A banh mi just might be the best sandwich on the planet. If you’ve never tried one before, I implore you to track one down in your city as soon as possible. Or just make this one!
The banh mi sandwich is Vietnamese street food. They are very popular in Ho Chi Minh City and in many North American and European cities with a strong Vietnamese immigrant community. The sandwich came about as a result of French colonization of Indochina. It’s truly a fusion of French and Vietnamese flavors. In New Orleans, which has a large Vietnamese community, they are called Vietnamese po’boys. (Which reminds me, Matt and I are headed to New Orleans next week, I need to track one down while we’re there.)
I ate my first ever banh mi about a year ago, in my own city of New York. A little bit of searching Google and Yelp led me to a small restaurant on the edges of Little Italy and Chinatown called Banh Mi Saigon. These are apparently the best in New York you can find, or so I was told. You know what? I believe it. Matt and I both had a religious experience with those sandwiches. They were so amazing, and I knew instantly that I had to make them at home sometime.
A banh mi is marinated pork that is cooked up and sliced or shredded. The sandwich is assembled on French bread, with mayonnaise (that part is not optional!), and pickled Asian vegetables, plus some sliced cucumber and sliced jalapenos. You can add Sriracha as a condiment if you like. And some versions call for mousse pate. This particular recipe is based on the NOLA version and does not include it. And I do not recall the sandwich I ate in NYC having the pate. But some do.
The recipe I made called for pork tenderloin to be grilled and sliced. You could easily sub in the same amount of pork shoulder, then slow cook and shred it. Making these at home does require some prep ahead of time, but they are much easier than I was anticipating. I hope you will make these sometime soon. There’s no reason to deprive yourself of such deliciousness!
Source: Emeril at the Grill by Emeril Lagasse
2 green onions, minced
1 fresh red chile, such as Fresno, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 tbs Vietnamese fish sauce
1 1/2 tbs fresh lime juice
1 pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 French baguette
Spicy Vietnamese Mayonnaise (recipe to follow), or plain mayonnaise
Pickled Carrots and Daikon (recipe to follow)
1 Kirby cucumber, thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced
Fresh cilantro leaves, to taste
In a resealable bag, combine the green onions, red chile, garlic, sugar, black pepper, fish sauce and lime juice. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pork, turn to coat evenly, and seal the bag. Allow the pork to marinate, refrigerated, for at least 6 hours and up to overnight, turning it occasionally.
Remove the pork from the marinade and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat your grill to medium-high.
Pat the pork dry and brush it all over with the oil. Grill the pork, turning often, until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 145 F. Remove pork and let rest, tented with aluminum foil, for 15 minutes. Then cut it into 1/4 inch thick slices.
Cut the baguette crosswise into 4 pieces. Cut each piece in half horizontally, but don’t cut all the way through. Remove some of the interior bread so it is less dense. Spread both sides of the bread liberally with the mayonnaise. Divide the sliced pork evenly among the bottom halves of the sandwiches. Top with the Pickled Carrots and Daikon, then cucumber slices, then jalapeno slices. Garnish with a few cilantro leaves, then close the sandwich. Serve immediately.
SPICY VIETNAMESE MAYONNAISE
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbs Sriracha sauce
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp Vietnamese fish sauce
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to blend thoroughly. Serve immediately, or refrigerate a few hours to let the flavors marry more intensely.
PICKLED CARROTS AND DAIKON
1 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp crushed chile flakes
1/4 tsp salt
2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonol
1 cup thinly sliced daikon
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, crushed chile flakes, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Transfer the mixture to a non-reactive bowl or baking dish and add the carrots and daikon. Make sure they are all coated. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.