Something You Should Eat: Banh mi from Nhu Lan Bakery

April 12, 2011

Colonization has led to some amazing culinary stepchildren. Granted, foreign occupations rarely come to an end peacefully, but just look at some of the results: you can find world-class Indian food in London, authentic Portuguese bread in Goa, along India's West coast and in Vietnam, there is always that reminder of French colonization: the banh mi sandwich. In one of the best mash-ups of two disparate countries that have almost nothing in common geographically (or agriculturally, for that matter), this French-Vietnamese hybrid combines the wonderful texture and aroma of a great French baguette, albeit a few inches thicker than the narrow ones you'll see in Paris, and stuffs it with Southeast Asian ingredients like cilantro, green chilies (in the form of jalapeños) and tart, pickled daikon radish. The proteins are equally intriguing: headcheese, lemongrass pork and tofu are a few of my favorites. Ba Le has practically cornered the market in Uptown for great banh mi - the bakery cranks out thousands every week - but Nhu Lan Bakery, on the Western fringe of Lincoln Square, is no slouch. Their bread is baked on the premises everyday, and their fillings are vibrant and equally fresh.