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by Tom Marshall
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
A couple of years ago I went motorbiking in Vietnam. It was an epic, 1,000-kilometre adventure across sweeping verdant hills, via unspoilt beaches to the dizzying hustle and bustle of Saigon.
Breathtaking scenery wasn’t all I found – I also discovered the Vietnamese version of the sandwich, the banh mi.
These supercharged French bread sarnies kept me going when veggie food was hard to come by. There was a stall on nearly every corner – and now they’ve come to Wood Green.
Vietnamese cafe and shop Aobaba quietly opened up in the High Road a few months ago serving a small menu of treats, with the banh mis taking pride of place, alongside shelves stacked with exotic imported goods.
The sandwiches are an intoxicating blend of Vietnamese cuisine’s influences, with the familiar chilli kick of south-east Asian food, as well as soy sauce, beansprouts, fresh coriander, and pickled carrots all stuffed into French baguettes – a throwback to the colonial days.
Aobaba 162 High Road, N22 6EB Tube: Wood Green Tel: 020 8888 9080 www.thegaterestaurants.com
Mains: Banh mis from £3.50
Drinks: From £2.50 (no alcohol)
Disabled access: No
Children welcome: Yes
For meat-eaters, there’s pork too, while I had a veggie, soya-based substitute.
These are sandwiches as fresh and delicious as you’ll ever taste – and almost indistinguishable from the real thing back in ’Nam – down to the specially baked bread, which is lighter and crunchier than your average supermarket French stick.
Why did I never think of sticking soy and fresh chilli in a baguette before?
Aside from banh mis, Aobaba’s other speciality is bubble tea, which I’m told is a Taiwanese import. These are sweet drinks filled with squishy little balls, known as tapioca pearls. They come in all sorts of flavours, some fruity, from lychee to mango, and others are milky. They were delightful – though you’ll need a sweet tooth.
I’d love to return to Vietnam one day – but until then I’ll certainly be back to Aobaba for my banh mi fix.