Queens offers every kind of Asian food: Indian, Indonesian, Korean, Thai, and a plethora of regional Chinese. The void in this wonderland of ethnic eats has always been the bánh mì, or Vietnamese sandwich. This is because until last week there were no delis, or jewelry store-delis specializing in Vietnamese sandwiches. Sure, a few restaurants offer a serviceable version, notably Phở Bắc in Elmhurst, but for the most part bánh mì in Queens are little more than ham sandwiches with a Vietnamese accent.
Enter Golden Vietnam Bakery. I almost fell over when I encountered what is surely Queens's first bánh mì specialist on the first floor of Flushing's Golden Shopping Mall. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief at the guy sitting at the counter happily eating a Vietnamese sandwich.
Not only does Golden Vietnam serve four kinds of bánh mì, there are several types of phở.
At top is Golden Vietnam's take on what's typically called a special or #1 ($3.75) elsewhere. Perfectly toasted bread is stuffed with roast pork, ham, pork liver pâté, pork roll, and the standard accoutrements of cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, and cilantro. First time around it was tasty, but not yet firing on all cylinders. There was no Asian mayo and the crumbled pork was a tad wet.
I advised the manager to take a trip into Manhattan and buy some Vietnamese sandwiches and reverse engineer them. The second time around there was a thin coating of Asian mayo and the crumbled pork was nicely crisped with little brown bits. Ordered spicy, it came with some bright green jalapeños that didn't quite provide enough heat. This was easily remedied by pouring a slurry of fish sauce and Sriracha directly into the Hanoi hoagie.
Is Golden Vietnam's #4, or short rib bánh mì ($5.50) traditional? Hard to care, when it's packed with delicious bits of braised beef with just a hint of anise. It was inspired by kalbi tang, or Korean short rib soup.
Short ribs make another appearance in the #10 ($6), a bowl of phở teeming with meaty chunks. Some of the pieces were a bit tough and could have been cooked a little longer, but I'm sure this will improve with time.
It is possible to pick up the hefty short ribs with chopsticks, but sometimes it's best to use your hands. (For the record, this hunk of beef was cooked perfectly.)
Golden Vietnam also sells two other sandwiches that I've yet to try: chicken ($4.25) and a fish ($5.50). Where most other bánh mì joints use the lowly sardine, these guys are using eel. Now, that's what I call a bánh mì specialist.
Golden Vietnam Bakery
Stall D1, D2 (upper level) Golden Shopping Mall 41-28 Main St, Flushing NY 11355 (map)