Bahn Mi for Under $1.00

Dining out really adds up.  Even if it’s a quick run to Subway for a $5 sandwich for lunch, I’m spending $20 a week on lunch alone.  And it’s a whopping $80 a month, just on breads and filler veggies!

I’m on a mission to save money on our monthly food budget again.  Kevin and I tried living on a $100 food budget a month one time by dining at home for 30 days, and we got very close (I think we ended up spending about $120 which wasn’t too bad to feed two hungry bellies).  I think I’m ready to do that again starting in October.

We still have a week before we dive into the lifestyle which consists of dining at home on most nights, but we got a head start last night.  Instead of going out to eat, we made Bahn Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich, at home for dinner.

We went to the Korean supermarket and picked up a pack of marinated beef (bulgogi) and chicken, and some staple vegetables (cabbage, onion, napa cabbage, mushrooms), and went to the nearby Fresh and Easy to pick up some breads.  We got lucky that we were able to pick up three rolls for only $0.65! Gotta love those after hour sales, when prices drop by half or more!

We made the radish and carrot salad in advance and let it marinate in vinegar (3/4 cup), water (1/2 cup), agave (3 tablespoon) and a pinch of salt.  When we came back from our grocery store errands, the veggies were perfectly flavored!  (We made a lot more than what you see here — I forgot to take a picture until it was almost all gone!)

The traditional Bahn Mi has liver pate and all the other good stuff, but we stuck to just mayo, beef and chicken, radish and carrot salad, and a few sprigs of cilantro.

A total amount spent on dinner:  For three sandwiches

Bread:  $0.65
Marinated beef and chicken (we only ate about 5 pieces):  $2.00
Radish and carrots (we had them already in the fridge):  $0.00
Mayo (already had it in the fridge):  $0.00
Gatorade that Kevin had with dinner (we had the powder Gatorade already in the pantry):  $0.00

Total:  $2.65 (about $0.83 per sandwich)

So far, so good.

Bun Me, I’m Home!

My work friends P, M, and I met up for lunch last week in Northridge. The place has changed so much since I attended the school in the mid-90s.  The campus has gone through some serious facelifts over the last couple decades and shows no real resemblance of the earthquake-damaged campus that I so vividly remember.

The neighborhood surrounding the campus has gone through some makeovers as well. There are so many restaurants and cute eateries that never existed before. I remember my friends and I used to have to drive to get to places that offered decent food at a student’s budget. I can’t tell you how jealous I am that kids can walk to California Chicken Café now!

Three of us ended up in a place called Bun Me!, a tiny fast food place that offers Vietnamese staples like Bahn Mi sandwiches and Vermicelli Bowls for cheap. This is such a perfect place for students on the budget and looking to upgrade from the usual greasy Chinese takeout and delivery pizza.

I ordered the Bun Me Deli Special with pate, pork roll and char sui pork. The sandwich was not the best I’ve ever had but was pretty tasty … maybe a solid “B.” But I guess for $3.95, I shouldn’t complain. M ordered a Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Bahn Mi which she enjoyed, and P ordered a Vermicelli Bowl, a hearty bowl with vegetables and protein of choice (she let me sample the grilled tofu and it tasted like meat!).

Although the place is small, it is clean and comfortable, and the staff is super helpful and friendly. I love that there’s plenty of parking space in this shopping center for us non-students who drive here. Be warned that there is no restroom here but you can go to Starbucks two doors down.

After lunch, we headed across the street to Get Shaved for some icy dessert. If I remember correctly, this walk-up was once a coffee stand. I ordered a small shaved ice with strawberry syrup, condensed milk, and azuki beans. The beans tasted a little off for some reason so I’ll definitely go without it next time.  By the way, I think I spent more on the shaved ice (which is virtually just frozen water with sugar water) than the Bahn Mi sandwich! eek

It was so nice to catch up with my friends over lunch, and it probably won’t be long until I return to Northridge to walk down the memory lane. I hope the students know how lucky they have it now.

Bun Me
9420 Reseda Blvd., #5, Northridge, CA 91324

Get Shaved
9255 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, CA 91324

Bahn Mi for Me (Courtesy of My Boyfriend)

Bahn Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich with choice of meat, picked root vegetables, cilantro, and some jalapenos, first popularized by Lee Sandwich and more recently by Nom Nom Truck, is probably one of my favorite sandwiches out there. I love the combination of sweet and tang, as well as the crunch of daikon and carrots that sit beautifully between a perfectly baked baguette. It’s a perfect combination of French culinary sophistication and Vietnamese creativity.

For dinner, my boyfriend and I grilled a leftover Korean marinated short rib, or galbi, to make the sandwich, and topped the beef with his homemade garnish of daikon radish and carrots he marinated in vinegar, sugar, and other flavorful condiments. He pretty much did everything for dinner and he even did the dishes! Now, that’s a prefect weekend dinner and a great way to start the long Labor Day weekend.  Thank you, sweetie. 🙂

Check this beautiful blog, Kuidaore, for everything and anything you ever wanted to know about how to make bahn mi! Jocelyn, an amazing cook, baker, and writer, went all out on her bahn mi project.  Passionate Eater, another one of my favorites, has a great recipe too!