A few months ago, cousin E left for a year's study abroad in London. Again, auntie H generously offered up her place. Then, when she asked cousin E what I was up to these days, the blog came up. And guess what? Turns out, without knowing it was me, auntie H reads the blog too! :)
Of course, when I asked what auntie H was up to, the biggest news was that she and a friend are opening a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) stall at the Sunday UpMarket. Mon Me, mom's (or mum's if you're Aussie or English) recipes, starts Sunday, October 18, in fact!
I asked her why she decided to sell banh mi, especially since she's busy with a day job the rest of the week. Auntie H said she felt there weren't enough places in central London selling Vietnamese sandwiches.
"We are really passionate about our banh mi and felt that if we brought it to London, it would become as popular as it is in Sydney... where you can find a good banh mi ANYWHERE," said auntie H. "I miss having big Asian supermarkets where you can get fresh meat/seafood/veggies at a really good price. They don't have places like Little Saigon in London."
Granted this was years ago and I didn't really know where to go at the time, but the entire three months that I worked in London, the only Vietnamese restaurant I could remember seeing was in Greenwich. I didn't think the restaurant looked authentic and I didn't want my friends' introduction to Vietnamese food to be bad, so we didn't go in. Oh! How I missed readily available and good Vietnamese food when I lived there!
"We tried the new banh mi places, but still felt that ours was better," said auntie H. "I've tried banh mi all over the world -- LA, Paris, NYC, Vietnam, but none compares to the Sydney banh mi, which is similar to ours, but we've added our own twist."
So she started Mon Me with a friend from high school, who somehow ended up in London too. They've been testing out recipes for months and months.
Ingredients include a slow-cooked pork belly that's tender and oozing with flavor, said auntie H. And cha lua (Vietnamese steamed pork loaf) that's steamed in the traditional style with banana leaves for aroma and flavor. Everything is made from scratch, except the baguettes, which come from a local baker.
Great! Send me a photo and I will tell my London readers about your banh mi I told auntie H. And she sends me this. Aww, nicely packaged for the market, except she's not thinking like a food blogger! People want to see what they'll be eating. Where are all the homecooked ingredients she told me about?
Then she sent close-up photos, but in tiny thumbnail sizes.
Bigger photos please!
Finally! Much better! Here's the slow-cooked pork and chicken fillings. Ooh! More enticing, yeah?
How 'bout this? The Vietnamese pork loaf steamed in banana leaves that she mentioned. Aaah!
Put it all together, and you'll get this! Now, don't you want to rush out and try her banh mi!?
I joked that she's not really using her mom's recipe if her pate recipe came from me. (I think that's how she originally found my blog?)
"The pate recipe has been changed...," said auntie H. "...to my mum's. Ha!"
Hmm. I should've asked her mom for her recipe then when she came last December for cousin Q's older brother's wedding.
Apparently, there's also a "secret sauce" for the banh mi that auntie H won't tell me.
So if you're in London and have a hankering for banh mi, come try auntie H's! Tell her I sent ya!
Updated October 19, 2009:
Auntie H says she sold out in 3.5 hours so do come early! She'll be closed next week so check the website for updates on hours, menu, and specials before going.
Updated November 1, 2010:
Mon Me is moving to a new location so check their website or follow them on Mon Me Twitter for updates on where and when.
Mon Me: Vietnamese Baguettes and More
Sunday (Up)Market (corner of Dray Walk and Hanbury Street)
The Old Truman Brewery
London, E1 6QL
(Tube – Aldgate east/Liverpool Street)
Sundays only, 10 a.m. to 5pm, or until they sell out
1 year ago today, Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste).
2 years ago today, crimini, king oyster, monkey head, and shiitake mushrooms in my Cream of Four Mushroom Soup.