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Monday
Aug222011

Pacific Foods Reopens in Fairfield as Saigon Deli

Lovers of Bánh mì, the Vietnamese sandwich, were crestfallen when Pacific Foods (1561 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield (203) 220-9450) closed just a few months after opening.  I’m thrilled to report it’s back, under the same management.  Good news is that this hole-in-the-wall storefront now has three tables for eating in.

As CT Bites previously reported, the menu offers summer rolls, pho and bubble tea, and there’s a small grocery section.  But here’s what you have to order: the bánh mì.  It could be described as a Vietnamese sub.  Like a sub, the classic version combines cold cuts and crisp vegetables. But this light, well-proportioned sandwich is not an over-stuffed meat- feast, and each component reveals the way that the French colonization of Vietnam melded the flavors and cooking techniques of the two cultures.

The Vietnamese took the French art of charcuterie (cured meats) and made them their own. Most Vietnam charcuterie starts with a base of giò, a pork-based meat paste seasoned with sugar and fish sauce (made from fermented anchovies). This lends a bit of sweetness and barely discernable funk to the sausages and pâtés, which are traditionally wrapped in banana leaves before being assembled or cooked. 

First, a baguette is spread with pâté flavored with Chinese five spice powder -- star anise, fennel cinnamon, clove and Sichuan pepper  -- in lieu of the French quatre épices, four spices – pepper, clove, nutmeg and all spice).  Hints of licorice and cinnamon, and sweetness distinguish Vietnamese pâté.

Traditionally in Vietnam, the baguette was made of rice flour and wheat flour. This created a thin- crusted, light-textured bread. The bánh mì I’ve eaten locally are made with white wheat flour only, yet have a light airy texture. 

Thin slices of giò lua, which is kind of like Vietnamese mortadella, a pale-colored sausage made from a smooth paste of pork, are next layered on the baguette.  The meat at Pacific Food comes from Kien Co. Inc. in Hartford.  A slice of fatty pork roll, rimmed in red from having been smoked, is the final meat component.

Vegetables and herbs -- pickled carrots and daikon (a mild Asian radish) -- are sprinkled on the meat, spears of fresh cucumber are laid and sprigs of cilantro add the final grace note.  If you ask for hot peppers, thin slices of fresh jalapeño or bird peppers will be scattered across.  Then the sandwich is placed in a toaster oven. 

Bite into it and the bread crackles into the savory meats and the crisp vinegary vegetables cut the richness, and you find yourself eating an utterly satisfying sandwich.

Variations abound. Some spread mayonnaise on the bread.  Sometimes giò thû, a headcheese that’s less gelatinous than Western-style, is used. Or bánh mì are made with meatballs, or grilled pork, chicken or egg. The variations are endless.

Saigon Foods 1561 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield 203-292-9758

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Reader Comments (10)

Sitting in my office munching a pate banh mi and washing it done with a pineapple strawberry smoothie. Don't get no better dan dis

August 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternorman weinberger

Thanks for going back, Elizabeth, and for your knowledge of the various meats used in these sandwiches. My partner and I went on Friday - I think the place is called Saigon Deli? - and had a pretty good experience. The man and woman who seem to be running the place were really lovely, and handed us each a sesame ball when we were curious about them (glutinous rice covered in sesame seeds, with a faintly-sweet, sandy-textured yellow bean paste inside). We had a roast chicken banh mi and a traditional with "Vietnamese Ham." Both were good, though I'm used to jalapenos kicking up the spice a notch and wasn't offered them in this rendition. Also, the baguette was a little stale, and therefore had less of the crisp exterior/soft interior contrast I love so much.

We also had two bubble teas, coconut and Thai tea. The tapioca pearls were a little softer than i prefer, but the thai tea was outstanding - we sipped the very last drops from it.

All in all, I will definitely go back and try more. I'm thrilled to have a bubble tea source in the area, and I'm hoping the sandwiches will improve with more patronage.

One last thing - everything was ridiculously affordable - no sandwich costs more than $3.50. You cannot find a healthier sandwich for less in the whole of Fairfield county, I'd wager.

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTravels4Food

Stopped in the other day for a pate banh mi and a green tea bubble tea, gave in to the temptation of the sesame ball—all so freaking delicious! I'll definitely be going back to try the other banh mi options and pho.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEAH

Yes, the correct name is Saigon Deli. Sorry about that. (Stepahnie, can you fix that? Thank you!)
As for heat, ask them to put the jalepenos on your sandwich and they'll do it. They are the nicest people.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Your readers may be confused by the Pacific Foods telephone number you have in this article. The new phone number for Saigon Deli is: 203-292-9758. Just introduced my family to bahn mi last night, and they loved them! We'll be back for more!

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHank

Went there for lunch today and tried the pate banh mi and the seafood noodle soup. The sandwich was excellent and an amazing value at $3. The baguette was crispy and soft, and held together a perfect harmony of pickled carrots, daikon, and cilantro. Having had banh mi at a number of places in Manhattan, this place can certainly hold its own. The seafood noodle soup wasn't what I had expected, it was actually Thai tom yum goon soup with noodles instead of the Vietnamese/Cambodian noodle that I expected.

The owners were delightful, they said starting tomorrow they'll start serving pho and Hong Kong style wonton soup. I'm definitely going back again.

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRay

new favorite place based on the vietnamese sub alone. for $3 it is incredible. can't wait to try everything else.

October 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrob dobi

Ok, my new favorite place. Had the chicken curry soup - outstanding, great flavor with nothing so overpowering that the individual ingredients didn't shine through. Got a roast beef sandwich to go, again, excellent - I was forced to eat . it in the car on my way back to work where i immediately immersed myself (figuratively of course) in the soup. There was enough for 2 , so I reluctantly shared mine.
Next will be the Pate and the seafood noodle, then the pho? perhaps the pho then the seafood noodle? decisions, decisions..........

October 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn brewster

I have tried to call the number listed a few times..is this place open and does anyone know their hours?

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterD Russo

Yeah certainly open Hours are 10:30 am -9:30Pm Phone 203 292 9758

January 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternorman weinberger

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