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Nov 9, 2011 12:05 AM

Banh Mi Thit Nuong at Thanh Huong Sandwich (Senter Road, San Jose)

Thanh Huong Sandwich on Senter Road in San Jose has been recommended for its banh mi for ages on this board as a favorite of South Bay ‘hounds. I finally got around to trying it and there’s good reason for the praise.

The overhead pictorial menu board lists about 20 different sandwich choices, including non-meated fillings, plus noodles and other hot dishes. Instead of analyzing them all, I decided to start at the beginning with #1. That turned out to be
Banh Mi Thit Nuong (grilled pork). The sandwiches are all priced at $3 apiece.

The bread was as good as promised by Ken Hoffman. The roll was quite pale, but warmed up to a shatteringly crispy crust with a soft, tender crumb. Some of that crumb was pulled out to create a hollow for the filling. Intensely flavored grilled pork was on the fatty side and nice and tender with charred aromas. This was garnished with very fresh cilantro, crisp and tart/sweet pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeño slices, and some raw onion spread evenly over the length of the roll. Too much onion and shy on cilantro for me, and quite lavish with the “butter”, but what lovely eggy spread that was. Thanh Huong’s #1 easily beats out the recent grilled pork banh mi I had from San Francisco’s Little Vietnam.

What’s your favorite order here?

Thanh Huong Sandwich
2593 Senter Rd, San Jose, CA 95111

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  1. I've not been to the Senter Rd location, but Thanh Huong on N. Capitol is also very good.

    I usually stick with the #1, thit nuong, but have also tried the grilled chicken and steamed pork with pate. The chicken was bland & a bit dry. I liked the consistency and flavor of the steamed pork, but not enough to dethrone the grilled pork as my go-to when I stop there.

    Thanh Huong
    2050 N Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95132

    3 Replies
    1. re: drewskiSF

      Thanks, I want to try one of the combos that has pate next. Really my only real criticism is too much onion, and that was easy enough to remedy by removing some. Well, and the sour dispositions of the ladies behind the counter.

      The Senter Rd location is not far from the Grocery Outlet on Old Tully and Monterey Hwy, giving me two good stops for a detour off 101. Be careful parking at TH Sandwich, the lot is very tight and I saw two near misses when I tried to leave.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        At $3 it's hard to beat that combo. Their bun with grilled beef and spring roll is remarkably solid as are their avocado shakes.

        1. re: Ken Hoffman

          That's good to know. I allow myself about one avocado shake bi-annually. :-)

    2. how does Thanh Huong compared to Huong Lan down the street on Tully?

      6 Replies
      1. re: ckshen

        I like Huong Lan over Thanh Huong. Although I think the bread at Thanh Huong is better, I prefer less fatty grilled pork.

        Huong Lan
        404 S 2nd St, San Jose, CA

        Thanh Huong
        2050 N Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95132

        1. re: ckshen

          My go-to's at Huong Lan Sandwiches are the char siu or the combination. I'll have to try the grilled pork again for a direct comparison. Huong Lan feels more delicate in its composition to me, and I've always liked the balance just as is. And that's a good thing, as I'm usually eating it while driving and can't fuss with adjusting the filling.

          They're both really good. HL is a bit closer to 101 and it's never a problem to park, so I'll probably still go there more often when I'm passing through.

          Huong Lan Sandwiches
          1655 Tully Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

          1. re: ckshen

            Belated follow-up, I did eventually try the thit nuong at Huong Lan. For the reason that yuko prefers HL, namely that it's less fatty, I give the nod to Thanh Huong for this particular filling. Also, my one sample at HL did not seem freshly grilled, so that made a difference to me too.

            I'm gonna stick with the cha siu at Huong Lan.

            1. re: ckshen

              "how does Thanh Huong compared to Huong Lan down the street on Tully?"

              For the grilled pork, I prefer Thanh Huong's for its char-grilled flavor. This reminds me of the skewers we would make at home.

              At Huong Lan, they assemble loaves of marinated pork slices and bake them in the oven. Only the tops are browned. From this loaf, they cut slices to make the sandwiches. You can buy these loaves of "thit nuong".

              1. re: seamunky

                Dakao also does the sliced pork loaf thing for their Thit Nuong. I much prefer the marinated thin slices that most places server.

                1. re: seamunky

                  Thanks for this tidbit about Huong Lan, totally fits with the difference in texture and flavor.

              2. Hey cool! Thanh Huong is my favorite in the area and I go pretty often since it's near my work. The grilled pork is my standby order, but sometimes I'm in the mood for siu mai and they make a very moist, flavorful version. I too usually pull out the big onion slices, but I always add-on pate.

                Ironically, I like the grilled pork at Huong Lan better, since it has lemongrass and peanuts, but I like the bread at Thanh Huong better, as well as Thanh Huong's "butter" spread, and ratio of fixins to bread.

                I also like some of the dishes I've gotten from Thanh Huong's steam table, since it's pretty close to home cooking and I get to have some of my childhood favorites that you don't usually find at takeout places (or even at restaurants).

                1 Reply
                1. re: Alice Patis

                  Hello Alice! Good to see a post from you, informative as always. Above Ken mentioned the bun and now you're recommending the steam table, surprising recs since small places like this usually only shine in one area of specialty. Is there something in particular on the buffet that I should keep an eye out for?

                2. I really like the pate from Thanh Huong on Senter Rd. It is rich, garlicky, and black peppery. Just $3 gets you a half pound and another dollar gets you 4 or 5 baguettes and you're set for a nice appetizer or snack. If you're taking it a distance, they have little portions already frozen.

                  You can also buy their grilled pork by the half pound also. I sometimes pick up some grilled pork and then stop by Long Phung Eggrolls in the Senter Food plaza and assemble bowls of "bun thit nuong cha gio" at home.

                  1. I haven't had a good banh mi in ages, so make the trek over from Menlo Park just to get out on a sunday. The sandwitches were great, although $3.50 not $3.00 at the Capitol instance.

                    I had the #1 and #11, and only ate about half. I like my BM with a little more pickle (by which I mean those pickled veg), and a little less meat, but they gave me my $3.50. The bread was nice and flakey --- couldn't ask for much more. Except pickle.

                    Can't compare vs Huong Lan, never been.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: bbulkow

                      I recently tried a #11 pork with pate and a #13 chicken with pate here. I prefer the pork over at Huong Lan (especially with the 50c extra meat upgrade), but the chicken here was delicious, very tender and together with the pate very rich. The bread here really is as good as everyone says!

                      1. re: stravaigint

                        Unless they are doing chicken char siu, it looks like you got the BBQ pork (xa xiu / pork char siu) instead of the thit nuong (grilled pork). They are two different beasts and I much much prefer the grilled pork. My current favorite for thit nuong is "Best Sandwiches" down the road on Capitol Exwy and Silver Creek near the Target. They will sell the grilled pork by the pound also! It has a touch of lemon grass and a great grilled flavor. Their banh mi are the long skinny variety but they add cucumber which I really like.

                      2. re: bbulkow

                        Next time you're in the area, check out the sit-down restaurant behind the sandwich shop owned by the same people.

                        Lau Hai San