I was introduced to a little something called the “French sandwich” in Portland. I stumbled upon this random Vietnamese deli, Cali Sandwiches, next to a Plaid Pantry just up the street from my house. For a mere $1.50 you could get thinly sliced barbecued pork, marinated carrots and cucumbers, jalepenos, cilantro, pate, and mayonnaise (yuck) on a french roll. That may sound disgusting, but they kicked ass (even with the mayonnaise). I’m not as sharp with world history as I could be so I can only speculate on the marriage of French and Vietnamese cuisine and things like colonial rule. It’s sort of like the N.Y. phenomena of Chinese/Cuban restaurants. People around here call these treats Vietnamese sandwiches or bánh mì when the feel like showing off their linguistic skills (it always makes me cringe when Americans go all crazy ordering things in their non-native language using atrocious “authentic” accents).
I rediscovered Vietnamese sandwiches this 4th of July in Toronto’s Chinatown. They were masquerading under the name “Saigon Sub” and the storefronts selling them had lines out the door. I can’t fairly comment on them because I got sidetracked eating so much other food that I let my sandwich sit in a warm car and by the time I got to it, the thing was goopy and rancid and I tried eating it anyway even though I thought I might get sick (which I did). The poor Saigon Sub shouldn’t be blamed, it was all poor planning on my part.