The banh mi sandwich doesn’t seem to fit in with Vietnamese cuisine, until you remember its era as a French colony. Then it starts to make more sense.
Its fillings are Asian-flavored grilled meats, cold cuts, tofu or other choices, accented with crunchy pickled vegetables and cilantro sprigs, just like so many Vietnamese dishes.
Except the goodies are served inside a submarine roll, pillowy inside but with the delicate crunch of a baguette. That is the hard part: getting the bread right. Lately, Buffalo banh mi lovers have been sating their hunger at Niagara Seafood (837 Niagara St., 240-9680), where Michael Nguyen has come up with a source for rolls that are close to the real deal.
There are lots of interesting and reasonably priced Vietnamese dishes on the menu at his grocery-restaurant, like deep-fried marinated quail and grilled pork noodle bowls.
But for only $4.50, you can get an exotic tour of post-colonial Southeast Asia that Nguyen’s place offers in six main flavors.
My favorite is the grilled pork, but there are also Vietnamese cold cuts, grilled chicken, sardine, sunny-side up or scrambled egg, and tofu.
The classic banh mi goes like this: split rolls are toasted, then brushed with pâté and mayonnaise, then lined with protein of choice, pickled daikon radish, carrot and cucumber slices, plus sprigs of cilantro, and sliced jalapeño for heat.
They’re custom-built to satisfy even vegetarians or vegans, though gluten-avoiders are out of luck.
“Any of these items may be omitted, since banh mi are made fresh to order,” Nguyen said. “You can get it the way you like.”
FOODIE FIND: Sweet Indulgence
Wine tasting from three local wineries plus chocolate and other desserts, an art exhibit and live music, to benefit Western New York Artists Group, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Friday at 1 Linwood Ave. Cost is $25. Call 885-2251.