When properly executed, the banh mi may be the greatest sandwich of all time. The balance of fatty flavors from mayonnaise, pâté and other meats, with acidic pickles, is the perfect backdrop for Asian flavors like soy sauce and cilantro. It's surprising that these sandwiches aren't more popular here in Dallas, but it seems they're starting to get some increased attention.
Last week I tried Mot Hai Ba's take home version -- carefully (if needlessly) portioned into separate containers for cilantro, pickles and bread. I loved the charred pork on one sandwich and the fatty pâté on another. Maybe with any luck, they'll start to offer combo sandwiches so you can get a little of both.
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This week I stumbled on another upscale banh mi served at LARK on the Park downtown. Banh mi purists will find this sandwich overwrought, but there are some interesting flavors incorporated. All it needs is some better bread.
Empire Bakery supplies par-baked baguettes to the restaurant, but they need a little more time in the oven before they're sent out to a table. My sandwich was soft and chewy and lacked the crunchy, crusty texture I've enjoyed with other versions.
While the sandwich is stuffed unconventionally, the flavors come together. Pork belly cooked till it's fall-apart-tender meets a lemony aioli, shredded carrots and daikon and a kiss of lime for brightness. The sandwich is a messy one. If you take this one to go, be sure to grab a few extra napkins.
LARK's version is good, but not good enough to usurp Mot Hai Ba's. Still, it's nice to see more restaurants pay homage to the glory that is banh mi. With any luck, we'll see more of them soon.