Grand Paris, Part 2
or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Banlieues
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Grand Paris is a new column about the changing relationship between Paris and its suburbs, told through architecture and the food of its various diaspora communities and neighbourhoods.
You can read Part 1: Les Olympiades here.
A small note on Vietnamese bakeries
The bakeries of Les Olympiades are unlike anything you can get in London. The tourist and food listicle focus is on banh mi, which range from the trendy and lousy (Coupi Bar) to the overrated because of its location (Khai Tri, charmingly based in a library) to the cheap and good (Thieng Heng, Saison and Patisserie de Choisy). The banh mi in the 13th are functional: they cost around €3.50 and are as sparsely filled as a jambon beurre, but satisfying and filling if you’re on the move. They live and die on their homemade mayonnaise, which is sharp and off-white. The best I've tried is a special from Saison filled with chopped beef balls that remind me instantly of an Ikea meatball hot dog I fashioned once. But really, you should skip the banh mi crawl and get Chinese-Vietnamese pastries from Patisserie de Choisy: banh bao filled with minced pork, Vietnamese sausage and chopped egg, better than any pub scotch egg; pâté chaud in puff pastry; hot crispy beignets of taro and pork; pandan everything, durian everything. I made many mistakes on this trip, but my main one was not filling my suitcase with these.
Grand Paris, Part 2: Soup in the 77
The fundamental difference between London and Paris is not in its food, or the number of bakeries where it’s possible to get a passable croissant. It is not in the beauty of its buildings, or the rudeness of its inhabitants – which are roughly the same despite the protestations of both. No, the fundamental difference between London and Paris, the thing which makes each city feel so alien to the other, is in how and where they decide to house their working-class.