Bánh mì brings Vietnamese flavors to local menus
FARGO - After becoming a favorite of foodies in major cities across the country, bánh mì is now on at least two local menus and could be added to two more restaurants in the coming months.
The popular Vietnamese sandwich might not seem like standard Asian fare at first glance, especially because it's usually served on a crusty French-style baguette.
But bánh mì - a Vietnamese phrase for all types of bread - has been a mainstay in Vietnam since the country's French colonial days, a product of combining local flavors like cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon radishes, cucumbers, Vietnamese mayonnaise and a meat filling with the European bread.
Tommy Nguyen, owner of Viet Palace that opened at 1620 32nd Ave. S. in Fargo last fall, said the sandwiches are "everywhere" in Vietnam.
"It's easy to eat and fast and cheap," he said.
Viet Palace offers seven varieties of bánh mì, all starting with the same core toppings of pickled vegetables, cilantro sprigs, house-made Vietnamese mayo, cucumbers and fresh jalapeno peppers served on a toasted baguette.
Six have meat - choices include Vietnamese ham, grilled pork, grilled beef, chicken, shredded pork or combination, which has three varieties of pork. Viet Palace also offers a vegetarian version, with tofu and mock duck in lieu of meat.
Prices range from $3.95 to $4.25, making bánh mì a filling and affordable option for lunch or dinner.
German and European-style pub and restaurant Wurst Bier Hall, located at 630 First Ave. N. in downtown Fargo, also offers its own unique take on the bánh mì.
The pub's sandwich is served on a crusty French roll with a soft inside, loaded up with standard toppings of pickled carrots and daikon radishes, fresh jalapeno, cucumber, sriracha mayo and soy sauce.
But it has its own twist that makes it fit with the German-heavy menu here - it's served with the customer's choice of sausage, rather than the more typical Vietnamese ham or other meats usually found on this sandwich.
"We just made the Wurst version of it with the bratwurst," said General Manager Andrea Williams.
The menu recommends that diners try it with linguica, a Brazilian paprika-spiced sausage that's a mix of beef and pork.
"It has just the right amount of spice to where the flavor of the sandwich and the toppings on it can shine through, but it still stands up with the other flavors," Williams said.
For $6, customers can get the Wurst Bier Hall's bánh mì with any standard sausage. There's a $1 upcharge if diners instead decide to get it with one of the pub's exotic sausages, such as the rabbit, elk or wild boar varieties.
More on the way?
Fargo's Café 21 used to offer bánh mì, but it was taken off the menu when the restaurant at 1450 25th St. S. changed ownership, switched its name to Bangkok Corner and revamped its menu late last year.
Still, the flavors of the Vietnamese sandwich could soon be coming to two more restaurants in Fargo.
Jade Dragon, located at 1015 Main Ave., is now working on its recipe for bánh mì. An employee said last week that it would be added to the Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant's menu later this year.
A bánh mì-style pizza will be competing against two other pies submitted by customers of Rhombus Guys, which has a restaurant at 606 Main Ave. in Fargo and another in Grand Forks.
The pizza joint recently asked its Facebook followers to create a pizza using ingredients that it currently offered. It narrowed down the submissions last week to three finalists, including "Doc's bánh mì," which features olive oil, pulled pork, beef, mushrooms, jalapenos, mozzarella cheese, cilantro and sriracha.
The bánh mì pie, plus two other customer-created pizzas, will be sold at both Rhombus Guys locations in February. Whichever sells the most will be offered for the rest of the year.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587