Banh mi - Vietnam sandwich

Banh mi - Vietnamese term of all kinds of bread which was introduced by the French during its colonial period. Banh mi made from soy fillings such as pan-roasted or oven roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, head cheese, grilled eggs acomplying vegetables including fresh cucumber slices, cilantro ( leaves of the coriander plant) and pickled carrots.
 
Take a bite into one of Dung Vu's banh mi sandwiches, and then try to identify all the tastes and textures.
It's harder than you might think.
 

There's the bread, obviously, crusty on the outside, chewy inside. There's a clear and strong aroma of fresh cilantro, and the lingering spice from red chiles.
 
Banh mi sandwiches, like this one from Ky Duyen Cafe in Syracuse, include several layers of meat, vegetables and condiments. Photo: John Berry / The Post-Standard.
 
But what's that in between? Butter? Pork? Cucumber?
Yes, but that's still probably only half of the flavors packed into a sandwich that is the size and shape of a small football.
 
Banh mi (pronounced bunn mee) is a hugely popular sandwich in Vu's homeland of Vietnam, where vendors sell it from street carts in both cities and rural areas.
 

At Vu's Ky Duyen Cafe, at the corner of North Salina and Butternut streets, banh mi is the only food on the menu. They also serve rich and sweet Vietnamese coffee for morning and midday customers.
And Ky Duyen seems to be one of the few places in Upstate New York for members of the Vietnamese community to satisfy their craving for a freshly made banh mi. (Prepackaged banh mi are available at some Asian food stores).
 
"People come on weekends from Rochester, or Albany, and pick up 40 or 50 to take back," said Vu's son-in-law, Darren Huynh. "They can't get them anywhere else."
 
To understand that devotion, you need to understand the complexity of the sandwich. Here's how writer Julia Moskin described banh mi in a New York Times story in 2009: "If you haven't tried a classic banh mi, imagine all the cool, salty, crunchy, moist and hot contrasts of a really great bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich," Moskin wrote. "Then add a funky undertone of pork liver and fermented anchovy, a gust of fresh coriander and screaming top notes of spice, sweetness and tang."
 
While there are differences among banh mi sandwiches, that description more or less sums up Vu's version, as she serves it here in Syracuse.

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