Question: Okay, I get it. The Vietnamese sandwich is a cross-cultural miracle, a conqueror of worlds, an emperor of the lunch hour. They taste pretty good, I’ll give you that. But do I really have to drive all the way to Rosemead? For a sandwich? If this sandwich were really all-powerful, it would be sold from the roach coach that parks in front of my office every day instead of the neatly wrapped bundle of gristle the proprietor laughingly calls a chicken burrito, but I’ll settle for a place in Hollywood or Los Feliz. —Pete, Hollywood Answer: I have always found the Vietnamese sandwiches, banh mi, at Buu-Dien in Chinatown to be better than good, even at the present historical moment, a time when the best places in Rosemead and Santa Ana feature house-made charcuterie, house-pickled condiments, and hot baguettes that are practically baked to order. Buu-Dien’s delicate sandwiches have deep soul, also a funky liver paste that is pretty irresistible. But the newish KP’s Deli in Silver Lake, a spare takeout joint tucked into what looks like the back of a travel agency, is a sandwich shop of a different order: Owner Khuong Pham, who spent years running giant commercial kitchens, also serves banh mi, but supersized to Philadelphia-hoagie proportions, massive portions of shredded chicken, sweetened beef or even tofu, crammed with cilantro, Vietnamese pickled vegetables and plenty of sliced chiles into muscular, crusty baguettes. It must be the culmination of a trencherman’s dream, banh mi as robust as a meatball hero; and although the sandwiches are about triple the price of their suave Rosemead brethren, it must be noted that most of them are still $6 or $7 a shot — even the mighty, charcuterie-stuffed banh mi dac biet, which KP’s has inelegantly dubbed the Kold Kut. KP’s Deli, 2616 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 913-1818. Got a burning culinary question? Try us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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