Quoc Bao. That's long been the chatter when the topic of "where the best banh mi can be found around Dallas." Upon the urging of friends and the insistence of readers' comments, I finally decided to test out everyone's favorite banh mi shop. What better time than a City of Ate meeting with a room full of eager food bloggers acting as the guinea pigs?
Feedback ranged from happy moans to awe-struck expletives (Merritt), so the response was positive, to say the least.
The Garland sandwich shop slash bakery serves up an assortment of banh mi sandwiches, as well as muffins, soups and fresh baked breads. The most popular sandwiches are the grilled chicken and grilled pork variety, but I set aside one special sandwich for personal investigation.
The banh mi dac biet, or everything sandwich, features a beautiful array of roast pork, deli meats, pate, mayonnaise, soy sauce, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, and jalapenos. A trickle of dark soy sauce ties all the ingredients together within Quoc Bao's nicely chewy French baguette. Although my preference in bread still leans towards the airy yet crusty baguette at Arlington's Ba Le Restaurant, just about every other component in Quoc Bao's sandwich is far superior.
Also deserving of a shout out from the City of Ate lunch is Bistro B's xoi gac. The red sticky rice is a familiar sight at Vietnamese delis, but the majority of the xoi gac found outside of Vietnam are colored by red food dyes. Bistro B uses the actual intensely red gac fruit as its main coloring agent, which is a rarity around here because of the fruit's short harvest season in Southeast Asia. The fruit is used for medicinal purposes in Eastern medicine and is high in beta carotene and various phytonutrients. Although finding fresh gac in a grocery store is almost impossible, it can be found in the frozen fruit sections in many Asian markets.
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Aesthetically speaking, the use of the fruit in xoi results in a more natural orange-y hue opposed to a scary bright red. The xoi is then finished off with sugar and coconut milk. It's how Vietnamese moms everywhere intended it to be.
Quoc Bao Bakery 3419 W. Walnut St No., 104 Garland 972-272-9892
Bistro B 9780 Walnut St. Dallas 214-575-9885