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Pork Roll Bánh Mì at Aobaba, Elephant and Castle

3 Jan

Banh Mi at Aobaba

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.

SCORE: 1/10

 

 

Chicken Satay Banh Mi at Viet Cafe, Camberwell

23 Jan

LOCATION: Viet Cafe (formerly Cafe Bay), 75 Denmark Hill,  SE5 8RS [map]

PRICE: Ummm about £2.70 ish I think. Or £3.10? I’m just plucking numbers out of the air here. It’s cheap, basically.

BREAD: Baguette.

FILLING: A skewer of chicken flavoured with a mild satay, cucumber strips, pickled daikon and carrot, coriander, sweet chilli sauce, fresh chilli.

PROS: Camberwell is basically a sandwich wasteland so Viet Cafe must be making an absolute killing. This is by no means the best banh mi in the world but it stands out a mile in an area packing only a Subway (what IS that smell that comes from Subway?) and  numerous crappy cafes. Yes I enjoyed Rock Steady Eddie’s recently but seriously, there’s a time and a place, sickos!

I’m constantly amazed that the chicken satay banh mi is so much better than all the pork banh mi and, especially and, it’s better than the banh mi special which contains all the types of pork at once. ME CONFUSE. Anyway, it’s the best so I never order anything else. It’s also good and punchy, just the way a banh mi should be. I like the sweet chilli sauce filth factor, which they then ramp up with bits of fresh chilli so by the end I’ve really worked up a proper sniffle. Banh mi never have enough chilli in general, I find, so mad props to Viet Cafe in that respect.

CONS: Well you know, it’s not anything particularly ground breaking; you’re not going to find rice flour baguettes. I kind of wish they would stop arseing about with all the tuna mayo/cheese salad/chicken and sweetcorn rubbish though and just live up to the name of Viet Cafe – shake up that hood a little. I think Camberwell may just, just about be ready…

SCORE: 7/10 (relative to everything else in the area)

Banh Mi Special at Caphe House, Bermondsey

10 Aug

LOCATION: Caphe House, 114 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TX [map]

PRICE: £5

BREAD: White baguette

FILLING: Roast pork, ‘salty pork pate’, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber slices, red chilli, coriander, WEIRD ASS GRAVY.

PROS: Double pork.

CONS: WEIRD ASS GRAVY. Weird ass chicken tasting gravy all over my banh mi special. Sounds like a euphemism that, doesn’t it? Well, it’s meant as such. Use your imagination.

In all my banh mi eating experience I have never encountered this type of sauce. Chilli sauce? Yes. Mayonnaise? Yes. Sweet, shiny (yes, shiny) goop that tastes vaguely of chicken but mostly of something I can’t identify but which I definitely don’t like? No. Every time I take a bite it stretches out into alarming quivering strings which dangle briefly before flinging themselves suicidally against my chin.

The texture meets its match in the taste which is unique in its power to be so absent and yet so totally overwhelming. I try scraping it out with no success; the stuff has oozed into every available space. Becoming increasingly enraged at its presence I eat half the sandwich, pack the other half up in a huff and head towards home with plans to modify it once I get there. I am determined to salvage some enjoyment from this experience.

I extract as much WEIRD ASS GRAVY as possible and slap in some mayo, thinking that I might be able to at least taste the rest of the filling and judge whether or not it could actually be good sans WAG. Sadly not. The pate is barely noticeable. The pickled carrot and daikon need a lot more pickling. There’s a good amount of chilli but it isn’t hot which is baffling. Sigh.

I’m sorry Caphe House, but your banh mi isn’t up to scratch and that’s coming from someone who really tried to like it. Lose the WAG and while you’re at it lose the sweet yet ultimately pointless side salad of iceberg, carrot, sweet chilli sauce and um, prawn crackers. Mmmm dusty crackers on my salad…

SCORE: 2/10