LOCATION: Aobaba,128-132 Walworth Road, London SE17 1JL [map]
PRICE: £3.50? £4? I really need to get better at this.
BREAD: Baguette (I think rice flour).
FILLING: Pork roll, pate, pickled carrot and daikon, coriander, chilli, cucumber, mayonnaise. SUPPOSEDLY.
PROS: I struggle here, I really do. Um…it was a rice flour baguette as far as I could tell, which may please the authenticity sticklers amongst you.
CONS: This is easily the worst bánh mì I’ve ever eaten. None of the baguettes are advertised on the menu as containing pork roll, which is probably how I ended up ordering it. It’s probably called something else, I don’t know. What I can say, is that I don’t like the stuff; it often comes with a rind on the outside which is impossible to eat and sure enough, there it is – an orange rim so disgusting and chewy it was like the arse end of a stripper’s thong after a fresh fake tan. The pate was present only as a skid mark.
Pickled carrot and daikon however – definitely present. A great whacking tangle of the stuff, with all the flavour and charm of a half-unravelled rubber band ball. I mined down to find cucumber underneath. Fine. But what of the chilli? The coriander? Both essential. I sigh, take a swig of my Saigon beer and make my way back across the vast, soulless, plastic bamboo-skirted floor to the counter where…I have an argument with the server. He insists he put chilli and coriander in my banh mi. I tell him that he didn’t. He tells me he did. I show him the sandwich and give him an evil. He reluctantly slaps some chilli and coriander on top. I take the sandwich and sit down. The sandwich looks better for some colour, but tastes of nothing. The pork roll, apart from knicker rind, is mostly flabby fat. I’m a huge fan of fat – the size of my arse is testament to the fact – but even I don’t want JUST fat. Well, not unless it’s lardo on toast. Or the finest milky Iberico fat. Or the underneath of a pork scratching. Look, you get the idea. Quality fat is full of flavour. I expect my thighs would be delicious.
I know that this place is popular with students in the area (it is practically, if not actually, underneath student halls) and you know what, if I were one of them I’d probably take my hangover along for a noodle soup, squirted with obscene amounts of Sriracha. I’d be happy with the price and the convenience of it. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised to see young ‘uns scoffing in their pyjamas having wobbled downstairs after a night on the sauce. I certainly can’t think of a reason why anyone else would eat there.