When we talk about the 13th, we are using the shorthand for the Chinatown of Paris (which itself is a bit of a misnomer because almost every Asian ethnicity is represented here).  Specifically, we are referring to the abundance of food choices in this arrondissement, most of which could be had for a real bargain when compared with the prices in the central part of town.  More than just cost, however, one can find here the authenticity that is often lacking elsewhere.  While some people may not think of eating anything but “French” food when they visit, by doing so, they would be mistaken and selling themselves short of the multicultural experience that is this modern-day capital.

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Three Baguettes
Song Heng
58, avenue de Choisy
M° Tolbiac

Euro - 8 or less
Among the very few good dining bargains in Paris are the wonderful assortments of Vietnamese sandwiches.  One can wax poetic about how this cross-cultural culinary fusion had found its way back to the shores of one of its forebears, etc., but we would rather leave the sentiments to others while we bite into our very own, hot, crunchy banh mi, which just means “bread” in Vietnamese.

Bread alone could be had at any of the hundreds of bakeries in Paris (and we have our favorites of those too: Eric Kayser and Carton come to mind).  But the key to a delicious banh mi is more than its namesake, it is the sum of the parts, the intricate and deceptively simple interplay.  At Song Heng, one such successful combination is the sandwich spécial maison (2.20€), a blend of roasted pork, Vietnamese paté, chicken gio, Vietnamese mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and a dash or two of the versatile maggi.  Riot always answered with a hearty yes whenever the lady behind the counter inquired whether he wanted his sandwich “pimenté.”  A little jolt of spiciness works wonders.  Another favorite version here is the boeuf à la citronnelle (2.70€), where the star of the show is the flavorful lemongrass beef.
  A simple meal to occupy our hunger:  The boeuf à la citronelle (2.70€) is a tasty lunch that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.

Many storefronts in the 13th offer their own version though none looks anything as visually appealing as the banh mi you can get here.  (While looks alone may not ultimately get you to a great sandwich, a so-so looking one will surely prove equally so-so taste wise.)  We wished there were banh mi purveyors in the central part of Paris, as they would surely outclass many of the sorry-looking sandwiches peddled to tourists there.  Alas, we have to content ourselves with the long train ride to this outer arrondissement to get a few loaves to bring back home and eat over the next day or two.
  And save some for the early writing session:  The remains of a sandwich spécial maison (2.20€).

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