Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Mar 13, 2008 06:59 PM

Saigon Sandwiches - Dore's Neighbor SD

I got the Dac Biet or 'special' Banh mi today from this Viet Deli on University, just East of the 15.

Dac biet usually has mixed viet charcuterie and pate.

The older woman whom I assume is the owner was really nice and pleasant to me.
I wanted to compare it to Cafe Dore's version that I had taken to work a few days ago. Both have certain strengths and weaknessess but both are exceptional sandwiches despite my nitpicking.

>Saigon's sandwiches are much more aptly filled than Cafe Dore's - not that this is better
> Cafe Dore;s baguette posseses a greater crispness and much more soul
> Saigon actually puts hot jalapenos on your sandwich you have to beg Dore for a few slivers
> The Pate CD uses is much more smoother and delicate, SS's is slightly coarser and assertive
> I like the thin sliced cha siu on CDs sandwich a lot - I think their charcuterie is of slightly better quality than SS's but there is not very much
> I like the more stronger fish sauce or maggi flavor on the SS sandwich

In summation, I like them both pretty much equally - they are just two different examples of the same sandwich. Cafe Dore typifies a delicate refined, restrainded sandwich whereas SS could be called a hearty, baroque banh mi.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've never heard a sandwich described as baroque before. Interesting.

    1. It's pretty interesting that 2 shops known for their Banh Mi co-exist side by side, and both do good business. Though many of the ingredients are the same, each shop's Banh Mi has it's own personality. If you enjoy Pate' Cha - pate' and Cha Lua, Bale on University is known for their Pate', several folks I know buy Pate from that location. The bread there is terrible though, always doughy, not toasted, without a nice crackle. I enjoy the Xiu Mai at Saigon Sandwiches and Deli, while it's the Dac Biet at Cafe Dore.

      I always crack up at your choice of words.....everytime you use charcuterie in the context of a Banh Mi post, I imagine myself standing in line at a plate lunch place, walking up to the counter and ordering the "charcuterie(spam) and eggs" and getting my butt kicked out of the place.

      1. It is interesting. I like that you can relax and enjoy a cafe sua da at dore with that coffeeshop feel - yet SS seems to be just a take away.

        Can you tell me more about this pate at Ba Le? Is it made in house? I am really digging this Chinese 5 spice flavor in a pate - quite addicting and new for me. That sucks that the bread here is no good. The crackle is the banh mi for me. Where are these places getting their bread?
        Btw, Have you bought any pates straight at Vien Dong etc?

        Cha lua actually reminds me a of a 'wurst' I used to eat in Berlin - I forgot the name but damn if the texture of that does not bring me back.

        Hey Kirk, Charcuterie is a French word and I believe that part of the Viet Sausage making tradition stems from their influence. But I need you to confirm this? I am not describing oscar mayer or canned meat product here.
        I need you to point me to some other Banh mi places! Please help! Where to go next and for what!

        --Monsieur La Pierre

        PS Baroque - as in
        flamboyent, embellished

        13 Replies
        1. re: kare_raisu

          KR, have you read the chapter in John Thorne's book 'Pot on the fire', called Bahn Mi and Me? It was the first time I ever heard of bahn mi, and made me go looking. He waxes eloquent about how important the bread is, that the filling is almost secondary. At least, the bread is way more than a wrapper for the filling, a way to keep your fingers clean. Anyway, a good read.

          1. re: Leucadian

            I have - it was a long time ago that I picked it up at the library and actually read probably 75% of it there in one sitting! Its a great book thanks for reminding me. :^)

          2. re: kare_raisu

            There is one table at Saigon Sandwiches, but it is more of a convenience/snack shop - they seem to do a good business in phone cards and cigarettes, which is than smoked in Cafe Dore. I have been told that Bale makes their own Pate', but I'll confirm that. I know they make their own Cha Lua, which is on the drier side, and has a distinct rind. Another thing is that they tend to slather mayo all over the sandwich, which is not something I enjoy. For me the perfect Banh Mi has a nice crackle, but is not all crust and over toasted - Bale on Mira Mesa butters theirs and it seems all crust, and shards of bread tear the lining off the roof of your mouth.
            As for the bread, I think Paris Bakery supplies a few of the Banh Mi shops, when having a Banh Mi Trung(love the fried egg spirnkled with Maggi & sweet soy) early in the morning, I noticed packages of bread lying around with tags that read La Chef Bakery. The bread bought at places like K sandwiches are pretty much second rate.

            Try Kim Chan Sandwich shop - they usually serve the hottest peppers on their Banh Mi, they also make the best Nem Chua I've had so far.
            Kim Chan Sandwich Shop
            4712 El Cajon Blvd Suite N
            San Diego, CA 92115

            Many people like A Chau - but their bread is not always up to par. They put a lot of filling, which some may enjoy, but for me, it's all about proportion and ratios. A Chau does make good Cha Gio - they use rice paper, and it's 3 for $1.

            A Chau
            4644 El Cajon Blvd Ste 111
            San Diego, CA 92115

            I like the Banh Mi Dac Biet from Pho Van Hoa, on the corner of 54th and University. Their BBQ Pork is almost like Ba Chi - pork belly. Very mild pate, used in moderation.

            Van Hoa Vietnamese Restaurant
            4016 54th Street
            San Diego, CA

            I'm not a big fan of Vinh Long Food to Go. But maybe you'll have better luck. They serve really thin slices of meats, and the Ca Rot (pickles) had no flavor.

            Vinh Long Food to Go
            4575 El Cajon Blvd Ste B
            San Diego, CA 92115

            I can order the same Banh Mi, but get it'll be different on every visit from Song Huong. I dunno what to say..... They make nice drinks though.

            Song Huong Food to Go
            4650 El Cajon Blvd
            San Diego, CA 92115

            I know what charcuterie means, having worked in a few restaurants in my time. That's why it can be properly used to describe Spam. Per Larousse Gastronomique - "preparing various meats, in particular pork, in order to present them in the most diverse ways". sounds like Spam to me! Le Halles even added Spam to their Charcuterie plate as a "special" once. The Banh Mi is a product of Colonialism. Another dish, Banh Mi Kho the Beef Stew with Bread is another good example.

            And here's my PS - baroque can also be used to signify a level of grotesqueness and extravagance.....

            1. re: KirkK

              Hey thousand thanks for the leads...

              I always thought they baked their own bread at K's rather than buying them - I could be wrong though.

              Can you explain to me some of the Vietnamese desserts that Saigon has? They seem like coconut milk based, with mung beans and some look to have a seaweed of sort? Have you tried any of these?

              I guess I was going for extravagent with the baroque - at least thats what my desk (AH) dictionary tells me on the word. Extravagant especially when placed in the context of Dore comparison. I guess I am sorry I used it and charcuterie. Well, at least I am good for a nice laugh....

              How does the Banh mi scene of San Diego rate up against Westminster?

              1. re: kare_raisu

                I interpreted the baroque description as meaning that it was overflowing with meat and other ingredients leading to an explosion of flavors. Is that on the right track for your intentions?

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  Not sure why you're apologizing for using the term charcuterie. My Viet cookbook uses that term as well.

                  1. re: Josh

                    I'm not sure why was just an observation of something I found humor in, it was not meant to offend. And yes Andrea Nyugen's book calls it charcuterie. But she also uses defatted chicken instead of pork in her recipes.....

                    1. re: KirkK

                      To be fair to Ms. Nguyen, she does include instructions for using pork if you can find the right cuts. I like that cookbook, though. Very educational reading. I'd love to try some of the traditionally prepared stuff where the meat is broken down by hand instead of with a grinder.

                      1. re: Josh

                        It is a very nice book indeed......

                        BTW, have you had time to try the Cha Lua from DaNang Food to go yet?

                        1. re: KirkK

                          No, not yet. On my list of stuff to do, though.

                  2. re: kare_raisu

                    Hi KR - By all means use the word charcuterie.....I just found humor in it's use.

                    The bread at K sandwich gets "crumbly" really quickly, it is best used immediately. Try the Banh Mi(bread) from Paris Bakery.

                    There are a ton more choices in Westminster/Garden Grove, etc.....some good, some not so good. One great habit that the Banh Mi places have in OC is, that they'll bag the pickles and other stuff individually if you're doing take-out. Saigon will do that for you, but some of the other places, like Kim Chan....well don't even ask.

                    1. re: KirkK

                      I had no idea that when my grandmother was cooking creamed corn and spam fried with butter and brown sugar for me for dinner (way back when) - I was actually eating charcuterie! :-) This is fascinating - bahn mi is a new obsession of mine - I'm looking foward to trying Saigon Sandwiches and Cafe Dore, and hope to try them all eventually!