I believe Banh Mi is Cambodian for Crack-wich. And Boba- oh my. Chewy little bubbles bouncing in fruity froth. I’m no stranger to addictions. I came to adulthood in the late 70s. In the early 1980s I worked in a popular Boston sports bar. I’ve seen too many friends spiral into their habits head (or nose) first. Truly, however, I was never in any danger myself. Until now.
For the past 9 years I’ve worked near the evil source: New Saigon Sandwich. It even looks shady. I wandered by today, in time to catch the morning delivery of fresh bread. The amazing, crusty outside/ soft and tender inside bread. For the Banh Mi. It’s been a constant temptation. I do indulge, but I’ve limited myself to only once a week. And, today is the day.
I usually only get the sandwich. Or the bubble tea. Never both. Today, in order to write about this with recent experience, I get both. I feel so virtuous. Yeah, that’s me in the halo.
The shop is tiny. There are only 2 stools, and they are not worthy. There are all sorts of beautiful temptations on the counter. There is barbecued pork, chicken and other mystery meats with noodles or sticky rice. The shrimp rolls and chicken rolls are delicious. But for me, it has to be my Banh Mi. Specifically, a #5.
This Vietnamese sandwich shop is staffed by Chinese workers. Yup, really. The 2 who usually work in front speak English well, sometimes I’ll be served by a granny who will make the sandwich with either mayo or pate, or some other ingredients that I’m not familiar with. It’s all good. Officially, however: the #5 is a 6 inch perfect french roll, with teriyaki chicken, fish sauce (there is a bit of anchovy there, but overall it’s sweet), very lightly pickled daikon and carrots, fresh scallions, onions (I skip them), tons of fresh cilantro and lots (for me lots and lots) of fresh sliced jalapeño. Because I knew that I’d have eaten half of them, the big half, before I sat down. To happiness on a bun.
Now the Bubble Tea. It’s all about the Boba. Boba is a little ball, made of tapioca. They go into the bottom of a smoothy. The smoothy has a big wide straw, and as you sip it, the boba dance up and down the straw. Then into your mouth. They don’t have a strong flavor of their own. It’s kind of like a little gummy bear. They “tea” comes in a lot of flavors, from the common fruits like apple, strawberry, pineapple, mango,passion fruit…then it gets kind of weird. I can’t bring myself to try red bean, avocado (not in a drink), lychee or taro. They also have “milk tea”. I’m getting pineapple. I’m kind of boring that way. Actually, he seems to know that. My friendly fellow tells her “#5, no onions, lots of hot” when I walk in. Then, I tell him (smugly) “oh, I think I’ll have a boba too”. He knows. He says “yeah, pineapple, okay” and nods. Then he turns without waiting for my answer and starts making my drink. Maybe I should step outside my comfort zone more often….no. Because this is the best. If you look close you can see one little boba up in the straw. I am sooooo glad that I don’t live next door to this place. I am now 50 miles away. And I would gladly run right back for another. But I’ll be strong. For another week.