The delicacies of Southeast Boston
by Rob McKeown
Ba Le is more or less a really, really good deli, but with a Southeast Asian
twist: it substitutes shredded salads for slaw, steamed buns for doughnuts,
lychee juice for Veryfine, and smiling women for teenage-boy counter workers.
At this Dorchester establishment, owned by Vietnamese proprietors, the choices
are so many and so cheap that it's hard not to get into an
eyes-bigger-than-your-stomach situation. The summer rolls ($2 for three) are
the best in the city: stunningly translucent rice wrappers stuffed with
vermicelli, lettuce, carrots, shrimp, cilantro, and scallions. Fried spring
rolls ($1 each) are plump with mushrooms, pork, and tofu. A combo plate
($4.95), piled to Prudential-like heights with starchy rice noodles,
well-caramelized pork chops, and a flaky pork pie ($1 on its own), is all sweet
meatiness. It's even crowned with a fried egg.
Better still is the banh mi (Vietnamese for "sandwich"). Choose from Vietnamese
pâté, ham, grilled chicken, meatballs, or beef. Then sit back and
watch as the sandwich lady slathers the meat with acid-sweet Vietnamese mayo
and layers it with cucumber, cilantro, chili sauce, nuoc mam, and shreds of
carrot and daikon. The best parts of all may be the crusty French roll --
courtesy of Vietnam's Indochina years -- and the price, a mere $2.
Ba Le, located at 1025 Dorchester Avenue, in Dorchester, is open daily from
5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call (617) 265-7171.
The On the Cheap archive