It was clearly time to jump back on the horse and try the banh mi again. This time we decided to tackle two - one each from Ba Le Bakery and Nam Son Bakery along Washington Ave.
|Close-up of Nam Son banh mi|
The Ba Le baguette surpassed Nam Son although both were good. Soft and light on the inside with a crackly crust, every bite was a joy. And get this: you can buy individual baguettes for dirt cheap. At Nam Son they are 65 cents or 4 for $2.50. Compare that to Metropolitan Bakery, where a single baguette costs $1.25. The full banh mi sandwich is also a bargain at $4.50 at both places.
What really made the difference for both Ba Le and Nam Son was the freshness of the ingredients. Ba Le, where I tasted more of the cilantro flavor and the right combination of cucumber and carrots atop shredded pork, was a step ahead even though Nam Son was not bad by any means. Nam Son was a bit heavy on the carrots as you can tell from the picture.
|Shredded pork banh mi from Ba Le Bakery|
|Shredded pork banh mi from Nam Son Bakery|
And yowzers did the Ba Le version pack a punch of heat. It was just the right amount, though, as the jalapenos and spicy pork added much to the flavor without overpowering the rest of the sandwich.
If this were a banh mi smackdown, I’d give it to Ba Le with a late round knockout. However, the real winner was Sandwich Quest as both places more than proved that the "Vietnamese hoagie" belongs on anyone's list of Philly sandwiches to try.
Let me know your favorite banh mi and be sure to tell us which type to order, too (barbecue pork, tofu, etc.).
And yes, the headline parody is the first and last Britney Spears reference that will ever appear on this blog.