Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich in San Gabriel, Los Angeles County (2007)
One of the first things you notice when getting to know Los Angeles is its sheer incredible size. You quickly learn that Los Angeles really means Los Angeles County in which the City of Los Angeles is just one of more than 90 cities, not nine… ninety. I saw a map once that showed you could fit Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh within the borders, and still have room left. Of those 90+ cities more than 30 are in the San Gabriel Valley and of those about 5 entire cities have a population that is overwhelmingly Asian. The largest segment of that population is Chinese, but the SGV has more than its share of Taiwanese, Indonesian, Burmese, Korean, Thai, Japanese and other Asian nationalities – including numerous Vietnamese. Though it’s no Little Saigon (located in Westminster, Orange County) the SGV also has more than its share of Vietnamese restaurants serving everything from noodle soups like phở and bún bò Huế all the way to the elaborate 7 courses of beef known as bò 7 món. The photo above was my first bánh mì sandwich in Los Angeles, in the city of San Gabriel. I’d had these before in the Uptown area of Chicago, but here in L.A. is where I learned the most about them. I had no idea before this that “bánh mì” could refer to just the bread alone or to the sandwich made with the bread. I also previously didn’t know that the baguettes were made with rice flour or that the tins of liver pâté and butter used in them were often literally imported from France. Thanks to the SGV I quickly learned to appreciate the harmony of cold cuts and pickled vegetables in a whole new way.
Who knew a sandwich could hold so much information?