No sooner did we have an outstanding dinner at The Pig and the Lady last Tuesday than we came across them at the Honolulu Saturday Farmers Market. What was one of Honolulu’s hottest new restaurants doing here?, I wondered. It isn’t so strange, as it turns out, for The Pig and the Lady started out selling Vietnamese street food at farmers markets, appeared as a pop-up restaurant and eventually secured the brick and mortar location in Chinatown in November of last year. On reflection, the operation probably had been around when we visited the market in years past, but we never took notice until now. The tent occupies a larger-than-most space, half of it reserved for customer seating at picnic-style tables. It was a welcome way to get out from under the hot and muggy day.
There were lots on the menu to choose from, but their re-envisioned banh mi sounded appealing, not to mention a cool bowl of bun. Of the seven kinds of sandwiches, the one that Honolulu Magazine in 2013 identified as one of the 100 best dishes and drinks was the one I had no trouble deciding on—Pho French dip. The Laotian fried chicken for dinner that we so enjoyed at dinner sealed our choice for the bun topping.
The idea for dipping banh mi might seem odd at first, but the right filling could rearrange your thinking. Imagine in the sandwich bun a succulent beef brisket that has been slow-roasted for 12 hours, sautéed onions and bean sprouts, fresh cilantro and Thai basil as the primary ingredient in a chimichurri paste, and you could seriously consider dipping the sandwich, the paradigm shift that must’ve occurred in Chef Andrew Le’s creative mind. Then again, he may not have intended the sandwich to be a banh mi at all for all my ramblings-on. To take it a step further, how about using a rich pho jus made from the brisket drippings to complete the conversion to a Vietnamese-inspired French dip? This is one mind-altering, outstanding, messy, expensive ($12) sandwich (☆☆☆☆).
The bun didn’t fare as well. The biggest problem was the rice noodles, two sizes, being made ahead of time and suffering textural consequences. They were a tad pasty and dry. Even the remarkable Laotian chicken slices and housemade do chua (shredded radish, sliced carrot rounds and sweet pickles), roasted whole and chopped peanuts, tomato slices, bean sprouts, shredded red cabbage and nuoc cham couldn’t quite mask this flaw, though the flavors were quite good (☆☆☆).
From here on out, whenever we visit the KCC market, we’ll have to give serious consideration to picking up our meals at The Pig and the Lady. The dishes we had today were the best-tasting ones we’ve had in four visits to the market so far.