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Within the realms of grab-as-you-go food, there can surely be nothing better than a proper Banh Mi? Standing in line in perpetual sweat torrents in Ho Chi Minh watching the furious movements of well routined ladies packing fresh baguettes with paté, meat, coriander, cucumbers, carrots and their sauce of choice as the line seems to swell larger than they could ever extinguish.
Having lived in Oslo for pushing on fifteen years, the local options for Banh Mi have been either non-existent or critically ill-executed. It was time to put Banh Mi Cousins to the test, although both the facade and location gave me serious pause.
Service was rendered by a rather cheery lady who took my order and set about assembling the sandwich as I gazed out the window at the army of heroin zombies drifting past in slow motion. Surely there isn't a downtown in any country on earth with such abandoned vistas on display?
The Banh Mi was eaten outside in the privacy of fresh air. Opening the wrapper I noticed already the proliferation of hoisin sauce staining my hopes. I'll gladly have a tight squeeze of said sauce on a freshly made article, but sodden infections are something I steer clear of. Upon closer inspection, the residue of iceberg lettuce squeezed in between stewed beef and cucumbers gave raise to doubts.
The first few bites were a tangle of disappointment. Pervading all and sundry was the taste of sweet hoisin, a flavour that should be like a bass player, there but not in your face. As I expected, this would be a lure to tempt newcomers into the cult of the hip snack, but would ultimately be leading them astray into the oceans of inauthenticity.
Though I crave Banh Mi on a weekly basis, a year has passed since I visited and I haven't returned. That speaks volumes...
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored by the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"