Vietnamese food and I go way back. My father and all of his siblings were born in Vietnam. Eventually my father moved to Hong Kong while most of his siblings moved to Los Angeles. When I moved to LA and had stayed with my aunt (my dad’s oldest sister) we occasionally would have family dinners with all of my cousins and uncles and aunts in Westminster or Little Saigon in LA. At the age of 8 or 9, I was already craving for Vietnamese food. There was something fun about dunking a summer roll into a bowl of nuoc cham. I even learned a few Vietnamese words from my aunt.
In LA it wasn’t hard to find good banh mis. I’ve never been to Vietnam so I’m basing what I consider good banh mi to what I grew up eating. Cheap, usually big enough to just eat 1 for a meal and gotta have couple cilantro sticking out which you end up eating all of it in the first couple bites (because it’s actually quite hard to bite cilantro into pieces).
Fast forward to 2011 and I’m living in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. When I feel lazy to make the trek out to Chinatown or Sunset Park for banh mi, I usually walk over to either Hanco’s or Nicky’s, but mostly Hanco’s. It never crossed my mind to see which one I liked better until a friend told me she preferred Nicky’s. To me they were both pretty good and I’m glad that I have choices. But I thought it would be fun to try both and actually try and figure out which one I like more.
Looking at the cross section, everything seems to be in a nice balance. There isn’t too much of 1 thing or too little. That’s the hard part about making a good banh mi, balance. The bread has be soft yet crusty, can’t have too much pickled carrots and daikon or too little mayo. And I think Hanco’s does a good job at balancing everything.
As you can see, Nicky’s bread is much thinner and it seems like their pickled veg mixture is mostly carrots. The sliced ham between the ground up pork and pickled veggie is a lot thinner than Hanco’s. I’m not sure if they do this all the time but the banh mi that I had, the bread was slightly over toasted. But it is still a good sandwich.
Me & My Egg Roll
So I guess here’s the wild card. Me & My Egg Roll in Carroll Gardens. The first time I had their banh mi, I was hungry after many hours of drinking and just really wanted a cheap sandwich. I got the classic, as usual. For some reason, the sandwich came out hot. I never had a hot banh mi before but I was too hungry then and thought it was the best damn sandwich in the world (hot mayo!) Then couple weeks later I went back and ordered the same sandwich. Yes, it came out hot again. So here it is folks, for $5 (75cents less than Nicky’s and Hanco’s) and a WHOLE lot bigger than the other 2 (first image). As you can see there is a lot more meat and less pickled veggies in this one. The thickness of the bread is somewhere between Nicky’s and Hanco’s which I like a lot. The hotness came from the roast pork. Instead of ground up roast pork, they put big slices of hot roast pork. It was still a pretty good sandwich but I think the roast pork sort of took over the whole sandwich.
All 3 places make a good banh mi but if I have to rank them, I put Hanco’s first, Me & My Egg Roll second and Nicky’s third. But if you just wanted a big cheap sandwich, go for Me & My Egg Roll.