Friday, August 5, 2011
Bun Mi Express
When people think of Asian food, they almost invariably think of Chinese food or sushi. Asian food though, is much more than meat or seafood with savory sauces served over rice or raw fish. There are a wide variety of cuisines that would fall under the Asian label. While Chinese food is generally meat and sauce served over rice, there are a wide variety of flavors and also includes Dim Sum and Peking Duck. Japanese food includes sushi, but it also includes tempura, hibachi style, and all manner of fried foods. Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Malaysian cuisines all have their own styles that are very separate from what you might find in a Chinese or Japanese restaurant. Vietnam was once a French colony and the French style has rubbed off and combined with the available ingredients to create something very good but different. In the Western world, sandwiches are a common street food and patisseries abound in France. French baguette is great for making sandwiches. The bahn mi is a sandwich that was created in Vietnam in the French colonial days. It generally contains ham, pate, and fresh vegetables. In the colonial days, only the rich were able to have them because everything was imported and so was pretty expensive. When the French departed, the Vietnamese learned the baking techniques, made the baguette a little smaller, and added local spices, vegetables, and herbs. While the French influence can be seen, the bahn mi is very definitely Asian (and specifically Vietnamese) cuisine. I went to Bun Mi Express, which is located in Lakeview, for lunch because I happened to run across them when running an errand for something else and bahn mi are quick, affordable, and very good. I ordered what was called a Saigon Classic which contained, inside a great baguette, ham, headcheese pate, pork roll (similar to a sliced summer sausage), cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro, jalapeno, daikon, and mayonnaise. I ordered a special and also got a soft drink and a Vietnamese Spring Roll which is essentially rice (wrap and noodles), lettuce, and shrimp served with a peanut dipping sauce. Everything was very good, the staff was friendly, and looking at the traffic coming in, it seemed to be pretty popular. I will be happy to add this as one of my goto lunch places when I happen to be in that part of town.