Have you ever tried bánh mí?” my executive editor asked me.
“I haven’t,” I replied simply. Considering I had never heard of it, I was pretty sure I had never tried it. Whether it was a food item, a drink or a new exercise fad, I wasn’t sure.
“I’m considering starting a new column where we try new food for the first time. What do you think?”
Oh! I like food! “That will be so fun!”
A quick Google search told me that bánh mí is actually a Vietnamese sandwich. Constructed in a baguette, which was introduced to Vietnam by the French during the colonial period, the sandwich traditionally involves cooked pork, cucumber, cilantro and pickled carrots. However, today, a bevy of meats can be found in bánh mí.
I searched Yelp for the best bánh mí in the Valley. I wanted to find a place that drew the perfect line between authentic and approachable. I spotted Bánh Mí Bistro in North Phoenix and picked it, because, well, they named their restaurant after it, so they should know what they are doing.
The menu at Bánh Mí Bistro is informative and concise while still offering plenty of options. I opted for the grilled chicken option while my boyfriend chose the BBQ pork.
As I unwrapped the white parchment paper around my bánh mí, the smell of the chicken, pickled carrots and jalapeño all mingled together and drifted up to my nose. The first bite was a combination of textures, temperatures and flavors. The cucumber and jalapeño were cold and crunchy. The chicken was warm and perfectly spiced. The baguette, simply put, should be the standard for all bread from now on. It was dense and airy at the same time. The outside was crusty without cutting up my mouth. The inside soaked up all the juices and flavors of the ingredients and held them together. I was pleased and so were my taste buds.
Bánh mí is a delicious combination of crunch, spice and flavor. While I probably wouldn’t crave it, I would absolutely get it again, though I would stick with chicken and more traditional flavors and probably not try the BBQ pork again. The fresh jalapeño added a kick that I would encourage complementing with the offered sriracha sauce or house chili sauce.
Bánh Mí Bistro Vietnamese Eatery
2340 W. Bell Road, Suite 110, Phoenix, 602.843.3637, banhmibistroaz.com