At a party a few weeks ago, I was introduced to Ricardo Cervantes, the CEO and founder of La Monarca, a small chain of Mexican bakeries in the Los Angeles area. I revealed to him that I’m somewhat obsessed with bolillo rolls because they’re great for banh mi. He was not fully familiar with banh mi so I described them as la torta Vietnamita. Does La Monarca make and sell bolillo rolls? Yes, Ricardo said. Then just add mayonesa, jugo de Maggi, carne, escabeche, jalapeño, pepino, y cilantro. We giggle and he asked what kind of carne should they use.
Many kinds of meat would work. I’ve made banh mi with carnitas and carne asada. Since Mexicans also share a love of leche condensada, make café Vietnamita, I suggested to Ricardo. La Monarca should it with a torta Vietnamita for a special cross-cultural treat to customers. We laughed all through the conversation and Ricardo turned to our mutual friend, Paola, and said, “I like her!”