Food is like a movie star, one day you have never heard of them and the next day they are famous. Banh Mi is all the rage in many areas of the country right now and people wait in long lines to try the flavorful sandwich. If you haven’t ever heard of Banh Mi…a Vietnamese sandwich, just wait. I’m sure a restaurant or food truck will probably be coming to your area soon that will be serving this wonderful pork sandwich.
Living in a rural area, I don’t have a choice of different ethnic restaurants in which to try many of the cuisines from around the world. In trying to experience the dishes that sound appealing to me, I make them at home. The ingredients for Banh Mi are not hard to find…in fact I had most everything in my pantry and refrigerator.
What I made is not what you would find in Vietnam, but it is a tasty version none the less. Some versions use simmered and sliced pork belly, others use grilled pork or pork cold cuts. There is also a pork meatball version which can be found in many restaurants and that is what I made. Savory meatballs, pickled vegetables and a spicy mayo based sauce turned into a fantastic sandwich.
Pickled Vegetables…typically carrot and dakon radish but use what is available. I used a carrot, red radishes and a small cucumber for two sandwiches. Julienne or shred the carrot and then slice the radishes and cucumber thinly. In a bowl, whisk together 4 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar, 2 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. of salt. Add the vegetables and toss.
Spicy Sauce…this is a hot chili sauce that is mayo based. I used 1/2 c. mayo and 1 Tbsp. of sriracha. Any hot pepper sauce can be used…the amount depends on how hot you want the sauce to be. This sauce is good on so many sandwiches that I doubled this recipe.
Pork Meatballs…will make about a dozen golf ball size meatballs. You will need 3 or 4 per sandwich depending on the size of the roll or baguette.
- 1 lb. lean ground pork
- 1/3 c. diced red bell pepper
- 1/2 c. diced onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. grated ginger
- 3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. sriracha
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
Mix all the ingredients together well and form into golf ball size meatballs. Brown well on all sides until cooked through. (Can also be browned and finished in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes).
Bread…The French influenced the cooking in Vietnam and the tradition bread or roll for this sandwich is very similar to a baguette but has a crackling crust because some rice flour is used in the bread. Either use a baguette or roll that has a crisp exterior. Slice and scoop out the center of the bread just leaving a thick crispy shell.
Cilantro…One of the nice flavor components of this sandwich but leave it out if you don’t care for it. You could add a little lettuce if you want.
Assemble the sandwich by spreading some spicy sauce on the inside of the roll. Add some cilantro and pickled vegetables on the bottom and then top with the meatballs. Garnish with a little extra vegetables and cilantro on top if you wish.
Banh Mi may become my new favorite sandwich. I loved the sweet, sour and spicy flavors present in this sandwich coupled with the juicy meatballs and the crispy bread. This summer, I will grill some pork on the barbecue that will give the sandwich a nice smoky flavor. Perhaps I’ll even add a slice or two of jalapeño peppers from my garden for an extra kick. I think the variations on this sandwich are endless. I hope you will give Bahn Mi a try, either made in your kitchen or having one at a restaurant or from a food truck.