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It’s a colonial food, pure and simple. The word banh mi captures the general idea of wheat bread in Vietnam, but more specifically a baguette-style loaf packed full of delicious fillings.
Like many food elements and bits of language itself, this sandwich is closely allied with the French occupation of countries in southeast Asia. Banh mi sandwiches may have begun life as a blend of wheat and rice flours, but no matter how you slice them, they are a sandwich analogous to hoagies, grinders, po’boys and subs. Torpedoes too, like at Hogtails in Waterloo.
The sandwich usually comes with a different range of fillings from sardines and sate chicken to pressed meats, sausage and pork. That then is teamed up with a cucumbers, carrots and a sprig of cilantro. There is usually some sort of hot sauce and mayonnaise that are also part of the ingredients inside the crisp bread.
At Hot Wheels Tea House in Uptown Waterloo, a place that flies somewhat under the radar, the banh mi is part of a simple lunch — and one that with soup and a beverage is less than $10. The small restaurant also sells a variety of other dishes and baked goods as well as bubble teas.