Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Banh Mi in the Bronx

Finally, another good source of munchies in the Bronx!

Long ago, I had resigned myself to the culinary drought that is known as the Bronx (a.k.a. my neighborhood.) Okay, so there are great options - if you're into Puerto Rican, Dominican or other Spanish influenced meals. And--thank goodness--there is also the Philipino Food Centre on Gunhill, which can satisfy the odd, itchy craving for Sapin Sapin (assuming it hits sometime before 7 pm. No midnight Philippino snacks for you!) If you live around White Plains road, there's also a cornucopia of West Indian joints. But Asian food? Not so much. And on busy days, Chinatown seems a looooong train ride away.

But thanks to a lead from Chowhound, there's now another option - a mix of Asian groceries, Thai desserts and even good old Vietnamese Banh Mi . All available near the Kingsbridge exit - a quick two subway stops off the end of the D train!

Despite the obligatory Micky Dees, the area around Kingsbridge/Grand Concourse has alot of culinary potential. Near the train entrance--near the historical Poe Cottage--there's the Cambodian grocery store known as Battambang. Located at 2654 Valentine Avenue, it's stocked with the basics - including plenty of sauces, a few prepackaged desserts and even fresh durian, pre-chopped for convenience.

As you head down East Kingbridge, several West Indian restaurants become evident - advertising cornmeal, oxtail and other ethnic munchies. On Jerome itself (2649 Jerome Avenue) there's even an African market. It's pretty sparse, but packed with a few solid staples (including Banku and Fufu powder, and Shito pepper sauce.) Phnom Penh-Nha Trang Market is right next door, at 2639 Jerome Avenue. Like Battambang, Phnom Penh has prepackaged goodies...and a decent supply of sauces, canned groceries, and other Asian stuff for the kitchen cupboard.

Then there's Phung Hung Cafe - the Vietnamese restaurant located right across the street (2614 Jerome Avenue, off 193rd.) And yes - they gots the Banh Mi. While not the best rendition in the city, the Phung Hung version has all the good, downhome basics you'd expect in a Vietnamese hoagie - they're cheap, spicy and tasty, and available in three separate varieties (meatball, grilled pork or ground ham.) (Bless them, they even made a custom veggie version for my good ole' vegan self.)

If sandwiches aren't your style, be assured that the menu offers plenty of other Vietnamese basics. There are grab n' go munchies at the counter - ranging from Goi Cuon (fresh shrimp spring rolls) to the rainbow colored glutinous rice dessert known as Banh Da Long. Other options include rice dishes (com), noodle dishes (bun) and lots of Pho. There are beverages too - from Da Chanh Lemonade to strong Vietnamese coffee/condensed milk - and a particularly refreshing drink known as Si Muoi, made from ice water flavored with salty preserved plum. Decent food, at decent prices. But what's truly refreshing is the simple existance of a Vietnamese restaurant, located in the heart of the Bronx. Okay, so it's not directly in my neighborhood. But it's close enough for a quick jaunt. And that's all that a Gaijin Girl could ask for!

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