If Robson can be declared the Ramen corridor, then Kingsway should really be known as the street of Banh Mi. Just drive down the blocks in between 12th and Knight. You'll find Ba Le, Tung Hing, Empress Bakery and Kim Chau among others. So on my ongoing quest to find the best Banh Mi or Vietnamese sub, I stopped in at Kim Chau. It was fairly busy inside and the lady behind the counter asked me what I wanted. I replied, "one of each, except for the vegetarian". Her response was, "we only have #1, we sold out of the others!". Uh... really? How come I see meats galore in the store? That really confused me. Whatever, I got 3 of the "Specials" to go. Otherwise known as the Banh Mi đặc biệt, the sub consists of Vietnamese ham, headcheese, pate, pickled veggies, cilantro, hot peppers, butter mayo and fish sauce on a crusty baguette. I have to say right now that for $3.00, the Special Banh Mi at Kim Chau is one of the best values I've seen to date in the GVRD. Sure, Empress is only $2.75; but it is not remotely as big as the one at Kim Chau. It is easily a third size longer than the one from Ba Le. In terms of taste, it was a bit heavy on the fish sauce. Despite this, I could still taste the ample pate and meats. The baguette was not too dense and very crusty as a result of the "Quizno's"-type oven.
Unsatisfied at only being able to try one of their 6 available subs, I returned the next day. I asked a younger lady at the counter, "are all the subs available today???". She replied, "if I'm here, they are all available!". Turns out she is the daughter and the mom does not like making any of the other subs. Apparently, the daughter had asked her mom why all of the other meats were not used during her time away. Mom had claimed no one had asked for any sub other than #1. Hey! I asked for other subs! LOL!!! All the daughter could do was shake her head... So, I got my wish today and tried 3 more of their available subs starting with the Satay Beef. Although, I found the meat to be on the chewier side, it was very flavourful. It had a pronounced sweetness to it with only a slight hit of spice and saltiness. The result was a very tasty sub since all of the other ingredients were quite mild except for the hot peppers. Oh, and the daughter asked me if her mother had offered me hot peppers. Nope. All she could do was laugh and shake her head... For the next sub, I picked a relatively boring one in the
Shredded Chicken. Not really something I'd chose for myself; yet some people don't want spicy or weird meat. As expected, it was pretty bland. The chicken was tender though and the crusty baguette was the necessary texture needed for such a texturally challenged ingredient. This time around, there was less fish sauce which made the subs less salty. Probably mother liked to load up on the fish sauce too.
The last sub was the Marinated Pork which is actually a prepared pork product that is quite sweet. The texture reminds me of a cross between jerky and spam. I know, that doesn't sound great; but believe me, I like the slight chewiness that is still soft at the same time. Despite being predominantly sweet, the pork worked for me since it contrasts well with the fish sauce, pickled veggies and hot peppers. A nice balance of flavours if you get everything in one bite. Strange that I have never visited this place before, it has been around for 20 years! Well, I guess I'll be returning for more Banh Mi, as long as the daughter is around.
- One of the largest Banh Mi in town
- Generally all taste good with the Special reigning supreme
- Uniformly crusty baguette, especially right out of the toaster
- When it's only mom there, you only have one choice of Banh Mi