Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shredded Pork Vietnamese Hoagie

Coexisting with Philly's Italian Market is a fully authentic microchasm or Vietnam. Along Washington Ave east of Broad Street, there are countless signs written in the unmistakable accented, all caps Roman letters. Since I came to this city eight years ago, three of those letters have been a stand by: Phở.

Since the adventures began, I haven't allowed them to enter my safehouse, the enduring legacy of noodle spots. Phở is a cure-all, and I'd rather not mingle it with a meat about which my body is still unsure. However, yesterday I came up with a side project to move things along.

French colonialism left Vietnamese cuisine with a staple far better utilized with ingredients from Southeast Asia. Bánh mì, or as it's known in Philly, the Vietnamese hoagie, is a baguette filled with shredded meat and various salad ingredients.

My friend Joey and I decided to check out a little joint called Cafe Huong Lan. Located on eighth street just above Washington, this and the other miniature restaurants on this tiny strip sat right at the end of a block on which I lived for nearly a year and I'd never ventured in for my commitment to the noodle places in the 12th street plaza. Huong Lan had it all; Phở, bánh mì, and a highly abrasive Vietnamese woman telling us about the different sandwiches and simultaneously yelling at us for not already knowing. I went with the shredded pork hoagie.

In addition to the meat, my hoagie was filled with cilantro, hot peppers (which I had asked be left big deal), unusually thick pickled radish and carrots, and a yellowish mayo/mustard. There was an incomparable greasiness to the meat. That and the slightly dark coloring of the meats, along with the bits of crispy skin made it more like duck meat than anything else. It was slightly sweet and the pork went with the other ingredients far better than any chicken hoagie I'd had. On a sidenote, it seems that chicken and beef get worse tasting as you go down in grade, whereas pork just gets better.

It did taste and look enough like duck that I could have tricked myself and avoided the psychological aspect of the experience, but I realized that that is a feat impossible. Since I began writing this blog, I find myself teasing my own brain while I'm eating, trying to get a reaction out of myself. With this in mind, I charged through the sandwich. While it wasn't the best Vietnamese hoagie I've ever had, it demonstrated to me the reason why 10 out of 12 menu options of these sandwiches contain pork. The baguette and veggie housing was built for pork. One down, nine to go.

1 comment:

  1. This is by far my favorite type of sandwich..I am not surprised that Philly has made it into a "Vietnamese Hogie" If you are so bold next time go with the one made with pork and good. I recommend the next time you find yourself in Brooklyn visit Hanko's 85 Bergen of Smith near your friend Nina's house.