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February 6, 3:40 PM
by Cheryl D Lee, LA Cooking Examiner

Southern California is home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam.  And that means we are very privileged to be able to eat at some of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the USA.

One of my favorite simple pleasures is a banh mi sandwich.  What is a banh mi, you say?

First and foremost is the Vietnamese style baguette. Crispy on the outside and light on the inside. You can order a choice of meats, from roasted or BBQ pork, chicken, pate, sardines or even vegetarian.

The finishing and most crucial addition is the topping of pickled carrots and daikon, fresh cilantro and sliced jalapenos.  Sometimes cucumbers slices are added.  This gives the sandwich a balance of savory, sour, hot and sweet.

And the best part about a banh mi?  The average price is about $2.50.  With this economy you cannot beat that!  My favorite banh mi shop is part of a chain called Lee’s Sandwiches, and is located in Alhambra. leesandwiches.com/2008/index.php

I have decided that in 2009 I am going to find and sample banh mi all over the area.  The website Battle of the Banh Mi has a directory battleofthebanhmi.com/finding-banh-mi/banh-mi-directory/#more-13 of Vietnamese banh mi shops all over the United States, and a few international shops as well.  I may have to take this quest on the road.

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