I love Tai Nam Market. I grew up walking around the market when it was half the size that it is today. The crowded aisles, the screaming kids and the smell of spices linger in the air when you step in. Years ago, I noticed a display by the entrance doors contained freshly baked bread AND banh mi sandwiches. Sadly, I always knew of those sandwiches, but never purchased one! Recently, I decided this needed to be amended and purchased 2 original styled banh mis for after shopping consumption.
When I looked at the sandwiches available, I saw that there were two suppliers of banh mi. One from Nhu Lan Bakery and the other was from somewhere else. I did not take note of other supplier because 1) everyone bought Nhu Lan, 2) there were so many sandwiches left from the other supplier that I wasn’t sure if it was even good and 3) didn’t want to risk it. On the left was Nhu Lan and the right was the other banh mi supplier. Clearly, Nhu Lan was more popular. I also purchased some mini baguettes to make some home made yakisoba sandwiches.
If you take a look around by the entrance way, there are freshly made rice noodle dishes and finger food snacks to be purchased. You can tell because they’re all packaged on styrofoam and saran wrapped with a plain white sticker dictating the name of the food inside with an ingredient list. There’s also sweet and savory breads that come into the market, plus steamed roll cakes to be purchased.
The cups that are laying on the shelves in bright colors are called chè. They’re sweet dessert soups or puddings and they come in a variety of styles. Most are made with a variety of beans, glutinous rice and coconut milk. While these are pre-made, you can also get these from local Vietnamese restaurants. Be warned though, many can be pre-made in advance and can be a bit gummy in mouth feel after sitting out so sometimes it can be hard to get them freshly made. I heard one way of getting a fresh chè is to go to Ba Le in the morning when they first put out freshly made chè.
I really love chè and was first introduced to it in Virginia (Eden, for those wondering) by a friend of mine. I got a freshly made chè (from a store that specialized in chè) with a ton of toppings on a really hot summer day and it was delicious. The right dessert on that hot and humid day. ANYWAY, enough rambling on chè 🙂 , back to the bani mi on hand…
Here’s the Nhu Lan Bakery Banh Mi in Original. You may be wondering, what is the original flavor? To quote wikipedia, original is a classic banh mi and “is made with various Vietnamese cold cuts such as sliced pork, chicken, or turkey roll, and head cheese, along with the liver pâté and salad ingredients.”
Looking at it, I thought the banh mi was solid. The bread and fillings looked good. As for my first bites?
EXCELLENT! And I have to admit, even though this sandwich probably sat in the bread bin at Tai Nam for a few hours, wow, this sandwich was really solid.
A few more bites in yielded pickled carrots and daikon, a creamy interior, very tasty cold cuts, some cucumber, cilantro and a bit of jalapeno pepper. This banh mi is better than Ba Le’s original sandwich. I gobbled this banh mi up really quickly while I walked home. Thank goodness I purchased two! One for the road and one for dinner. If you ever get a chance, give Nhu Lan Bakery a chance via Tai Nam Market.
And while you’re a Tai Nam Market, check out their ice cream freezer by the check out lanes, they contain Village Creamery ice cream! Village Creamery is a local Filipino run ice cream place that creates and serves wonderfully flavored ice cream such as halo halo (think Filipino version of che), ube (purple yam), and green tea.
Tai Nam Market Center
4925 N. Broadway St.
Chicago, IL 60640