Where: Saigon Deli, 1237 S. Jackson St., 322-3700.What $13 Gets You: Cold noodles with pork, tapioca dumplings, rice balls stuffed with pork, three sweet things, and a can of Diet Coke, plus 50 cents change (couldn't find a tip jar).Would I eat it again? Many of these specific dishes, no. But I’ll be back.
Many Seattleites love Vietnamese delis for their banh mi, but I'm both obsessed with and mystified by the stacks of plastic-wrapped Styrofoam plates displayed around the counter. You could make three lunches out of these cold meals, snacks, and sweets for the price of a turkey sandwich.
Saigon Deli has a small but particularly good-looking arrangement of wrapped goods. Just to make this $13 trip a challenge, I avoided not only sure hits like spring rolls and deep-fried sesame balls but also things I already love, like sticky rice with Chinese sausage and dried shrimp.
I carefully selected three or four packages and gave them to the counterperson. How much? "$6.50," she called out. Ran back to the fridge for a sweet drink and grabbed another package: $10.50. People were lining up around me, and the maximum capacity of the entire store is six, so I tossed in a can of soda and another dessert to raise the total to $12.50. "You're on a mission," the customer next to me said. The plastic grocery sack I was handed held 10 pounds of food. No exaggeration.
My idiot camera's battery died after one shot, and before it fully recharged I ate the rice noodles with roast pork and slices of nem chua, a bright-pink, pickled pork sausage studded with whole white peppercorns. The meats came with a fantastic cucumber-carrot-jalapeño salad, cilantro sprigs, and nuoc cham, the ubiquitous dipping sauce. This was my favorite dish. Sorry there's no close-up photo.