Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wheaton Bahn Mi Report

While I'm a fan of Vietnamese food, I've never had bahn mi before.  My boyfriend, on the other hand, very much enjoys it and has been talking for a while about finding a place in Wheaton that sells it.  First of all, for any of you that have never heard of bahn mi, it's a sandwich made with a french baguette.  Side note:  there are lots of French tie-ins with Vietnamese food due to its status as a French colony until the mid 1900s (yes, I had to look that up in Wikipedia).  So the bread is French, but the filling is all Vietnamese - typically some kind of marinated grilled meat, fish sauce, cilantro, peppers and assorted other veggies.  Yum!  Check out this photo for an idea of what it looks like.

So, my boyfriend went on a quest to find us some bahn mi.  He stopped in at Hung Phat and Song Phat, but didn't see evidence of any bahn mi making at either of those locations.  He hit the jackpot, though, when he stopped by the Saigonese Restaurant on Grandview Ave right in downtown Wheaton.  Their menu in the window had a few types of bahn mi available - pork, chicken, beef, ham, plus a few other options that he couldn't remember by the time he walked back home with the payload.  We both got a grilled pork bahn mi, which costs a whopping $3.  The sandwiches were each about a foot long, which makes this a great deal for lunch or dinner.

On my first bite of the sandwich, I just bit into bread but didn't hit any fillings, and it was still a great first bite!  Wow, the bread alone was impressive.  It had a nice crispy crust that was very light and easy to bite through, and no toughness at all, which was impressive for how crispy the outside of the bread was.  The grilled pork pieces inside the sandwich had nice crispy bits on them from the grill, with the fish sauce giving it that sweet/tangy taste that I really like in Vietnamese cooking.  Other fillings included cucumbers, cilantro, and thinly sliced hot peppers.

Alas, I don't have any photos to share because I had just gotten home from a morning of hard labor at my community garden plot.  At that point, grabbing my digital camera was the last thing on my mind when I had a nice big bahn mi sitting in front of me!  The restaurant's online menu strangely doesn't list bahn mi, and the paper menu we got from them only lists bahn mi in a section that written in vietnamese, so it's not much help.  The easiest way to check out what they offer is to walk by their store front and check out the list of bahn mi that they have in their window.  Their menu has lots of other interesting food options in it, so this place is definitely on our radar for a future meal.  Also, the restaurant has seating inside, but they also have a take out counter for food to-go.

Has anyone else gotten food from Saigonese before?

Saigonese Restaurant, 11232 Grandview Ave, 301-946-8002, website


  1. Big fan of the grilled pork vermicelli from there. I know a number of people who like the bahn mi.

  2. Haven't been to Saigonese for several years, thought it was okay not great, need to go back. Hung Phat does have banh mi, saw them just a week ago and nearly bought one despite having just eaten enormous lunch, but so didn't buy one...they are reportedly excellent. On my list of stuff to try.

  3. Thanks Jacob and Eatin for chiming in. I will give the pork vermicelli a try the next time I'm there, and I'll also take a closer look at Hung Phat. I usually stop there in the evening after work, so maybe they just have the bahn mi over lunch. Honestly, every time I go in there, I get overwelmed by all the stuff they have jammed in there (so much to look at!), that I could have also missed the bahn mi completely. Thanks for the advice!

  4. There used to be an incredible Bahn Mi place right on Georgia a few doors down from the Dunkins - that's where I first developed my addiction. But they closed a few years back (now it's Mangos). I almost cried. I tried the combo at Siagonese a while back but was a little disappointed. I'll have to give it another go based on this review. And I'll check out Hung Phat too (hilarious name bonus).

    Hate to recommend a non-Wheaton business, but on Rockville Pike there is a place called Ba Le that makes great Bahn Mi.

  5. Just a follow up...I stopped by Hung Phat after work yesterday to pick up some veggies for dinner and I asked the cashier about their bahn mi. She said they have it every day, and they put them out on the wire shelving that's kind of behind where the cashier is. By the time I was there (6ish), they were sold out for the day. Also, Hung Phat had a bunch of vegetable seedlings for sale in front of the store. I recognized squash, eggplants, and peppers but there were also a few mystery plants. Someone could assemble quite an asian-themed vegetable garden with the plants they had for sale!