Since she was a child, My Nguyen has worked with her mom. So taking on the challenge of helping her mom, Du Ng Dong, and her aunt, Oanha Dong, in opening the newest location of Pickle Banh Mi in Cambodia Town—their first outside of Orange County—is not something new.

“My mom, my whole life, is an opportunist,” Nguyen said. Her mother, leaning on her Catholic faith, has jumped at entrepreneurial pursuits that came her way over the 30 years she’s been in the food industry after immigrating from Vietnam.

Dong and her family moved to Orange County from Seattle in the ’80s, and were able to sponsor their whole family, bringing Nguyen’s aunt to California about 20 years ago.

Dong worked as a seamstress and a picker in strawberry fields before turning to food service. In Orange County, Dong set up shop selling bánh cuốn (ban [up tone] – cone [down tone]), a thin steamed rice flour wrapping with various fillings like pork and vegetables, in a plaza. The plaza only allowed two food businesses, so when the other business, a popular bánh mì (ban [up tone] – mee [down tone]) shop, decided to sell, Dong took over operations to prevent any competition.

“My mom said, ‘Let’s take it over, learn a new skill and protect the business,'” Nguyen said. That type of fortitude is typical of her mom’s mindset. “In America, everyone thinks you move and get the American dream. But if you don’t work, you get nothing.”

When the Dong sisters decided to open the first Pickle Banh Mi in Garden Grove in 2018, the menu was a love letter of sorts.

A bánh mì sandwich has a few key elements: a French baguette, French-style mayo, pâté (think meat spread), meat and some sort of pickled veggie, Nguyen said.

The history of the sandwich itself is a mixing of cultures — a product of French colonization. So as the sandwich continues to evolve and change, everyone does it their own way.

“Pickle wouldn’t be what it is without my mom and her sister and the community,” Nguyen said. “It’s a group effort.”

The recipes are crafted over decades of learning from others and putting their own spin on it. One of the most popular items at the Long Beach location is the bò filet xào, which takes from a Peruvian staple, lomo saltado-style beef, and mixes it with Vietnamese flavors.

For classic sandwiches, look to items 1 through 11 on the menu. For Pickle’s take on premium bánh mì sandwiches (like the bò filet xào), items 12 through 16 are where to find them.

The opening has received a warm welcome from the community. The family retained some employees from the previous bakery that closed, meaning locals will still see some familiar faces.

“People in Long Beach love pâté,” Nguyen said. “Extra, extra pâté.”

And if sandwiches aren’t your thing, there’s also rice dishes that are reminiscent of what the family used to eat growing up. For example, the number 22 rice plate includes fork-tender braised pork belly with a perfectly jammy soft-boiled egg, rice and pickled veggies.

“At first, they were like, ‘Why would we put this on the menu? This is so normal,'” Nguyen said. But the motivation was just that — kids aching for food they grew up with and being able to get it at a place like Pickle. Fast, easy, but wonderfully made.

The sisters are constantly thinking of recipes, testing new things, their minds working overtime to research new flavors and concepts. The Long Beach location has a slightly smaller, more narrow menu then their other locations, but it’s also a test of what future Pickles could look like as a more express type of service.

“I really want (my mom and aunt) to be recognized. There were a lot of nos before a yes. It’s not easy to get a lease when you have no experience and a language barrier,” Nguyen said. “As we get older, we have to be our parents’ voice.”

The restaurant has been in its soft opening phase since April, with a full grand opening to be planned after final construction is approved by the city.

Current operational hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pickle Bahn Mi is located at 1171 E. Anaheim St.