Sandwiches. Much like Haikus anyone can produce one but most turn out bland, boring, and adhering rigidly to syllabic meter. Not a perfect metaphor, but you get where I’m going.
Sandwiches are a food that seems to fall easily into a repetitive rut, with many restaurants offering small variations on generally well established models.
But I like change. I crave fresh, interesting things. I need delicious and unique stuff to come layered between various breads or bread products.
This is why I am in a new, almost sexual, love affair with a little Vietnamese diner called Ba Le.
I don’t know the history of the French colonialism in Viet Nam. I’m sure it was messy and unpleasant for the most part, all around. However, I will be eternally thankful for the strange fusion that resulted when amazingly tasty Asian fillings assimilated a sweet, freshly baked Franco-exterior and dressed up with a little European sauce.
So…good…ungh… (insert drool here).
This is the deal. They bake little sandwich-size baguettes on site. They cut it open and scoop out a little of the soft airy interior. Then they spread on some rich, homemade, French-style mayonnaise – the kind with a deep pearl color and actual flavor.
Then comes any of a variety of stuffings: bright pink pickled-pork, seasoned shredded tofu, Asian style bar-b-que pork, moist pulled chicken and more stuff with names that I don’t understand.
Then the toppings – marinated strips of daikon and carrot, a spear of cucumber, a few small slices of jalapeno, and finish it up with a sprinkle of green onion and a healthy dose of aromatic cilantro sprigs.
It begs to be eaten. “Please, please,” it screams.
I like to add a little extra spice, some of the vibrant red chili sauce and then kind of a tangy-sweet twist with a squeeze of hoi sin.
Then after you’re done, if you're feeling a little adventurous, you’ve got to try a Che (which probably, in the real spelling, has several accent marks that I can’t duplicate). It’s a dessert that’s either a sweet rice or tapioca base, usually with coconut milk and then other stuff ranging from banana and jell-o to seaweed and mung bean. The black-eyed pea one is my favorite so far.