Food Dudes: Kien Asian perfects Banh Mi sandwiches



For the past three years, I have passed by Kien Asian market at least twice per week, usually when I am on my way to West Hartford to get some sort of food. I have not once stopped nor even considered stopping. Now I know that this decision was easily one of the biggest mistakes I have made during my time at Trinity.

Kien Asian market certainly blends into its surroundings. Located in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood, it is right on Park street squeezed in between many other establishments and restaurants. The outside reads “Kien Oriental Market.” Just inside the entryway, the store is crowded with a variety of Asian candies and snacks, as well as two cashiers. There are about six aisles of specialty foods and the shelves are completely stocked with unique ingredients, prepared foods, and much more.

The food counter where the sandwiches are prepared is tucked away in the back of the store. There is a menu printed on the side of one of the walls. I stood for about 30 seconds reading the menu and was then asked by someone behind the counter what I wanted. The server was very friendly and instructed me on the process, because it was quite clear that I was a first time visitor. Basically, you order and the employee gives you a receipt which you bring to the front and use to pay. Once you pay, the cashier stamps the receipt and you go back to the food counter and trade the stamped receipt for your food once it is ready.

There is a small counter to eat at in the back of the grocery store, but it seats only three or four people at a time. Taking food to go is very easy as well, and it appears that this is what most customers do. Parking can be found on the street as well as a parking lot behind the store.

During the five-minute wait for the food, I explored the aisles to see what interesting specialty food items they had; there are many interesting candies, packaged foods, and teas.

The food at the counter is primarily Vietnamese and features several types of sandwiches as well as some soup options. The sandwiches are called Banh Mi, a Vietnamese type of sandwich which traces its roots to Vietnam’s colonial French era. The French introduced the baguette and as a result, the Banh Mi sandwich was born. A Banh Mi typically consists of meat, fresh and pickled vegetables, all served on a small baguette.

I ordered two Banh Mi so that I could try two different types. I got a beef Banh Mi and one with spiced pork meatballs. I ordered them spicy which meant the cook added a little bit of chili sauce.

Both selections were phenomenal. The baguette was light and fluffy on the inside and the outside was perfectly crunchy. The sandwiches were served with fresh pickled carrots, daikon radish, and fresh cilantro. The meats were extremely flavorful. The  pork meatballs were juicy and packed with spice. The beef was tender and had a seasoning or marinade that gave it a nice sweet flavor. The flavor of each of the meats combined with the freshness of the pickled vegetables and cilantro as well as the warm baked baguette to create an incredible sandwich.

The Banh Mi were also a pretty good size, but given the lighter nature of the sandwich, I easily ate two and would recommend at least two for a full meal. The other great thing about Kien is the price. My total was only eight dollars for two entire sandwiches.

I highly recommend the Banh Mi sandwiches at Kien Asian Market. Both delicious and unique, these sandwiches are a must try, and they are definitely some of the best sandwiches I have ever had. The food is definitely worth making a trip off campus to go try. I know I will be going back very soon.

1801 Park St

Hartford, CT 06106

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