Lee’s Pho is one of the shops in the Food Court of Assi Supermercado in Duluth, and one easily overlooked in the wash of Chinese noodle shops and bulgogi on a bun. But I had a reader note that banh mi could be found in Assi, and that was enough to make me want to try the sandwich at this shop.

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The sandwich I chose goes by the letter-number designation of “S3”, though that seemed to confuse the staff. “Pork sandwich” worked much better. On the take out menu it’s called a charbroiled pork sandwich and is decently sized when it arrived. They’re reasonably cheap, $3 each, and the sixth one is free if you order 5. To feed a family of six two sandwiches each would cost just $30.00.

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I got my sandwich late enough I wasn’t expecting excellence. The bread seemed a little sweet and was good, but wasn’t the perfection you get when the bread comes right out of the oven. The pork was cold but tasty. There was a bit of a yellow condiment (probably mustard), pork, a white vegetable and plenty of jalapeño slices. Yes, not the perfection of a banh mi straight out of the oven on Buford Highway, but a lot of balance and plenty good. And it’s close to where I live, less than 15 minutes away by car. And if I want to bring lunch to work, this is an easy stop along the way.

Lee’s Pho
1630 Pleasant Hill Road, #A1
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 931-8868

Lee's Pho on Urbanspoon

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I’ve been following places to eat banh mi (see here, here, and here) and posts on banh mi for a while, but this latest from the New York Times did catch my eye. There is a new twist on this favorite, the banh mi doner kebab, half Turkish kebab, half Vietnamese sandwich.

Has anyone seen one in the greater Metro area yet?

I recently made a couscous stir fry, whose recipe I won’t post, as it’s mostly identical to the quinoa stir-fry I posted earlier.  There is one exception, however. I substituted shallots for onions when I did this one, just to see how it would turn out. They turned transparent really really fast, so fast I was a little afraid of burning them. This left me a little interested in finding out what other people did with shallots, as they mostly seem to be this “fancy onion” that people use in this dish or that.

Poking around the Internet, I found this excellent article about shallots on Michael Ruhlman’s blog. His comments, including one about adding a spoonful of shallots to a panful of sauteed mushrooms, are really worth noting. Other online articles, such as this one from about.com, call the shallot a cross between onion and garlic and a milder version of both. The Chowhound site has an interesting article about what to do with 5 pounds of shallots. But the surprise of the browsing day was running into this article from the blog White on Rice, which talks about making banh mi (and the article is just fantastic). Turns out they also publish a blog named  Battle of the Banh Mi, and it has some really cool articles all its own, such as this one on the fillings of banh mi. The blog is collecting opinions about what is good and where, and for opinions about banh mi in Atlanta, Georgia, the appropriate link is here.

I’m down to 2 boonie pepper plants as the others managed to die. I suspect, after some consideration, that surrounding peat pellets with fertilized potting soil just isn’t enough, and that you need to fertilize the plants in the pellets. I’ve been doing that (using Miracle Gro at indoor strength) and the size increase in my remaining two plants is substantial. They are in pop bottle greenhouses for now, which does wonders for their humidity:

Boonie pepper in 2 liter soda bottle greenhouse.

Boonie pepper in 2 liter soda bottle greenhouse.

And in the meantime, 12 seeds from floralys are in a Jiffy ‘box’ for now:

floralys boonie seeds in jiffy peat pellets

floralys boonie seeds in jiffy peat pellets

I’ve been collecting links about banh mi, reading them when I can.  Articles in the New York Times and in the Village Voice reference a food writer named Andrea Nguyen in part of their stories. Andrea’s blog, Viet World Kitchen, is certainly a worthwhile read. Andrea’s claim is that banh mi is not a Vietnamese-French hybrid, but rather distinctly Vietnamese. What interests me in this trio of stories is the evolution of the sandwich and the care necessary to make it. For example, in the Times article, they note that to be really good banh mi, the bread can be no more than three hours old.

But to run a banh mi shop is to race against death.

“Bread dies after three hours,” said Michael Huynh, a Vietnamese-American chef who has recently opened two new-style banh mi shops, both called Baoguette, in Manhattan.

The Vietnamese dedication to excellent, fresh baguettes is total. Using stale bread is the gravest offense a maker of banh mi can commit. In Vietnam, and in high-tech local bakeries (like Paris Bakery, in Manhattan’s Chinatown), baguettes for banh mi are baked all day long; one chain in California claims fresh baguettes every 20 minutes.

For those who might be interested in making banh mi, there is this intriguing post by the blogging couple A Good Appetite, who riffs off an Emeril recipe to make their own banh mi.

In Lilburn, a block east of the turnoff to Ronald Reagan on Pleasant Hill, there are a pair of Dominican stores, one of which calls itself a Dominican restaurant and bakery. I’m hoping to find time to visit there in the near future.

Quoc Huong is a restaurant that Eat Buford Highway and Blissful Glutton have pointed out as having good banh mi, a kind of Vietnamese sandwich with some French influence. Anyway, I was hungry, heading home, had just a few dollars, and stopped here for a quick bite. I’d never had the sandwich before and really wasn’t sure if the prices quoted could be correct.

Physically, this restaurant is on Buford Highway, in Asian Square, and close to Pho Hoa. I had no idea where to buy anything, but a waitress came out to me, as I was standing, and took an order.

All I can say is, yes, they’re $2.50 each, they’re very good. I had one sandwich, the barbecue, and it was delicious. The bread is crusty, really tasty and the filling had enough flavor and spice to please. Next time I’ll make sure I have $10 in my pocket.

Verdict: recommended. The banh mi is good and cheap.

Quoc Huong
5150 Buford Hwy NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Quoc Huong on Urbanspoon

Update: John Kessler’s Buford Highway tour also has a review of Quoc Huong. The commentary on Mr. Kessler’s AJC article is also well worth reading.