We’re phasing out the Cheap Lunch! series in favor of the more inclusive Incredibly Cheap Eats series—because we like to find cheap eats at all times of day, yes?
Ba Xuyen, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, makes my favorite banh mi. Although those delicious, overstuffed sandwiches certainly qualify as cheap eats (they’re $3.50), Ba Xuyen hawks other affordable goodies that are easy to overlook while in such close proximity those outrageous banh mi. But today I resolved I would not give in to the siren call of the banh mi, but would poke around in the display case warmers for some alternative Ba Xuyen cheap eats.
Banh beo ($2.50 for a large plate) are silver-dollar-sized, jiggly, steamed rice cakes, that can be topped with savory or sweet garnishes. Ba Xuyen splits the difference between sweet and savory, to good effect (although Vietnamese food expert Andrea Nguyen told me sweet-savory was unorthodox, it still tastes great). The cakes are crowned with a bit of coconut cream, a small dollop of slightly sweet mashed mung bean, fried shallots, dried shrimp and ground peanuts. Douse them in fish sauce and carefully convey the goopy, wonderful little bites to your mouth.
It’s easy to love summer rolls, and Ba Xuyen’s rolls ($3.50 for a plate of 3, plus sauce) are impeccably fresh—the rice paper wrap is pleasantly chewy and moist. The translucent paper is stuffed with shrimp, copious greenery, mint and basil, and rice noodles. They’re a serious bargain because they’re almost burrito-sized—they’re the most gigantic summer rolls I’ve ever seen; one plate is actually a large meal.
4222 8th Avenue
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 7, 2008