Subway Versus Nhu Lan – 138 of 365


I will go to great lengths to bring you the best of street treats such as grilled crickets and fertile duck eggs.  The sidewalk is the limit here in terms of foods awaiting the hungry.  In the same vein of delicacies such as hard boiled duck embryos that give us such great dietary pause, I ventured forth into a Subway.  Yep, Subway.  The one and only.  The same sandwich outlet imploring us to east fresh back home is sprouting all over District 1.  It’s an American invasion of a different sort and I wonder how successful this one will pan out given that it is competing against the amazing homegrown bánh mì.

As I am sure Subway has passed down most everyone’s gullet, I will compare one of its six inch subs to a bánh mì of a more local nature.  50,000VND ($2.50) buys a six inch ham sandwich at the Subway inside the Intercontinental Hotel, and I do love the juxtaposition of crappy American fast food inside a five star luxury hotel.   If a patron did not know better, this could be a location at some gas station in Macon, Georgia it’s that authentic looking right down to the plastic bags and interior décor.  And as a side note and some food for though, why are they selling sandwiches measured by inches in a country on the metric system?

Nhu Lan

This sub would be very much at home in East Podunk, USA with that signature spongy bread lacking texture other than softness easily wadded up into something the size of golf ball were we to be so inclined.   The toppings surely must be flown in as such unripe jewels just aren’t available in any Saigon market I’ve seen.  A few anemic slices of processed ham and cheese were hidden inside that dough mass, and the jalapenos luckily singed my tongue enough that all further tastes were blunted.  Perhaps that is a good thing.

Across the downtown core is a famous sandwich stand called Nhu Lan at 50 Ham Nghi Street just across from the Bitexco Tower.  This is where it’s at for eating fresh food.  Rather than some artificially round piece of ham spawned in a factory test tube, the meat on Nhu Lan’s rotating spit looks like a real animal.   As each portion is sliced away, the next layer of tender meat is charred to perfection.  A crispy baguette with fluffy insides is the perfect vessel to hold the fresh bacon tasting meat, sour pickled vegetables, cilantro, hot peppers, green onion, and mayonnaise mixed with butter.  What a great mix of flavors and textures for just over a dollar.

Which would you prefer?  Thought so.  So do I.  Nhu Lan purveys perfection on bread and has been in business at the downtown location since 1968.  It’s obviously survived war, and something tells me it can more than hold its own against the Subway proliferation.  I’ve been back several times and hope everyone out there tries a proper bánh mì soon whether here or at any other stand in Saigon or a city near you.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

One Comment on “Subway Versus Nhu Lan – 138 of 365”

  1. May 8, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    I don’t think Subway belongs in VN, the land of the much better and less expensive sub (bánh mì).

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