Thursday, September 01, 2005

Silicon Valley, CA - Lee's Sandwiches

A quick bite of a lunch post for my equally brief lunch break. I'm a huge fan of Vietnamese sandwiches, which owe much of their existance to the French colonization of Vietnam. Among the food transfusions was the baguette, which metamorphosed into a more delicate, airy piece of bread called banh mi, with the Vietnamese addition of rice flour into the dough.

Into my banh mi dac biet sandwich goes a variety of cured meats, including hogshead cheese (pressed and salted gelatinous tendons), steamed pork rolls (pulverized pork with subtle peppery seasoning and a bland beige cast), pale-rose pink ham, and a thin coat of pate. A translucent creamy oil emulsion, somehow lighter but richer than Western-style mayonaise, coats one side of the bread. The other side is crammed full with slivers of pickled daikon (long, white turnip) and carrot, paper-thin onion, super fresh cilantro, and mouth-numbing fresh green chili pepper slices. Topped off with a dash of salt and pepper, this is sophisticated and refreshing, odd as it may seem to categorize a sandwich as "refreshing".

The result is an irresistible combination of salty, spicy, sweet, and creamy/crispy, chewy, crunchy, flaky, so neatly created with simple, fresh ingredients. Each restaurant/deli has their own bread and filling recipes and proportions of ingredients, and I have a few favorites hidden in various nooks of San Jose and Oakland.

Part of my love affair stems from the sheer economy; Vietnamese sandwiches are super affordable, ranging from $1-3. If Vietnamese culture were to have a "fast food", this would be it (except, it's actually healthy!). One enterprising family has set up an ever-growing chain of sandwich places. Their success has grown beyond the family however, and one recent issue they've had to address was whether or not to keep the empire in family control, or to bring others in to help it grow further. If you're located in the southern portion of the Bay Area, you're probably in the neighborhood of one of their 26 establishments. Lee's Sandwiches offers a customer-friendly variety of Vietnamese basics such as guoi cuon (rice paper shrimp rolls) and mung bean-based desserts, banh mi (refers to both the word "bread" and the sandwiches themselves), and lunch meat and cheese western-style sandwiches snuggled in croissants. They're worth checking out for a quick, inexpensive meal, although their bread is a bit more on the French crusty side, than the Vietnamese fragile crispness that you'll find at smaller sandwich establishments. Still, pretty good!

Lee's Sandwiches
939 W. El Camino Real #108
Sunnyvale, CA 94087


Anonymous Jen said...

i LOVE banh mi and lee's especially! we frequent the irvine location as much as we can :)

7:41 PM  
Blogger foodie said...

It's good stuff! Have you had the french bread with custard filling? Mmmmmmmm... yummy. I also like taking the baguettes home, then slicing them thinly, drizzling them with olive oil and toasting them, and topping with pate.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous apple said...

a friend and i both had serious *ahem* digestive problems when we both went to sunnyvale Lee's on the same day. we suspect it was the bread since her boyfriend later had problems after eating the bread she took home too. tasty and cheap as it is, it'll be a while before i go back.

11:43 PM  

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