Six Dollars Too Much And Bad Besides: The Whole Foods Bánh Mì
It makes sense, of course. The Whole Foods at Bella Terra is quite literally a stone's throw from Westminster, the epicenter of Vietnamese culture in Southern California. Little Saigon finally has a Whole Foods to call home, and it makes sense that they might want a bánh mì while shopping...
...except that the aforementioned bánh mì is eight dollars. That's not a misprint; the "local flavor sandwiches", which give you the choice of a steak bánh mì or a vegan bánh mì, are $7.99--plus tax if you eat it on the premises.
Banh Mi Che Cali, with outposts just a few minutes up Bolsa or down the 405, offers $2.25 bánh mì with a buy-two-get-one-free offer. This means that for $16, you could buy two Whole Foods bánh mì; for $18, you could buy a dozen from Banh Mi Che Cali.
Before getting to the sandwich itself, let's review what a bánh mì is. It's a length of bread (either baguette or a crusty roll), spread with garlic mayonnaise, pickled shredded daikon radish and carrots, cilantro and chile peppers. The customer picks the filling--grilled pork and beef are common, as are Vietnamese cold cuts such as white pork roll or head cheese. Pâté is a popular choice, and marinated fried tofu or vegan cold cuts are commonly sold.
There are variations on bánh mì: some feature soy sauce or Maggi seasoning, some add herbs besides cilantro, and some add cucumbers for crunch, but this all fits comfortably within the universe of bánh mì ingredients.
Then there's the Whole Foods bánh mì.
|"I'll take 'Things That Are Not Bánh Mì' for $200, Alex."|