In the late 70’s, our mayor, the forward-thinking Marion Dewar, took the principled position of welcoming Vietnamese refugees to Ottawa. I still remember the outcry and thinly veiled racism heard on AM radio at the time.
Today, just as it's impossible for people of all backgrounds to imagine life without Chinese food, so is it terrible to imagine the streets of Ottawa or Gatineau without a Pho or Banh Mi shop.
Banh Mi simply means “bread” and in Vietnam when Banh Mi is asked for it's understood that it will come with a meat and vegetable filling. Typically this means a variety of hams, pickled vegetables, butter, Vietnamese mayonnaise, a few dashes of Maggi (an umami intense seasoning developed in Switzerland circa 1868) or soy sauce and of course, a delicious pate.
The creator of, what I will call Ottawa’s finest Banh Mi, Phoebe Ha, takes this humble staple very seriously. From a commercial kitchen in Kanata, she not only makes the unctuous pate, pork belly and pickles that fill her sandwiches, she begins her day at 2 a.m. to start the three-hour process of proofing the bread. Yes, she bakes every single bun to order. After the sandwiches are ready, she delivers them personally. This is dedication to quality and it exemplifies a deep pride in tradition.
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