Mola Mucho: The Big Banh — Vietnamese Sandwiches with a Twist
Malasaña is a gem of a neighborhood, and if I tried to keep up with every new boutique, restaurant, or café I’d literally go mad, or broke… which would inevitably drive me mad. There’s just so much goodness in that neighborhood and like the greedy Pokemon that I am, I have an intense desire to catch (read: eat) them all!
The Big Banh is a new take-away restaurant in the heart of Malasaña on Calle Don Felípe. They serve none other than bánh mì or Vietnamese sandwiches. The interesting part about the history of traditional bánh mì is that they are both fusion and authentic. The ingredients combine cultural influences from France, who occupied Vietnam and Indochina... and Vietnam. If you happen to find yourself roaming the streets of Hanoi, for example, the bánh mì that you’ll find will come loaded with patê, mayonnaise, pork belly, jalapeño, and cilantro all on a fluffy baguette (Vive la France!) What, you thought baguettes were native to Vietnam? Surprise!
The Big Banh is putting Vietnamese bánh mì on the map and for that I am forever grateful. I know I say this often, but cilantro (along with avocado) is one of my favorite foods on the planet. Yes, it’s a food, because I say so. Can you let me be great? I digress.
Now, all the hipsters, and hipsterinas (is that a thing yet?) are walking through Malsaña asking one another if they’ve tried the slow-roasted pork bánh mì with tangy barbecue sauce and mayo from The Big Banh. To be fair, that question is completely valid. They’re good!
The baguette was fresh, and warm, and made me want to lay down my weary head and take a nap on it. I was too busy eating though. The bottom layer is dedicated to sauce: a Japanese mayo and in-house sauce. Then comes the heart of it: you can choose pork, beef, chicken or a tofu and edamame “meatball”. From firsthand experience, the pork, and the tofu and edamame were deserving of a standing ovation, but again, I was too busy stuffing my face. On top of the meat, or filling of your choice, there’s another layer of thinly sliced cucumber and pickled veggies like carrots and red onion. This adds that extra bit of kuh-pow! that average sandwiches are missing. (Huh? Since when do I discriminate against other sandwiches?). Lastly, my favorite part: cilantro. Please, sir, can I have some more? Then, there’s the other half of that fluffy baguette that I mentioned a few lines back. That’s it! Simple, tasty, and satisfying.
The cost of the sandwiches are between 5,50 euros and 5,95 euros. Although there’s only a small bar area with 4 stools, you can in fact eat there in the locale. The sandwiches are a fast, healthy and delicious alternative to that smashed ham & cheese that’s been sitting in your backpack since 8 a.m. Listen, food is to be enjoyed, and even if you have a hectic schedule, there are options. I recommend this restaurant if you’re looking to expand your palate, and jump off the salchichón bandwagon for a few. Go, and pay them a visit! They’re open from Tuesday through Sunday, but take Monday’s off, so keep that in mind before you pop in. The staff was very friendly and attentive, and best of all, they dropped some extra sauce when we asked (because, what are friends for?). They’ve been open for less than a month, so by showing them some love, you help keep these kinds of unique places around.
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.