Bún bò huế is a potent noodle soup from Vietnam on...

Bún bò huế is a potent noodle soup from Vietnam on the menu at Pho Top in Great Neck. Credit: Newsday / Andi Berlin

The hard-to-find treasure goes by the name “Vietnamese bread” on the menu at Pho Top in Great Neck. Ask for a bánh mì anyway, and you'll be treated to the iconic Southeast Asian sandwich. 

The words for “sandwich” and “bread” are actually the same: bánh mì, a brilliant combination of Vietnamese ingredients in crusty baguette, developed by Vietnamese after nearly a century of French colonization. When the French ceded their rule in 1954, Vietnamese people kept the baguettes and added their own toppings like cilantro, fresh chilies and pickled veggies to create the ultimate meaty flavor punch.

Pho Top may specialize in the vermicelli noodle soup, but it's also one of the few places to get a bánh mì on Long Island. The menu at this small but chic space across the street from the LIRR train station is compact: Along with some appetizers and side dishes, there are a dozen varieties of noodle soups as well as a small number of the dry vermicelli noodle dishes called bún.

Pho Top in Great Neck also serves Vietnamese bánh mì...

Pho Top in Great Neck also serves Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches. Credit: Newsday / Andi Berlin

Co-owner Alan Zou, who hails from Fujian, China, said he learned to make Vietnamese food from his brother who has spent years cooking in Vietnamese restaurants. Zou also owns another Pho Top next to the Hua Lian supermarket in Flushing, Queens. 

With its crystal-clear, eight-hour broth and thin strips of beef, the namesake pho appeals to even the most timid eaters. But adventurous palates will gravitate toward the bún bò huế ($17.25), a royal noodle soup from Central Vietnam with a maximalist mindset. Pho Top's version is a tour de force of various meat parts — blubbery pig feet, juicy oxtails, springy meatballs and thick slices of deli ham — all swimming in a giant bowl of heady red broth laced with fermented shrimp paste. Pierced with red onions and cilantro, the bún bò huế is a hangover cure waiting to happen. 

To soak up the spicy broth, dunk in some of that “Vietnamese bread” ($11.95), available in pork, chicken and beef varieties. (The combination bánh mì đặc biệt with the deli meats isn't carried here.) But the pork bánh mì was incredibly tender, and although the sandwich could have had a little bit more of the pickled carrots and daikon, the bread from MRS Baking Distribution in the Bronx was crusty enough to work its magic. 

Pho Top, 21 N. Station Plaza, Great Neck Plaza, 516-321-9386, photopny.com. Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. 

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