Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwich + Panini Machine = Banhmi-ni


At least once a month, J & I will take her mom down to Little Saigon to go play. Our routine is usually to either eat:

Pork Lemongrass Soup Noodles at Bun Bo Hue So 1 (bun bo hue)
Rice flour crepes stuffed with ground pork at Tay Ho (banh cuon)
Grilled cured-pork spring rolls at Brodard (nem nuong)
Grilled dill & turmeric fish at Hanoi Restaurant (cha ca)
Rice vermicelli soup with tomato & crab at Vien Dong (bun rieu)

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Even when we're full to the brim from the food of Little Saigon, there's always one last stop: vietnamese sandwiches at Banh Mi Che Cali (Garden Grove location by the 22 freeway). The sandwich is decent, as I prefer it much over the ubiquitous Lee Sandwiches, but they do offer the 3 for $5 deal which even makes old frugal, asian people do a double-take and say, "Damn, that's cheap. how do you live?!"

For those new to the Vietnamese sandwich "banh mi", it's a mix of French and Vietnamese. During the French colonization in Vietnam, they brought the bread and pate. The Vietnamese completed the equation with their selection of meats, pickled vegetables and chili. And its a great snacky snack.

Banh Mi Che Cali is an interesting place. J cannot stand going here, so her mom & I do the work. But you know what, if you have the patience, it's actually fun to watch. At least for me. It's kind of like being in a DMV or a post office that dispenses Vietnamese food. The customers AND employees are sometimes irate and within a few seconds away from giving you a fist or elbow stamp. So you have to have patience here. The customers, will sometimes try and cut in the front, carefully watching the workers wrap up the sandwiches like hawks, making sure that they don't mess up an order or give it to the wrong person. 12 types of sandwiches, you're bound to get the same order as someone else. One time I was in line with J's mom and this lady started to nudge in like she was invisible, and I just looked at her. But she turned her head and gave me an "I'm old, hungry and not moving" look. BMCC can resolve all of this by creating something called LINES or offer service numbers. It usually takes about 15 minutes to make a transaction here, but when you get out with the goods, you're happy.

Back at home, I was about to eat my 3-for-$5 sandwich, and to tell you the truth, I immediately became uninterested in it. It looked so boring. Bread. Meat. Cilantro. Zzzz. Boring because I've been eating it for so long.

And then I thought about J's panini machine.

Hmm... I wonder.

I dressed up my sandwich with the usual pickled carrots/daikon, cilantro and jalapeno. Argh. Where's the Maggi sauce? They really skimp on the Maggi dosage so you're better off adding it yourself. As the self-appointed curator of the Maggi Museum in Los Angeles, I happily went to my cabinet and picked out my standard asian Maggi and doused it. *Sigh* The aroma.

I plugged in J's Krups panini machine and threw the sandwich in. Sorry buddy, time to get a tan. Is the panini machine not a monumental step in the culinary world and cure for those with mageirocophobia? The fine-engineered rivets that sink into the bread with a very faint sizzle. The ergonomic handle that allows you to either gently toast the bread or pulverize the sandwich to an unrecognizable pulp. The sweet timer that reminds you that bread can also cause severe house fires. I decided to smash the crap out of it b/c I wanted it thin. And right away, my maggi sauce and liver pate squeezed out of the sandwich and began to caramelize, creating an interesting smell. I held that handle down for a good 1 minute then let Mr. Krups do the rest of the work. After about 3.5 minutes, I had a new product that I proudly named with teary eyes... the "Banhmi-ni".


How did it taste? Quite good. It was all about the warm contents and the texture of the bread. As I bit in, I felt the warm headcheese, pork and pate coat my teeth. The maggi, daikon/carrots and cilantro were also warm which was bleh. Next time around, I'll add the veggies and jalapenos AFTER I've completed the "Banhmi-ni". If you're tired of Lee Sandwiches or any other joint, take it to the next level with a simple panini machine and experience the "Banhmi-ni" for absolutely no extra charge! Plus, you can buy a lifetime supply of sandwiches and pop them in the freezer, and resurrect them with the genius panini machine. You won't be cut off by old ladies or receive an elbow to the ribs any longer.

Thanks for reading. I also recommend the $3 'hu tieu' noodles available for take-out. Good price!

Banh Mi Che Cali Bakery
13838 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 534-6987


moviebruin said...

Pure Genius!

r a m e n i a c said...

i'da laid the smack down on that old lady that cut in front of you.

Anonymous said...


Angry Asian said...

this made me laugh. i think it's genius that you panini-ized your banh mi.

and i agree with rameniac, i woulda told that old lady to haul ass back of the line.

Anonymous said...

that is too funny! you've made me hungry, again.

Sandy said...

Too funny - I just finished eating a banh mi for lunch. Otherwise, I'd be drooling over the computer screen. I've been thinking of buying a panini machine, too.

Passionate Eater said...

Haha, you and J with the panini machine! I remember a post she did on Tommy's, and how she panini-ed a Tommy's hamburger!

tara said...

Darn. Now I want a banh mi, and I have no way to get one. Love the idea of the panini-fying it; looks rather tempting.

Your trouble with the warm greens reminds me of that sandwich McDonald's did in the late 80s maybe? I was a kid, that's all I remember, where the cold ingredients were separated from the hot until consumption. Maybe Banh Mi Che Cali could come up with a similar idea ...

Kate said...

What a terrific idea, thanks for sharing it.

Canadian Tourism said...

Looks delish! Bet it would go great with an iceberg martini, as seen in this Canadian Tourism vid.

tony said...

Why do you drive all the way to Garden Grove for Banh Mi Che Cali when there is one in San Gabriel & Alhambra

Tad said...

Dammit, I wish I had thought of that. You're good!

Aaron said...

Ah, how I love portmanteaus. Good idea, but like you said, toasted veggies kinda ruins the image.

kayoko said...

D, thanks for pointing me to this post. Once again reaffirms your mad creative talents in the kitchen. Next up, the unini with a touch of Maggi... maybe even some kewpie...

Had the best banh mi the other day in San Jose. You gotta take me to this place, cause I agree, there isn't any place more entertaining in this world than the post office. You've gotta check out the ones in Brooklyn- utter insanity.

Will report on the reported "best" banh mi in NYC. Can't touch the ones from Cali. Here's the SJ one:

Gastronomer said...

I like! I usually heat up old banh mis in the oven, but a panini maker seems to work just as great. AND it's more energy efficient ;-)

Is it just me or does the mayo taste better after it's melted onto the baguette?

Blog Widget by LinkWithin