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Banh Mi in Little Saigon, OC

david t. Sep 27, 2007 08:17 PM

Anyone have recommendations for really good banh mi dac biet in Little Saigon or elswhere in OC?

I'm only concerned with the banh mi dac biet (pork sausage). Not interested in the other sandwiches (bbq, chicken etc).

The type I'm looking for: very strong peppers, good quality pork meat (not the red food coloring variety with thick slabs of fat) with strong peppercorns embedded in the meat, pate, and the french bread MUST be hoagie-style, not the Lee's style with the long cut french baguette, and the mayonnaise should not taste funky, obviously.

The banh me at Banh Mi Che Cali (on Brookhurst) really is excellent and the best I've had anywhere, by far. They are absolutely the best with freshness, quality, with perfect proportions, but I'm curious if there is anything better being that there are so many shops out there.

The only critique I have of Che Cali that keeps it from being perfect is that the bread, although good, is not as shatteringly thin as it could be with the light web-like interior that you can find at bakeries that sell the bread alone.

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  1. kingkong5 RE: david t. Sep 27, 2007 08:24 PM

    I'd probably recommend you try Banh Mi Cho Cu, at the southeast corner of Magnolia and Hazard. You'll like their bread.

    23 Replies
    1. re: kingkong5
      Professor Salt RE: kingkong5 Sep 27, 2007 09:46 PM

      Ditto Cho Cu. The bread here is thin crusted, almost buttery tasting without actually being buttered.

      1. re: Professor Salt
        liu RE: Professor Salt Sep 27, 2007 10:35 PM

        And ditto again (is that redundant?!). Banh Mi Cho Cu was memorable. The banh mi was just perfect in its ratio of bread to veggies.

        Also, be sure to check out the items on the counter. We asked the owner to suggest some items for us to take home to try, and everything was interesting, fresh and delicious.

        1. re: liu
          Das Ubergeek RE: liu Sep 28, 2007 06:38 AM

          Definitely, definitely Banh Mi Cho Cu... it's worth the drive.

          Banh Mi Cho Cu Bakery
          14520 Magnolia St, Westminster, CA 92683

          1. re: Das Ubergeek
            elmomonster RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 28, 2007 08:29 AM

            I tried it a few weeks ago. The bread is everything that it has been described here as, and more...but, is it just me, or do they skimp on the fillings? It was enough to taste, but not enough to satisfy. I need to go again and see if that was a fluke. Although I bought three different kinds and they were all a bit light on the protein.


            1. re: elmomonster
              exilekiss RE: elmomonster Sep 28, 2007 08:38 AM

              Hey elmomonster,

              No, it happened to me, too. I hope it's a fluke as well.

              I loved the bread (as everyone said), but the fillings were definitely less than what I'm used to. I'm willing to try it again and see if it was a fluke.

              1. re: exilekiss
                Das Ubergeek RE: exilekiss Sep 28, 2007 08:42 AM

                I grew up on French sandwiches (as in a baguette with butter and a couple of thin slices of jambon de Bayonne), so the fillings seem normal for a "french sandwich". Even still -- they're $1.75, come on!!

                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                  bulavinaka RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 28, 2007 08:55 AM

                  Agreed. I think if one is used to the ratio of protein to carb in an "American-style" sub, one might feel a bit slighted on the proportion in a banh mi. But to me, it's not about the meat - it's about the freshness of ingredients that need to be fresh (baguette, herbs) that set off the protein (pork, pork, pork, sardines, pork, pork) and are accented by the slightly sour and sweet (pickled veggies) - it's a balancing act that this Vietnamese sandwich is a high-wire expert. In concert, no one ingredient should totally dominate but I'd give the front row and center presence to the baguette.

                  I never thought I'd eat head cheese - but in banh mi, it is perfect. In fact, just about anything in a fresh baguette is perfect.

                  1. re: bulavinaka
                    liu RE: bulavinaka Sep 28, 2007 11:10 AM

                    Hi, bulavinaka! You make such a good point: it's all about the balance.

                    One other item that contributes so integrally to that balance is the jalapeno pepper. For those who feel that their sandwich is not "packed heavily" enough, perhaps you might try more jalapeno ringlets for the "bang" that you feel you are missing!

                    1. re: liu
                      bulavinaka RE: liu Sep 28, 2007 08:42 PM

                      Hey Liu, you're right - the slices of jalapeno rounds out just about every taste sensation on the planet - all on the humble bagette...

                      1. re: bulavinaka
                        liu RE: bulavinaka Sep 28, 2007 09:08 PM

                        "Ode to the Jalapeno"...if there isn't one, there SHOULD be!
                        The jalapeno is mightily deserving!

                        1. re: liu
                          SauceSupreme RE: liu Oct 9, 2007 04:45 PM

                          I'm actually of the opinion that the pepper takes away from it. I won't omit it from the order, but I'll let it sit in the sandwich just long enough to activate my smell sensors, and then take it out. That fresh jalapeno is too much, destroying the almost floral aspect of the sandwich.

                          1. re: SauceSupreme
                            liu RE: SauceSupreme Oct 9, 2007 05:03 PM

                            Hi, SauceSupreme!

                            I usually take mine out and cut it up a bit so that I can spread it out. If it's too concentrated, my taste buds are burned. But I do enjoy a little heat and the flavor of the jalapenos...for me, that is just part of the definition of a banh mi. As I am really thinking about this now, much of the banh mi pleasure for me is about the texture as well; the jalapeno just adds to the crunch factor.

                            However, I have had Thai salads that were just too hot to eat, so I do understand how a pepper can cancel or overpower the other flavors.

                            1. re: liu
                              SauceSupreme RE: liu Oct 9, 2007 05:07 PM

                              I'll agree with you on the texture, which is why I definitely enjoy the pickles. Maybe I should try and dice up the jalapenos also, because they do provide a nice freshness for that first millisecond before heat causes the endorphins to take over.

                              1. re: SauceSupreme
                                liu RE: SauceSupreme Oct 9, 2007 05:18 PM

                                ...laughing...and I agree!

                                Dice it up, and leave most on the paper, but spice it up with a few pieces so that you know you're alive! This way every bite is a potential "surprise!"

                                1. re: liu
                                  SauceSupreme RE: liu Oct 10, 2007 03:23 PM


                                  Thanks again for the tip. I had a bahni mi thit nguoi and ripped up the jalapeno (taking out the seedy center) and it was great. I could still taste the pate and all the pork cuts, the pickles, the bread, the cilantro, and just enough kick to take it to the next level. A great suggestion.

                                  1. re: SauceSupreme
                                    liu RE: SauceSupreme Oct 10, 2007 03:43 PM

                                    Ooooooh, I'm drooling with your tantalizing report! Aaahhh...the cilantro!

                                    SauceSupreme -- You know, YOU are what I love about Chowhound. You get an idea and then run out and do it! We just talked about this yesterday, and a few hours later you were "on the task!"

                                    I am fortunate to live out here in Ventura County, a 'Hound wasteland of sorts. If I lived within an afternoon's reach of Little Saigon, I'd be huge...Banh Mi Cho Cu instead of the gym!!!

                                    I am so flattered that you liked it!

                    2. re: bulavinaka
                      elmomonster RE: bulavinaka Sep 28, 2007 01:21 PM

                      Actually, I was doing the comparison to another banh mi, the one at Banh Mi Che Cali (have you tried theirs?). I'd never compare it to an American sub. Different genre, different prices, different ball game.

                      But I agree, balance is key. Too much meat would eclipse the qualities of the bread, but too little and you're better off eating the bread plain, with some good butter. Which isn't a bad thing either.


                      1. re: elmomonster
                        bulavinaka RE: elmomonster Sep 28, 2007 08:41 PM

                        Hey Elmo, sorry for jumping the gun. I was generalizing and didn't know you were comparing places... I haven't tried Banh Mi Che Cali yet but the numerous banh mi and banh cuon places down in North OC really are great. With the Vietnamese choices up here being pretty slim, I'd sell my soul to have even Lee's in the Westside.

                    3. re: Das Ubergeek
                      elmomonster RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 28, 2007 09:06 AM

                      Ubergeek, of course, you are right. They are cheap. Dirt cheap. But because Banh Mi Che Cali charges the same price, and we're doing a compare/contrast, we might as well compare/contrast. That's what we're here for, right?

                      By the way, their cha gio (egg rolls) are divine! And yep, they're a steal at 3 for $1.


                      1. re: elmomonster
                        Das Ubergeek RE: elmomonster Sep 28, 2007 09:45 AM

                        Somehow I always end up getting charged $2 at Banh Mi Che Cali... but you are, of course, right. I just like Cho Cu so much better that if they're a little lighter on the filling I don't notice.

                        There's a place in Monterey Park, Saigon Sandwich on Garfield between the 10 and Garvey (right across from Dim Sum Express or whatever that little takeaway shack is) that charges $2 and the sandwiches are stuffed full -- it's actually a little overwhelming.

                  2. re: elmomonster
                    kingkong5 RE: elmomonster Sep 28, 2007 10:26 AM

                    I'll let you in on a little secret - there's a small sign in Vietnamese by the prices that says extra meat, 50 cents. Since the sandwiches are so cheap already, I almost always go for the extra meat everytime I get a sandwich (especially their meatball which is pretty slim pickins unless you go meat, meat)! Now, for $2.25, it's a sandwich that tastes good and has all the protein you wanted.

                    1. re: kingkong5
                      elmomonster RE: kingkong5 Sep 28, 2007 10:54 AM

                      NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKIN' BOUT! Thanks King Kong!

                      Actually, it was the meatball that gave me that initial impression. Such a tease it was. I had a morsel, then a second one on the next bite...then emptiness. I was hooked, but didn't want to eat an entire second sandwich. This is the solution. And it's only 50 cents!


                      1. re: elmomonster
                        david t. RE: elmomonster Sep 29, 2007 02:31 AM

                        Thanks for the suggestions guys. I'll try Cho Cu. But is that it? Other than Cho Cu, any others?

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