A couple weeks before the book launch, one of my favorite writers called and asked if I wanted to go on a banh mi expedition to address these questions: What makes good banh mi? Why is it beloved?
Of course! I’ve long admired Jonathan Kauffman’s elegant and thoughful food reporting and was happy to learn that he’d recently joined the San Francisco Chronicle as a staff writer. We’d chatted about tofu culture and a bunch of other things so the thought of hunting down delicious banh mi was not work. It was my kind of dectective work.
We spent most of the Monday before the book released sampling banh mi in San Francisco and Oakland, tasting about a dozen (12!) total. They ranged from the super traditional dac biet (thit nguoi) to ones that featured fried fish cakes, tofu skin and spicy tuna fish salad. We discussed the sandwich’s history, ingredients, as well as construction.
I’d brought a bottle of Maggi Seasoning sauce in my handbag in case the banh mi we ate didn’t have enough zip. I used it at one spot where things were a bit bland and sweet. Jonathan observed all of that and more. He poured it all into an amazing story that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle this weekend.