Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Food truck lunch: Hoangie's Banh Mi on Wheels
I love sandwiches, and I think banh mi is one of my favorites. It has everything I like, crispy-crusted baguette, crunchy hot jalapeno, cool cucumber and herbal cilantro, tangy pickled daikon and carrot, a bit of pate, maybe a smear of mayo, and whatever meat, tofu, sausage, chicken or cold cuts you fancy. I always tell myself that I’m only eating half; I’ll save the rest for later, but end up scarfing the whole thing.
Hoangie’s Banh Mi on Wheels’ menu is short and sweet, with five sandwich choices, cha gio, shrimp tempura, and banh mi sliders in a banh bao bun. You can add an egg to any sandwich for a dollar.
The sandwiches are on the pricey side at $8. I went with the Hoangie Oink, marinated pork shoulder and all the usual accompaniments. Although the ingredients are clearly listed (and pictured) on the menu, the friendly guy who took my order checked twice to be sure that I wanted jalapenos. Either I look like a wimp or there have been some hot pepper misunderstandings with the customers.
It’s a pretty big sandwich, so the price isn’t entirely out of line. Lots of meat. Sadly, it wasn’t well-cooked meat. Dry, mushy and flavorless, it was clearly overcooked. Also disappointing were the skimpy additions of pickles and jalapeno. A lot of the pleasure in a banh mi comes from the balance of hot and cool, spicy and tangy, crunchy and soft, but the textures were off, and the meat overwhelmed everything else.
I’ll give Hoangie’s another try, though. I hear that the panko crusted tofu banh mi is good, and the cha gio was getting raves from other diners. I want to try those sliders, too.
You can find Hoangie’s Banh Mi on Wheels through social media sites.