Bánh Mì Chả Lụa Sausage Sandwich – 196 of 365

Sandwich On The Train

A few amazing meals will hopefully be the tasty byproducts of a few days spent in Phan Thiet researching for a magazine article.  Taking the train to this beachside town was a tactical miscalculation of mammoth proportions on my part.  Why did I think this would be a serene jaunt through rice paddies while basking in the calm of a “Quiet Car” such as on Amtrak or trains in Europe?

Riding the rails in Vietnam brought me up close and personal with a festering miasma from hell.  A steady symphony of loud throat clearing, loud coughing, loud cell phone chatter, loud music, loud video games, and even louder children swelled around us, and every five minutes the guy next to me would expel a forceful “haaaaaiiiishaaaaaaa” as he yawned and stretched his arms into my face.  Moreover, every fifteen minutes he would deliver some noxious, rotten egg, sulfuric gut rot odors of a silent but deadly kind from his other end all while picking his nose.

The back of my ticket warned against bringing on board any foul smelling objects such as durian, fish sauce, or dried fish.  I suppose a baby’s butt squeeze fails to rise to a high enough level of offensiveness to warrant a ban.  Our journey had launched with the fake Gucci tee shirt wearing young mother across from me in our club seating changing her toddler’s turd packed diaper on the communal table.  Her husband then dispensed with his shoes and continually groped our immediate area with his funk filled bare feet.

Bánh Mì Chả Lụa

I watched similar scenes transpiring all around me.  Eight unruly children in the middle of the car sucked down one sugar packed snack after another, and I prayed their carb fueled high would crash them into oblivion before the four hour journey ended.  Sometimes even the most urgent of prayers go unanswered.  For one hour straight they tossed a grey sweatshirt across the aisle while screaming.  Indoor voices are evidently not a concept in Vietnam.  I silently cheered when one rather rotund specimen of a little girl fought over it with her equally obese brother and the sleeve tore away from the cheap looking garment.

Before leaving Saigon, two women had dragged a giant garbage bag down the aisle and from its depths emerged sandwiches placed on each seating area’s table.  Thank God each banh mi was sheathed in a plastic protective wrapper bearing the name of My Loan Bakery in District 3.  This train car looked like 50 year old Soviet Union surplus, and if the four hours of germ and bacteria spewing passengers I witnessed are any indication, I shudder to think how unkind the decades have been to our poor wood table.   I am glad that luck had caused me to remove my sandwich prior to the five second rule’s expiration since I truly believe no amount of plastic barrier could protect its contents much longer than that.

Three anemic pieces of chả lụa, or pork sausage, and some super thin slices of cucumber seemed woefully out of scale with the giant baguette.  The spongy bologna like meat tasted vaguely of soy and fish sauces but the overwhelming amount of bread muted any flavors.  My tastes have evolved to enjoy this chả lụa made by pounding pork into a paste and placing it along with spices in a banana leaf before boiling it to firmness.  The bread was quite good with an outer shell as thin as a potato chip concealing sweet, fluffy insides.

The sandwich was a nice two minute distraction from the circus swirling around me.  All this sensory overload was going down in the airconditioned first class car.  I shudder to think of the scene back in the unaircondtioned steerage compartments.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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