Slideshow: The Great New York Banh Mi Hackathon

Roast Pork Mi
Roast Pork Mi

A char siu banh mi is a no brainer, and one that plenty of restaurants here have already figured out. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do the same, especially when a serving+ of pork costs $3.50 at Kien Tuong, our man Ed's favorite roast pork in the neighborhood.

Kien Tuong Restaurant: 83 Chrystie Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-966-2878

Banh Ducky
Banh Ducky

Why stop at char siu? Roast duck works just as well, but be sure to pick it off the bone first.

Kien Tuong Restaurant: 83 Chrystie Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-966-2878

Eggplant Mi
Eggplant Mi

Go to New York Mart and pick up a pint of this garlicky, greasy eggplant for four bucks. Stuff a couple forkfuls in your banh mi shell and you have what may be the most satisfying vegetarian sandwich in the neighborhood.

New York Mart: 128 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-680-0178

Banh Pastran-Mi
Banh Pastran-Mi

The trip to Katz's, and the sheepish request at the counter for a few slices of naked pastrami, is well worth it. This is New York in a Vietnamese wrapper, a sandwich we're still thinking about weeks later.

Katz's Delicatessen: 207 East Houston Street, New York, NY 10002 (map); 212-254-2246; katzsdelicatessen.com

Banh Mitzvah
Banh Mitzvah

Yup, that's whitefish salad from Russ & Daughters on there, and this may be the most perfect Jewish-Vietnamese sandwich we've ever tried. (Okay, it's one of the only we've tried, but still.) The fishy-funky-creamy sandwich was the very best of our hackathon, a sandwich that transcended novelty into something genuinely awesome.

Russ & Daughters: 179 East Houston Street, New York, NY 10002 (map); 212-475-4880; russanddaughters.com

Halal Cart Banh Mi
Halal Cart Banh Mi

Ask nicely and any of the the halal carts in Chinatown should be willing to give you some shavings of gyro meat wrapped in foil. The fatty spiced beef and lamb work just as well as pork belly, in their own way, with an added coriander punch.

Banh Kwa Mi
Banh Kwa Mi

Elizabeth Street has a fine source for bak kwa, Malaysian beef and pork jerky, and four bucks buys you a quarter pound of the compressed squares of grilled and spiced meat. When torn up and stuffed in a banh mi, they're Southeast Asian fusion cuisine we can get behind.

Malaysia Beef Jerky: 95A Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-965-0796

Banh Kebab
Banh Kebab

Of the many kebab carts in Chinatown, Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs may be our favorite. Cumin-lamb skewers are the best of the lot, with just enough gamey fat to take the edge off the spice. One or two $1 skewers should be plenty for a single sandwich.

Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs: Corner of Forsyth and Division Streets (map)

Banh Xi'an
Banh Xi'an

If you want even more heat and cumin and lamb in your banh mi, pick up a lamb burger from Xi'an Famous Foods on Bayard and sacrifice the stiff griddled bun. This may be the biggest flavor bomb to ever hit a banh mi.

Xi'an Famous Foods: 67 Bayard Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-608-4170; xianfoods.com

Roast Porchett-Mi
Roast Porchett-Mi

At 1 p.m. the roast porchetta emerges from the oven at Di Palo's, leaking pork juice through cracks in its lacquered skin. You can order as much or as little as you like, though we like to go early to get the extra crusty end pieces. It's something of a splurge for a single banh mi, but one bite is all the justification you need. Leftovers will not take long to dispatch.

Di Palo's: 200 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-226-1033; dipaloselects.com

Porchett-Mi (Budget Version)
Porchett-Mi (Budget Version)

If you don't want to spring for the crusty roast porchetta at Di Palo's, go for a few slices of the cured porchetta behind the counter instead. The paper thin folds of pork are pretty similar to the standard banh mi fillings, but much higher quality. Note to banh mi restaurants: start stocking this stuff!

Di Palo's: 200 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-226-1033; dipaloselects.com

Fish Ball Mi
Fish Ball Mi

Peppered throughout Chinatown are small street carts selling rice rolls with toppings like ground pork and fried fish balls. These sweet and spicy balls come from a cart down the street from Banh Mi Saigon on Grand near Chrystie. A buck or two gets you eight or so bouncy balls, plenty for one sandwich.

Cruller Banh Mi
Cruller Banh Mi

We have a guilty affection for the greasy-as-all-get-out you tiao at 212 Grand Food Corp, and they're sausage shaped, so...why not try them as a banh mi?

Okay, so this worked better in theory than in practice. But we regret nothing.

212 Grand Food Corp: 212 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-966-1350

Banh Crab
Banh Crab

Here's one from our archives, the hack that started it all: the "salt baked" [read: deep fried] soft shell crab from Great NY Noodletown stuffed inside a banh mi. It's as glorious as it sounds; read all about it here.

Great NY Noodletown: 28 Bowery, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-349-0923

[Photograph: Dave Katz]

Tofu Mi
Tofu Mi

When Kenji's search for a good vegan banh mi in the neighborhood came up fruitless, he hacked up his own with fried tofu from 212 Grand Food Corp (we swear, it's a great corner store for all snacky things that are deliciously Chinatown).

212 Grand Food Corp: 212 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-966-1350

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]