I grew up in a household that loved eating banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich filled with delicious meats and pickles. While there are many varieties, my two favorites are the popular thit nguoi (ham and headcheese with pate and mayo) and the meatball sandwich. The sandwiches are so close to home for me, so I consider it as my ultimate Vietnamese comfort food.
I have a huge love for good Vietnamese mayo that's handmade - it's so rich and dreamy. I grew up with my mom making her own pate and mayo at home. She'd serve it with some toasty French bread. It felt like my mouth died and went to heaven after each bite.
Patrick and I recently went to Banh Mi Ba Le in East Oakland and it was so close to home and damn good. It's been difficult to find good Vietnamese food in my area that can compete with San Jose's delicious quality, but Banh Mi Ba Le meets that high bar.
The banh mi thit nguoi has a fair amount of meat and veggies but not piled high as some that I've had in the past. The bread was fresh, toasty and fluffy on the inside. Pickles were great. The pate and mayo were spot on perfect.
They also serve the best meatball banh mi that I've ever had, especially with a fried egg.
I was excited to see that they served fresh sugar cane juice, so I bought a cup. It was delicious.
Their soybean milk is made in-house daily and it tasted rich and flavorful. It reminded me of my mom's homemade soymilk. The best part is the soybean milk isn't watered down as most I've had at other places.
We also ordered the pate chaud, but instead of a flaky baked dough, it was fried and almost resembled a Latin-influenced empanada. The pork sausage filling really made it delicious - one of the best fillings I've had.
Lastly, we had the chuối nếp nướng, which is Vietnamese grilled banana sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf. It was wonderful and had the perfect texture, stickiness, amount of coconut milk, and sweetness. I only wish there were more bananas in the filling.
Overall, I really love this place and I would highly recommend it. It's been our main go-to spot for Vietnamese food.
Banh Mi Ba Le, 1909 International Blvd. Oakland, CA 94606