Co Thanh: Artisan Banh Mi in Hong Kong
The streets of Saigon are full of banh mi carts. In the early evening the carts find their regular corners and for the equivalent of $1.50 you can get a delicious sandwich. But even if there's a proper brick and mortar restaurant, it's still considered street food.
In Hong Kong, Co Thanh, has elevated the humble banh mi into something of a splurge. Clearly they have taken the time to get each component right. The bread achieves that light interior with a crackling crust. The lightly pickled veggies, the peppers, and the cold cuts all are balanced nicely. But the pate is really the star here - a higher end and tastier version of anything you'll find in the streets of Saigon.
This is not an every day sandwich but we'd be happy to add this our weekly rotation for lunch or dinner.Clearly the chef knows Saigon and knows the flavors he's looking to achieve. Even in Saigon there's a wide range in these sandwiches from stall to stall. So every decision in what Co Thanh presents has been carefully thought through and prepared.
If we were to nitpick, the bread could have a slightly higher rice flour ratio to achieve a lighter interior and the vegetables could be steeped a bit longer in the pickling vinegar. But these are only slight preferences, especially from folks who are used to the versions created in the west.
Just as carefully crafted is the space itself. A rickety makeshift door on the corner of the street disguises the modern diner like styled restaurant inside. As we sat eating our banh mi, a few friends would pop in to say hello as the chefs prepared for the dinner rush.
Even though we've not had a chance to try the other dishes in this cool little eatery in the Soho area we are eager for our next visit!