There are three important components to a Bahn Mi sandwich: the bread, the marinade, and the balance of pickled veggies on top. Lotus in San Luis Obispo, California successfully delivers all three.
You can choose pork, chicken, beef, tofu, or shrimp. The Vietnamese-French baguette has just the right firm-to-soft ratio to hold up to the fillings piled inside. The Pork Bahn Mi arrives with thick slices of delicate meat that have dark, caramelized edges and notes of sweetness and Vietnamese spices. The chicken is marinated in a similar way and piled with juicy, tender chunks of meat that burst with traditional flavor.
The sandwich comes together with mayo, cucumber, and cilantro layered with a mix of pickled daikon and carrot that add the tangy crunch that sets this sandwich apart from others. Fresh jalapeños can also be added for intense heat.
If you are looking for more, try the Firecracker Shrimp Rolls. In this appetizer, shrimp are wrapped in egg roll wrappers, then fried until a crispy, flaky crust surrounds the succulent seafood. They are served with sweet chili sauce that softens the heat of the jalapeno in the rolls.
Papaya Salad, Lotus’ version of the traditional Som Tam, is another excellent way to start a meal. It’s loaded with strips of green papaya and chopped herbs, then stacked with pickled daikon and carrot, cucumbers, sprouts, and crushed peanuts. It’s a combination of sweet, tangy, and mildly spicy unlike any other. A small size is plenty for two people to share as a starter.
You’ll need to do a little hunting for Lotus when walking the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo. The shop sits down an open walkway off Higuera Street. Look for the Mission Mall sign, head down the hall, and you will find the restaurant on the right at the end of the walkway.