>> Banh Mi Ba Lแบน | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday 10 December 2020

Banh Mi Ba Lแบน

EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (08 March 2024) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here:

When trying to learn more about the roots, origins, and family relations of Ba Le and their history, a confusing web stretches from the west coast to Chicago and back. The original stateside location seems to have been San Jose in 1982, while the "official" online presence now seems to be in the Windy City. This of course may or may not be related to the famous Ba Le that was operating in Saigon in the 70's before many lives were altered and forced to leave.

No matter what the real history is, there are two related branches here in Greater Los Angeles and used to be one in Reseda as far back as 1984.

The Westminster location is an unassuming little shop, with a modest sign outside and the neon from Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots advertised in the window. Inside, a larger custom neon sign has been above the counter for as long as can be remembered with the name Banh Mi Ba Le.
Both locations make everything on site, most importantly the small baguettes that make the heart of each of their banh mi sandwiches which you can smell and see fresh racks of in the back. If you peruse the refrigerators while you wait, you will also realize that you can buy just about everything that goes into the sandwiches here to make them on your own. The pate, the cuts of meat, even the mayonnaise.

You can take photos of all the different sandwiches but before eating they all kind of look the same so the ones shown here might be any one of their different options. Regardless of the sandwich you choose, it will come on their fantastic bread, always cooked spot on. It has a magical crisp exterior that will blanket crumbs below anywhere you eat, while most of it is as soft as a cloud.

Their house special banh mi dac biet ($4.60) might be the best bet at least to start, a combination of all the best offerings. The cold cuts are stacked on top of a bed of pate and a perfect ratio of vegetables to make every bite just right. The mayonnaise they make has a shot of garlic in it, and a very fine and fatty layer of Vietnamese bacon rounds it all out. Ask for it spicy for a few more slices of jalapeรฑo.

Dac biet bite-away view.

Besides the ingredients mentioned earlier, the fridges are also full of cha lua still wrapped in banana leaves and ready to carry home, plenty of interesting drinks, and desserts like com ruou (below) which is glutinous rice that is made into balls that almost look like lychee and swim in a sweetened low ABV rice wine.

While a sandwich is always the focus and always very satisfying, it is easy to take home a lot more here on each visit.

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