No. 7: Aunt Malai's Lao Sausage Sandwich at Pal's Takeaway

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

Jeff Mason layers a sandwich the way a curator hangs a gallery, with an eye for the vivid, the finely rendered, or the quietly spectacular. Mason's daily shortlist at Pal's Takeaway often incorporates ingredients you pretty much can't find anywhere else ― quite a feat in a city with as intensively cultivated a food landscape as San Francisco's: breads from semi-underground bakers Josey Baker, Josh Capone (before he switched coasts), and the Wise Sons Deli boys, smoked meats from Ryan Ostler. And Lao sausage from the sisters who run Vientian Café in East Oakland.

Mason credits one of the sisters in his Aunt Malai's Lao sausage sandwich, which shows up on the Pal's menu a couple of times a month, often with pickled cucumber, cilantro, and soy-yuzu mayonnaise in an Acme rustic deli roll. The sausage is tenderer than you expect it to be: fat-veined pork belly ground with a bit of the liver, maybe, with lemongrass, lime leaves, Thai chiles ― aromatic, slightly numbing. It yields a sandwich as satisfying as any banh mi in town, but original enough to discourage comparisons. It's original.

Pal's Takeaway: 2751 24th St. (at Hampshire), inside Tony's Market, 203-4911.

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