Every time I pass through Oakland on my way to work in San Francisco, I am reminded of Banh Mi; not so much because these Vietnamese deli sandwiches are ubiquitous in the San Francisco Bay area, but rather because when I moved to New York, I missed Banh Mi so badly I would actually dream about it. I admit it, I had taken Banh Mi for granted.
Thrillist.com ranked “Banh Mi #7 out of a list of 50 classic sandwiches we westerners eat.”
“The meaty backbone of the banh mi -- often a trifecta of moist roast pork, velvety pate, and gelatinous head cheese -- is satiating on its own, but it's the delicate balance between spicy jalapeños and soothing cucumbers, cilantro, and shredded carrots that makes the Bánh Mì an edible work of art.”
And maybe I am not the only one; after all it’s a three-dollar sandwich. This is what catches me off guard. “Edible works of art” do not cost three-dollars. Period. How much do other sandwiches cost?
Wise and Sons $10-$12
Saul’s Deli $12-$15
Banh Mi Bicycle $8
Other conventional Vietnamese Sandwich shops $3-$4
Obviously, the Vietnamese sandwich is under-valued.
We can all agree that they are delicious. But regardless, Banh Mi are sandwiches. Banh Mi should cost what sandwiches cost. They should be of equal price. Why are they not equal in price when they are conceptually the same thing? They both cost the same to make yet, people aren't willing to pay the same price. Why?
“Despite complex ingredients and labor-intensive cooking methods that rival or even eclipse those associated with some of the most celebrated cuisines — think French, Spanish and Italian — we want our [ethnic] food fast, and we want it cheap….There is ample evidence that we treat these [ethnic] foods as inferior,” as Krishnendu Ray, the chair of nutrition and food studies at New York University, writes in his new book "The Ethnic Restaurateur."
The Banh Mi is just as complicated as, if not more so than than most Western-style sandwiches, requiring more skill, ingredients and technique to prepare. When "we're talking about a traditional closed-face sandwich," says Mark Wheeler, who works in food safety at the USDA. "A sandwich is a meat or poultry filling between two slices of bread, a bun or a biscuit." According to the USDA’s definition, they are the same thing, a sandwich.
It’s A New Generation of Banh Mi Shops.