It was a gloomy day, so when a friend offered to deliver me lunch I jumped on the opportunity. "Bring me two banh mi sandwiches from Mot Hai Ba, and make sure one of them has pork pâté," I asked. I was curious how the restaurant would package the sandwiches, but I never thought it would be like this.
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Each sandwich came carefully wrapped in brown paper. One sandwich was filled with grilled pork and the other with earthy pâte. Both were slathered with just enough mayonnaise. In the larger carryout bag, a smaller white paper bag was filled with fresh, green cilantro leaves. There was also a small, plastic carryout container packed with pickled cucumber and ribbons of daikon and carrot.
I have mixed feelings about the packaging. On the one hand, splitting things up keeps the bread from getting soggy. The sandwiches are built on light and flaky baguettes that shed shards of crust with every bite you take. They could quickly become soggy if they sit assembled too long.
The other thing I like about the packaging is it solves the number one problem plaguing banh mi sandwiches everywhere -- they never have enough pickles. With grilled meat and mayo, these sandwiches scream for acid. And the pickles tucked inside are what take a banh mi from being just another sandwich to one of the greatest in the world. There are clearly enough pickles in this package not just for a single banh mi, but to also make a second pickle sandwich. It's nice to be able to really heap them on.
The only harm in the packaging is the flavors don't get to meld as much, but it's hard to care when everything tastes this good. If you're a purist that prefers banh mi from shady storefronts in Richardson, you're going to roll your eyes at the price tag. Most of the suburban places charge about three bucks for a sandwich. At Mot Hai Bai you'll have to fork over $7 or more depending on your chosen filling. But you'll taste the difference.