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Fresno goes crazy for banh mi sandwiches

If it seems like we at The Bee have been getting a little excited about the Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches lately, it’s because it’s true. The sandwiches, popular among Vietnamese folks for years, have been making their way into the mainstream in Fresno — and with good reason. They’re downright yummy. The sandwiches feature a crisp French bread (stemming from the French rule of Vietnam from 1883 to 1954, by the way), with cold-cut style meats and sometimes head cheese, a pate of ground meat, and vegetables such as daikon, cilantro, jalapenos, carrots and cucumber.

You can learn how to make them at home here. You can find out more about banh mi is driving Huong Lan restaurant’s expansion here. Huong Lan now has two locations, one at 4965 N. Fresno St., behind the CVS at Shaw Avenue and the new one at Clovis Avenue and Kings Canyon Road next to the new Food Maxx.

If you’re like me, you’ve been pronouncing banh mi wrong. According to “The Banh Mi Handbook” author Andrea Nguyen, it’s pronounced “bun mee.” (Luckily, restaurant owners are used to us pronouncing “pho” wrong and they’re pretty nice about it. Here’s the right way to say pho.)

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Fres-Know: Awww, look at the otter

otter

TOO CUTE: Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo opens its new exhibit featuring African spotted-neck river otters, Bee photog Mark Crosse reports. The zoo is open during Easter weekend. Don’t fantasize about taking one home, however. These little guys have teeth. [Bee gallery]

OPEN ALASKA MOUTH, INSERT MUKLUK-PROTECTED FOOT: The nation’s latest “stupid comment by a politician” scandal has a local connection. After Congressman Don Young of Alaska called Hispanic migrant workers “wetbacks,” he explains he “used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California.” [Bee]

STANDING ROOM ONLY: It seems the Elbow Room’s “Sunday Sizzle” afternoon events are so popular that the restaurant will stop taking Sunday reservations for music on the patio starting April 6 because of no-shows, open places at tables, etc. That, in turn, irritates many long-time customers who don’t want to take a chance on getting in under the new no-reservations policy. How irritated? Local entertainer Jim Lyons wrote an entire manifesto about the new policy, including a delineation of “Elbow Room responsibilities” and “Patron responsibilities.” Don’t get between an Elbow Room regular and his Sunday afternoon.  (Strange: There was a robust post with lots of customer comments about the matter going on about the issue on the Elbow Room’s Facebook page last night, but I can’t find it today.) [MySpace]

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Saigon Deli opens, pays homage to Tommy’s Hamburgers

photo(25)The new Saigon Deli opened last week at 944 Fulton Mall, just north of Tulare Avenue. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant in the longtime Tommy’s Hamburgers spot with the wooden porch out front.

Tommy died last October in a drowning accident and the restaurant was closed. You can read his obit here.

The new folks have a menu full of Asian food like pho, noodle bowls, rice dishes, spring rolls, and banh mi — Vietnamese sandwiches.

Some of Tommy’s old customers requested the restaurant keep their favorite hamburgers and the family agreed. In addition to the regular menu, a “Tommy’s Classics” menu is up the wall, featuring all kinds of burgers. Chili cheese burger, anyone?

The restaurant doesn’t have a website yet, but is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (which means yes, they serve breakfast too). They are still figuring out their weekend hours. Here’s some photos from my recent experience there.

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