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By Steven Li on 2007-01-27

January 27, 2007


What I wouldn’t give to move Claremont McKenna College smack dab to the middle of Rosemead. Because then I could drink avocado and durian milkshakes for breakfast, dine on banh mi and a variety of che’s for lunch and do it all over again for dinner. Given my limited budget, I would spend most my time at Banh Mi Che Cali where cheruns $1.40/cup in junction with a neverending buy 2 get 1 free sale.

It’s always hard to pick from the rainbow flow of options: mung beans, coconut milk based, ginger syrup, sweet dumplings, flavors of pandan running loose with jellies and longan.

But eventually I settle on three, as we all must. Self-control is an issue here. Can you believe it all cost on $3.03 with tax? How can I possibly return to Starbucks after this?!

I carefully pack my goodies for the long dreary ride home to the Inland Empire, where it is difficult to find well-made che, or in fact, any che at all. Rushing back to the safety of my dorm room, I eat the sweet dumplings in ginger syrup first. It’s still a little warm, thank god, and I revel in the large chewy mochi the size of ping pong balls filled with mashed mung beans, sweetened just enough. Bites of the mochi mix with spoonfuls of heady ginger syrup, the kind that would be perfect to pour over a fresh batch of dofu fa.

And if I’m in the mood, which I usually am, I do not stop there, because foods should be eaten when they’re fresh so why don’t we just eat it all tonight. Maybe I’ll share with my roommate and we’ll move on to the sweet green rice studded with bite size gems of taro. A little cup of coconut milk is offered on the side and we lavishly pour it over. It’s the Vietnamese version of Thai sticky rice/durian/coconut milk. This is best eaten hot, so a minute in the microwave should prove perfect. And you pick up your spoon and dig in, making sure to get a fair balance between rice, milk and taro. And I eat and I’m happy, and I’m like – why this gotta be so good?

My good old standby comes in at the end, to close of my personal feast of desserts. This is a classic, coconut milk with a range of jellies, nuts and so many other things I do not know the name of :) Some look like sweet carrots, some are chewy in shades of green and beige, others are elusive long slippery pods, yet they all bath in a communal tub of coconut milk, so eager to please. Have it hot or cold, depending on the weather, but there’s no way you could or should refuse such an offering.

If your sweet tooth has taken it’s run of che, why not engage it in an array of steamed pandan cakes, banana bread, or savory treats like long sticks of cha or you tiao, and perhaps a round of the flakey pate sou.

But as I’ve said, the ride on the 10 freeway is long and boring, so to keep our tummies and taste buds happy we roll on down Valley Blvd to pick up a few car ride treats from Mr.Baguette. Thai tea for Trisha (who claims she is a borderline addict) and a calorie heavy, but so worth it, avocado milkshake for myself. It’s the ultimate drink, playing king over mochas, teas and even my ultimate sin, oreo cookie milkshakes.

A chilly blend of fresh avocados, condensed milk, regular milk and ice. While it is quite hefty, you won’t feel the least bit sick after downing the entire cup. It’s creamy but not sweet, I daresay it even tastes healthy! And avocados, why they must be the most refreshing fruit in the world, especially when served in chilled liquid form. We also take home a croissant, made in the Vietnamese tradition. More flaky than buttery, it’s quite heavenly with a spread of pate :)

Banh Mi & Che Cali
8450 Valley Boulevard
Rosemead, CA 91770

Mr. Baguette
8702 E Valley Boulevard
Rosemead, California 91770
(626) 288-9166

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