Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen
6093 S. Highland Drive
Mon-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
South Salt Lake
3425 S. State Street
Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Ihave always had a profound admiration of the sandwich. It’s something that borders on perfection with its simplicity. I’ve sampled much of what Salt Lake has to offer in the world of sandwich crafting, and I feel pretty confident with my sandwich palate. However, my first visit to Oh Mai found me face to face with a pantheon of sandwiches that not only challenged my perspective of what a sandwich could be, but left me with a newfound appreciation of those who can take a cultural staple like a sandwich and elevate it into new territory.
Owned and operated by members of the local family behind Salt Lake’s Café Trang, Oh Mai opened its South Salt Lake location in March of this year and has already generated enough business to open a second location in Holladay. Of course, none of this would have materialized if the food didn’t deliver a unique dining experience.
When I entered Oh Mai and beheld their vast menu of these authentic sandwiches, I soon realized that I wasn’t just preparing to sit down for a meal, but rather for a genuine cultural experience. The cashier suggested that I try the Original Cold Cuts Banh Mi ($4.18), as it’s the most culturally authentic. I must admit that when I read the description of this sandwich, I hesitated a bit. It touts four different incarnations of pork, including headcheese and paté, along with raw jalepeño peppers and pickled daikon. I went for it, and in an effort to prove how manly I really was, I spent an extra buck to get my sandwich adorned with a fried egg. My wife, who is less of a meat enthusiast, opted for the Lemongrass Bean Curd Banh Mi ($4.18), which consists of sliced bean curd that has been prepared with lemongrass and caramelized onions along with the pickled cucumbers, carrots and daikon present in all of their sandwiches.
Our sandwiches were delivered sliced in half, exposing the inviting arrangement of the meat and veggies inside. My first bite was nothing short of miraculous. The breakfast-centric flavors of ham, egg and toast were most prominent, but they were enhanced by the crunchy sweetness of the pickled vegetables and the assertive saltiness of the pork paté. After making short work of the first half of my sandwich, I had a few bites of the Lemongrass Bean Curd. The bean curd itself has the consistency of firm tofu, and the citrus flavors of the lemongrass complemented the pickled veggies nicely. As a person who enjoys meat in all its forms, I found this vegan-friendly sandwich to be just as hearty and satisfying as the porkstravaganza that I had ordered. Despite the uniquely Vietnamese flavors, the banh mi comes couched in an 8” baguette, which gives the sandwich a deceptively familiar appearance. According to Oh Mai manager Long Tran, the recipe for these particular baguettes is a closely guarded family secret, which makes sense since they’ve managed to capture a near-perfect blend of crisp chewiness on the outside and pillowy goodness on the inside. Occasionally, though, the consistency of the toppings is a bit off. There are days when the pork paté is applied too liberally, which results in some goopiness during the last few bites.