I'm on my deathbed, I have a personal requirement to take full advantage of the day. Ain't no way I'm gonna waste a sick day; I mean, how many chances do I have to have a weekday off? So today, when my migrane subsided (I SWEAR, I really DID have a migrane), first thing I did was got ready to go out.

Whatever I end up doing doesn't have to be extremely exciting, like I don't go to the beach or go rock climbing or anything. The whole idea is to be able to be out in the real world doing "normal" stuff like grocery shopping or grabbing a bite to eat without the weekend crowds and traffic. And so began a post-migrane trip to Alhambra. I told you it wasn't going to be too glamourous, but where else can I go that's only a 10 minute drive from downtown, has "American" conveniences like Target and a Costco with a gas station, plus loads of great Asian shops and restaurants? It's perfect!

So after filling up my trunk with groceries and other (un)necessities and then filling up my tank with gas, I thought it'd be a good idea to fill up my tummy with something that isn't as easily found in the San Fernando Valley but much more easily found in the San Gabriel Valley. My coworkers and I have drooled over them in conversation: "If only there were a place out here to get some $2 Vietnamese sammiches!" We've tried looking for bahn mi sandwiches in the NoHo/Studio City/Van Nuys/Burbank area before--there used to be one across from 99 Ranch Market in Van Nuys but when we drove out one day, it had closed to make room for a boba shop--ain't no such thang.

Today, however, I was in the right Valley for this sort of thing. In a mini mall on Valley Blvd. just west of Garfield is a teensy-weensy Vietnamese sandwich shop called Bahn Mi My Tho. It was my first time here, so it was a little hard for me to find, not because it was in an inconspicuous location, but because I was still trying to shake off a post-migrane haze. After flipping many illegal bitches on Valley, I finally found it and pulled into their parking lot. I was glad to have a small car, 'cause someone didn't design that lot all that well. The parking spaces were long and narrow, more fit for rocket ships than most cars, an old security guard staring at me as I three-point-turned my way into a space.

A very surly Vietnamese lady with eyes lined in thick black eyeliner took my order, not by asking me if she could take my order but by simply looking up with those encircled eyes. "A number 2 without cilantro and a number 4, please," I said. She wrote my order down on a small sheet of paper, muttered "hm" under her breath and handed the paper to the lady in the back making the sandwiches. I spent the next few minutes poking around a cramped space filled with soft drinks and various Vietnamese deli items--goi cuon, bun, mung bean desserts. I looked up and at back at the counter a couple of times only to see surly Vietnamese lady staring at me. Did I look that criminal? Did she think I was going to stuff some mung bean cakes into my mini messenger bag? It would have been a difficult get-away pulling out of my parking space, but whatever the case, after what felt like the longest few minutes of my life, I looked up to see her bagging my sandwiches. "Four dollar," she said. Wow, she actually said something. I gave her four bucks and then asked for a to-go menu. She handed me my sandwiches and a menu without saying a word. Whatever.

But when I got home with my bahn-mi, the #2 bahn mi dac biet, filled with various Vietnamese cold cuts, barbequed pork and pate, my freakish experience at Bahn Mi My Tho was all worth it. The sesame baguette had a fluffy, chewy interior and a crispy exterior and was slathered with creamy mayonnaise and sprinkled with a bit of soy sauce. Each bite was a treat--the subtle saltiness of the ham, gelatinous texture of the headcheese, the velvety smoothness of the liver pate and the slightly charred crispiness of the barbecued pork seemed to work both independently and in unison. Cool cucumber, crisp pickled daikon and radish, and jalapeno slices added some nice crunch to all the meatiness. Judging from my sandwich and the bahn mi ga, the chicken bahn mi I got for Isaac, Bahn Mi My Tho's sandwiches are more on the fat, fluffy side whereas other
bahn mi's I've bought down the street are served on a longer, skinnier, warmer and crustier baguette. I haven't found a preference yet; all I know is that for $2, this wonderful sandwich is totally unlike anything I can get in my normal Valley during the week. It's something that Fernando can't provide, but Gabriel can come through with.

Bahn Mi Dac Biet

Bahn Mi My Tho also has various com tam, or rice plates, and bun, or vermicelli plates, available to order. Those may take longer to prepare, so be ready to play staring games with the lady behind the counter.

Another sick day put to good use!

Bahn Mi My Tho
304 W. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91803


tracinamarie said...

I am obsessed with vietnamese sandwiches! My boyfriend and I live downtown and would take trips down to Westminister specifically for our favorite Banh Mi at Lee's Sandwiches-- but, lucky for us they just opened one in Alhambra!

Daily Gluttony said...

oooh! i had no idea they opened a lee's in alhambra--thanks for the tip! look for a "lee's post" sometime soon then; i may just have to do a run out there ;)