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A weekly profile on a favorite New England dish.

Favorite Banh Mi in Boston: Pho Viet's Grilled Pork

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[Photograph: Elizabeth Bomze]

A few months ago I threw out the idea that Mei Sum Inc. in Boston's Chinatown makes one of the best bánh mì around. Some of you agreed, and some of you weren't shy about telling me I was dead wrong.

Either way, I like the chatter—and in an effort to start it up all over again, I'm going to put myself out there and say that my other favorite bánh mì is the grilled pork sandwich from Pho Viet in Allston's Super 88 food court.

Here's my case:

  • Bread: Pretty much the perfect specimen. A torpedo that's crackly-crisp on the outside, airy and tender within. It shatters audibly when you take a bite, but boasts plenty of good chew.
  • Meat: Tender strips of pork soak in a lemongrass marinade before hitting the grill. The final product is smoky, salty, and sweet—faintly reminiscent of Hong Kong-style char siu, but minus the heavy lacquered exterior and brightened with a cool citrusy edge. And unlike most bánh mì, it's served piping hot.
  • Veggies: Long strands of pickled carrots and daikon radish, cut just thin enough to curl without losing their crispness. Cucumber and jalapeno batons run the length of the bread, ensuring fresh crunch—and stinging heat—in every bite. Whole fresh cilantro stems are pressed firmly into place with a chopstick; if the sandwich needs anything, it might be another handful of the grassy herb. But that's my only quibble.
  • Fixin's: A thick slather of rich, slightly sweet mayo spread soaks into the crust. A generous shake of white pepper doesn't add as much heat as it does a tinge of toasty zing. And the flavor-maker final flourish: a splash of salty soy-fish sauce dressing.

Any takers? Dissenters? Let's hear it.

Pho Viet

Super 88 Food Court, 1095 Commonwealth Ave.,Boston MA 02215 (map)

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