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Jul 25, 2008 01:12 PM

Why does L.A. Bahn Mi taste worse than SF

I love Bahn Mi I used to get in San Francisco. There are many places for cheap delicious hot Bahn Mi on Larkins street. One of my favorites places for it was a little bakery in the Castro run by a Vietnamese family. Crunchy but tender french bread filled to bursting with pork, foie gras or meat of your choice, pickled carrots and radishes, jalapeno, and cilantro.

Since there are many Vietnamese here, I was eager to find the best Banh Mi in L.A. I tried all the usual suspects such as Lee's Sandwiches, Buu Dien, Banh Mi Che Cali, and few others in SGV. But they all fall short of my expectations!! Either the bread is too hard, the fillings too skimpy, the meat not right, or not hot enough, something is always off. Am I just imagining this or is there a difference in Bahn Mi between SF and LA? Can anyone recommend a place that is like the ones I used to devour in SF?

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  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. Folks, discussion's already gone off track, so we're going to ask everyone to keep focused on great banh mi found uniquely in the L.A. area.

      This board's purpose is to source local delicious food, not to discuss food found in faraway places which have their own discussion boards.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. Just to clarify, I don't mean to disparage food in L.A. I've had many a fine meals unique to L.A. but since Bahn Mi is vietnamese, I expected it to taste fairly similar or have the same range within the vietnamese community. There are great pho places but I've been having trouble finding a bahn mi place.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Jolly

            Rather than LA proper, why not take a quick blast down the 405 to Little Saigon in the OC?

            1. re: Akitist

              I am trying to find a place I can go to regularly to satisfy my cravings. I don't mind driving to SGV frm Weho but OC seems a lttle far.

              1. re: Jolly

                I'm no fan of Asian food in general in SF, nor of the holier than thou attitude in SF. However, I have to say I've had some pretty kickass banh mi in SF and the East Bay so I feel your pain man. I think my favorite is at Ba Le in El Cerrito. It was the perfect proportion of crisp yet soft bread, decent meat and crunchy veg for me. So far, the Alhambra branch of Banh Mi Che Cali is the one that most approximated that Ba Le place as far as I've tried. Good luck and let us know what you find.

                At the Alhambra BMCC, bread was really fresh and shattered on bite because it was just made (busy Sat). Also KiKi's bakery is across the street which is an added plus. I think Ba Le still has the perfect ratio of bread/meat/veg but bread quality was better at BMCC. Oh that and I love the che at this location. The Westminster locations have che too but to my taste, theirs suck. I dunno, they don't put any sugar in their che. I am Asian and yeah I don't really need that much sugar but damn, it's dessert and there's gotta be a little sweetness in there.

                1. re: choctastic

                  Yes yes yes. Kick ass is the word. I prefer most asian foods here in L.A since there are more variety due to such big pop of all types asians and very authentic. I don't mind driving for excellent food. But I've just given up on eating bahn mi here and haven't eaten any for a year. But I am going to gird my loins and try again.

          2. I'm no expert, but I think it's "all about the bread" (plagiarizing D'Elias here) and the ratio of bread to meat and fillings. Like you, when in OC I feel there's a big difference from home - not necessarily a bad thing - sometimes almost like two different kinds of sandwiches.

            Off-topic example: compare a D'elias grinder to any ginder anywhere else - it's all about the bread.

            2 Replies
            1. re: samse

              Bread is one of the key ingredients. For Bahn Mi, it has to be crunchy but not hard, tender but not mushy. And of course, fresh and warm as it is being filled with hot spicy fillings and secret sauce.

              1. re: Jolly

                Yes - with, of course, warm bread ala Ba Le in El Cerrito