Banhmi11 is a stand in Broadway Market that sells one thing only: banh mi. Very exciting. In case you didn’t know, I’m a banh mi fan. The obsession started years ago when I lived in Washington, DC. There, the Song Que grilled pork banh mi was worth the hassle of driving out to suburban Virgina. (And if you know what traffic is like around there, you know it’s quite a sandwich).
Since moving to London almost four years ago, I’ve searched in vain for banh mi. Baffled by the sandwich’s absence from the otherwise-vibrant London dining scene, I’ve resorted to either making my own at home or making trips to Paris (OK, sure, there are other reasons I go to Paris, but devouring banh mi while there is always a priority).
Slowly, but surely, though, banh mi seems to be making an appearance in central London. A few weeks ago, I found banh mi at Banzi in Surrey Quays after a helpful tip was left by Charmaine Mok on this Paris blog post. Banzi’s version wasn’t bad, but Surrey Quays is kind of a pain for me to get to. I’d almost rather go to Paris.
And then the ladies behind Banhmi11 left a comment on my Banzi blog post, telling me they’d set up a banh mi stand in Broadway Market. That’s 2.5 miles from where I live . . . just a quick jog away along the lovely Regent’s Canal. So I literally ran over to check it out.
Today was Banhmi11’s first day in action. They’ve set up a small cart next to the Ca Phe Vietnamese coffee stall in the center of the market. £2.50 gets you a pork-and-pork-liver-pate banh mi.
So here’s the good: the pickled veg is fresh, crispy and tangy; the pork-liver-pate is so creamy and meaty that I actually left the pate in the sandwich instead of picking it out. [In past banh mi I've had, the pate has been a flavorless, rubbery, Oscar-Mayeresque bologna-type thing that grosses me out.]
The bad is that the bread, while warm and toasted, was overwhelming. There was so much bread that the tasty, fresh fillings seemed skimpy and the sandwich seemed dry. If there was a zesty Vietnamese mayo in there, I couldn’t tell. Jon and I ripped off and threw away at least a third of the baguette to re-jigger the proportions. Even then, we felt like the fillings could have been more generous.
But here’s why I’m still telling you about Banhmi11:
(1) as a banh mi lover, I want to support entrepreneurs like Banhmi11; (2) I liked that the Banhmi11 women seemed to be asking all their customers for feedback; and (3) I liked that when I told them that there was way too much bread, they sounded like they were really listening. I have a feeling they’re determined to make a great sandwich, so improvement is a foregone conclusion.
So I’m thinking that if the baguette gets smaller (and maybe even higher quality) and they load the sandwiches up with more pickled veg and meaty goodness, Banhmi11’s banh mi will be one I look forward to every weekend.
For anyone curious to try banh mi, the Broadway Market is itself worth a visit (my personal fave are the samosas at the Gujarati Rasoi stand), so no harm in dropping by Banhmi11 one Saturday, no?
Banhmi11, currently part of the Ca Phe Vientam stall in the middle of Broadway Market. Closest tube station: Bethnal Green. But it’s still a major hike from the Tube, so I recommend the bus. Lots of buses run to the adjacent London Fields.