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Food

Goldie Locks and the Three Bahn Mi – Thien Phat, Cao Thang, and Hoang Oanh

Posted by Emily / October 21, 2007

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We’ve all been dressing like it’s still summer, so we may as well eat like it’s still summer.

Something about the warm, lovely weather we’ve been having makes me reluctant to chow down on the heavy Fall comfort foods I’m so fond of. Lately I’ve found myself heading down to Chinatown several times a week to for bahn mi.

The Vietnamese submarine sandwiches are perfect for this warm weather because they don’t weigh you down. Despite their meaty filling and peppery sauce, they make for a relatively light lunch, kind of like a Subway sandwich only much yummier. I think Jared from the Subway commercials would be a little pudgier and a lot happier if he’d eaten bahn mi for lunch every day instead of Subway sandwiches.

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In the spirit of science, I decided to compare the pork bahn mi from three establishments in Chinatown. Every reliable experiment needs a control variable, plus I really like pork.

My bahn mi from Thien Phat was the most disappointing. The sandwiches were all pre-made, the filling didn’t taste like much, and there wasn’t much of it.

Cao Thang seemed to make more of an effort. The pork had a nice lean flavor and the veggies gave it a nice fresh crunch. The toasted bread was also particularly good. My only complaint was that it was a little skimpy on the filling and the meat was just barely bordering on dry.

A couple of days later, in true Goldie Locks fashion, I got a bahn mi that was just right at Hoang Oanh. The shredded pork was nice and tender, and it had a peppery taste that added just enough heat. The pepper was tempered by strips of cucumber that were laid lengthwise along the sandwich so I got a cooling crunch in each bite. The sauce soaked into the lightly toasted bread and occasionally escaped my mouth in delicious drips.

But Hoang Oanh is not without its flaws. On several occasions (during the weekends), I have gone to Hoang Oanh in hopes of procuring a bahn mi and have left empty handed, having been told that there were no more sandwiches. I’ve been trying to guess which key ingredient they ran out of (Bread? Meat?), but I guess it doesn’t matter. Whenever Hoang Oanh let me down, I just made my way over to Cao Thang for a more than adequate substitute.
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Thien Phat
1084 St. Laurent
(514)875-7929

Cao Thang
1082 St. Laurent
(514)392-0097

Hoang Oanh
1071 St. Laurent
(514)954-0053

Discussion

14 Comments

kim / October 22, 2007 at 07:51 am
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Hoang Oanh makes my favourite as well, by far!

And you can get a "frequent-eater" card there that gets you a free sandwich after you've bought ten of them (or maybe it's five...)

emily / October 22, 2007 at 10:03 am
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Yeah, it's ten. And I'm almost there:)!
Duan / October 22, 2007 at 11:21 am
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I buy my Vietnamese sandwiches at Kim Hour, an Asian grocery on Van Horne near Victoria. (Plamondon Metro)

They're cheap, delicious, and made fresh.
Chris / October 23, 2007 at 09:32 pm
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I miss the old couple that made banh mi in the Vietnamese grocery store that burned down on the corner of St-L and de la Gauchetiere. Also their vol au vents were to die for. Hang Oanh is an adequate second place, I just wish it wasn't so narrow.
th / October 24, 2007 at 12:08 am
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hoang oanh is the best place for bahn mi in montreal. get used to the narrowness and lack of sandwiches: this isn't your super convinient fast food joint, this is real food that disappears quickly on weekends! i'd be worried if there was some left.
lagatta / October 27, 2007 at 10:29 am
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Hoang Oanh also has a shop up in my neighbourhood (Jean-Talon market area) on St-Denis just north of Jean-Talon, on the west side of the street. When I was there last, several people working nearby (not all of them Vietnamese) were buying sandwiches and other foods for their lunch, and the space in the Villeray location is much less "narrow" than the Chinatown one. 7178 St. Denis (very close to Jean-Talon métro)

Tel: (514) 271-8668
Kitty / January 15, 2008 at 01:17 pm
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For those in western downtown who are craving some Vietnamese food but don't feel like hauling their butts to Chinatown via metro, your prayers have been answered. Cafe Bally('s?) across from ConU on Mackay makes an indisputably better banh mi than Hoang Oanh (whose sub, regrettably , has deteriorated in quality over the years since I've first patroned the place across the street from where they are now). When I last went to Bally's in August, the prices were cheaper too.

And they have bubble tea slushies. You can't top that.

Daniel / May 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm
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not to be a smart-ass but it's banh mi, not bahn mi.

Daniel / May 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm
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not to be a smart-ass but it's banh mi, not bahn mi. and i prefer cao thang.

Alexandre / October 19, 2009 at 10:46 pm
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Maybe "bahn mi" is a version served in German train station? ;-)
Not really that I want to tease, but it's actually an interesting image.

There seems to be a tendency for the best banh mi places to close down. My favourite one (and the one where I discovered banh mi, in 1997) was Marché Kim-Po, a Vietnamese grocery store on Victoria, near Côte-Sainte-Catherine (5580 Victoria, according to Google Street View). The store still exists, but they don't do banh mi, anymore. For a while, I kept comparing all the banh mi places to that standard. Never found anything I liked as much, in terms of banh mi. There was a banh mi shop on St-Zotique, corner St-André, which only lasted a couple of years. They used to do a beef one with a nice sauce.
There are some other places which are enjoyable, including a few more in Petite-Patrie, some in Parc-Ex, etc.

Otherwise, Hoang Oanh is my standby. They have a good selection, and I haven't had one I really disliked (unlike some of the other places on St-Laurent just south of René-Lévesque). I like the St-Denis location as much as the St-Laurent one. Filled in a couple of 10-sandwiches fidelity cards, over the past several months. When ordering for a couple of people, it fills in rather fast. At the same time, banh mi remains relatively cheap. At Kim-Po and at other places, it used to be three for 5$! :-)

Will try some of the spots mentioned here. Eventually, there should be a guide to Montreal's banh mi spots.
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