I’ve been looking all over New York City for a proper bánh mì đặc biệt. Or as I call it, a down-and-dirty bánh mì đặc biệt.
Why down and dirty? Because the bánh mì đặc biệt that I’m used to is layered with the type of meat that timid to semi-cautious diners out would avoid: porous white pork meat, fatty pork skin, etc., etc. I’ve had some plenty good bánh mì in New York City, but most of it is dressed up for the health-conscious Manhattan/Brooklyn set. Less marbling, more marinated pork shoulder.
But then I found it. A true D&D bánh mì. In pursuit of a can of ginger ale, I wandered into what looked like a bodega in Chinatown not even noticing the Paris by Night-esque posters plastering the door, and realized this was no ordinary bodega. It was a tiny Vietnamese deli. Behind the sneeze guard was a range of salads, giant tapioca balls and banana leaf-wrapped treats. The rest of the joint was given over to bootleg DVDs, Vietnamese records and other sundry items from the motherland. And tucked away behind the counter, the telltale tin bins stocked with julienned pickled carrot and daikon, sliced cucumbers, and meat. Glorious, dodgy meat.
I forked over four bucks and walked out with what looked like any bánh mì I’d ordered on the streets of Saigon. The first bite confirmed what the looks of this sandwich seemed to promise: a taste of home. The thin-sliced, slightly chewy texture of the meat, the cilantro and lemongrass lovingly tossed atop the fixins, the thin slather of mayo reminding me of Banh Mi Hanoi down in D3.
God bless you, Sau Voi Corp. You and your dodgy D&D bánh mì.
Sau Voi Corp., 101 Lafayette St., corner of Walker, one block south of Canal Street, Chinatown.