Tag Archive for banh mi

Review: ShopHouse, guilt-free and tasty fast food


To say that Chipotle changed the concept of fast food and how most people view Mexican food is no understatement.  Now, the founders of Chipotle are trying to do to Asian fare what they did with Mexican fare eighteen years ago. (I still can’t believe Chipotle has been around that long!)  The result is Shop House Southeast Asian Market, which I think will have no problem being just as successful as its sister restaurant.  I found the food tasty (although it could have used more salt), filling, affordable (under $7 for a bowl!), and I didn’t have any post-fast food guilt. Win-win-win.

Diners can choose from a bowl or a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich).  For the bowl, diners choose noodles or rice (brown or white), one of four veggies, a protein (pork and chicken meatballs, chicken, steak, or tofu), one of three sauces (mild or spicy curry or a tamarind vinaigrette), a garnish (pickled veggies, cooling papaya slaw, or herb salad) and finally some crunch (fried garlic, crushed peanuts, or toasted rice).  The banh mi comes with a protein, papaya slaw, herb salad and peanuts.

On my first and only trip thus far, I tried a brown rice bowl with pork and chicken meatballs, roasted eggplant, papaya slaw, spicy curry sauce and fried garlic.  (Thank goodness I wasn’t kissing anyone anytime soon).  Everything tasted fresh (and apparently the meat used contains no hormones or antibiotics).

The meatballs were probably my favorite part because they contained one of my favorite meats (pork), were perfectly seasoned, had a crunchy exterior, and a flavorful, juicy interior.  I loved that I could select brown rice.  I liked the simplicity of the menu and how each component was chosen with purpose — protein, carb, veggie, some heat, cool garnish, and finally some crunch.  The spicy curry sauce really packs a punch.  So much so that I didn’t even think of reaching for the bottle of Sriracha that decorates each table.  (And I do love my Sriracha!).  The simplicity of the menu is played out in the decor which is minimalist but inviting.

My one complaint is that everything (save for the meatballs) could have used a smidge more salt.  For those that have been reading my reviews, you might have noticed that I’ve complained about under-seasoned food . . . a lot.  For the record, I’m not someone who has a high tolerance for salt.  I like to think my palate is pretty well-balanced.  Of course, feel free to take my advice about seasoning with or without a grain of salt (ha!).  What I mean is that, for those that like little to no salt in their food, you may find the level of salt in the rice bowl ideal.  You get what I’m trying to say, right?

Next time I think I’ll fork the banh mi with those awesome meatballs….

ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Food Truck Review: El Floridano’s Banh Mi hits the spot!


The other day, I was running a few errands during my lunch hour when all of a sudden I realized I was sooo hungry.  Because I’d consulted my Twitter list (@ellinida_dc/food-trucks) earlier that day, I remembered that El Floridano would be parked in the area.  So, I went in search of what I like to call the “world market” of sandwich trucks.  El Floridano offers the Fidel and Pan con Lechon, both Cuban-inspired sandwiches as well as the Chiang Mai and Banh Mi.  The first time I tried El Floridano, I opted for the Chiang Mai, which I’m guessing is Thai-inspired since it shares its name with a Thai province and its capital.  I have to say I wasn’t a fan.  The chicken was dry.  When coupled with the somewhat tough roll it came sandwiched between, it turned out to be unsatisfying and hard to eat without washing it down with plenty of liquids.

So this time I tried the Banh Mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich.  I’m not sure where El Floridano’s version stands on the Banh Mi authenticity scale, but I frankly don’t care.  That was a darn tasty sandwich that so hit the spot!

Pause for encyclopedia lesson of the day:

I understand that a traditional Banh Mi is a baguette containing a “slaw” composed of thinly sliced pickled carrotsand daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, chili peppers, pâté,mayonnaise and meat or tofu.  The meat can be pork, sausage,chicken, head cheese or ham.

El Floridano’s version is similarly served on a baguette filled with turkey meatloaf, crunchy, pickled slaw, and slathered in a spicy mayonnaise.  (El Floridano also offers a non-spicy version of the sandwich for the weak eaters among us.)   Along with my rather large Banh Mi, I purchased a Mash grapefruit-citrus soda.  I’d never heard of Mash, but came to learn that it’s a new line of bevvies offered by Boylan.  (Thank you, Google.)

So, I took my sandwich and bev back to my office, closed the door, and went to town.  I’m so glad that went down behind closed doors because it was neither pretty nor lady-like.  Oh well.  The spicy mayonnaise brings a nice heat to the flavorful meatloaf that hits your tongue only to be followed by the cooling effect of the pickled slaw.  And let me just say that I may have developed a slight crush on the Mash grapefruit-citrus soda that I can only describe as a cross between a flavored soda like Sunkist or Fresca and a flavored carbonated water.

The one suggestion I’d make to El Floridano is to switch the baguettes they use to ones that put up less of a fight when I try to bite into them.  The bread interfered with my ability to eat (that’s bad), which in turn meant that I had trouble really tasting the filling.  In fact, I ended up discarding some of the bread so I could really savor the filling (and eat faster).

Bottom line: If you happen to see El Floridano parked on a street near you, stop by and check out the Banh Mi.  I hear the Pan con Lechon and Fidel are pretty good too!