The humble and satisfying sandwich can be found in nearly every culture. From classic American PB&Js to hoagies and burgers, wraps and clubs, pockets and panini, and an international smattering of open-face toasts and tartines, there is a version of a sandwich for every cuisine and appetite. In honor of the sandwich and its universal appeal, I submit to you a delectable recipe for banh mi, which is guaranteed to whisk you away from the daily humdrum of sheltering, Zoom meetings, discordant news and the winter blues — at least for lunch.
Banh mi is the Vietnamese rendition of a sandwich with French sensibilities. It’s a creation influenced by the lengthy colonization of Vietnam by France. French baguette, pate and mayonnaise meet the fragrance and spice of Southeast Asia, layered with lacquered meats, chiles, pickles and cilantro in a double-fisted whopper of a sandwich.
The appeal of banh mi lies in a perfect balance of spicy, salty, sweet and piquant flavors matched by a satisfying blend of textures — crusty tender bread, sprigs of leafy herbs, sharp pickles and a creamy chile-spiked mayo sauce. It’s a loaded sandwich, and in keeping with sandwich ethos, a great way to repurpose leftover meats, such as pork, chicken and duck. In this recipe, the cooked meat is shredded and tossed in a sweet and salty vinaigrette, then reheated in the oven until warm and crisp. A smear of liver pate is an authentic addition to banh mi, but I have not included it, opting for another generous smear of the chile-spiked mayo. If you would like to add pate, then by all means do so.
Have a nice lunch break!
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
4-inch piece daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 teaspoons Asian hot sauce, such as sriracha
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Asian hot sauce, such as Sriracha
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 to 1 pound cooked and shredded pork shoulder, chicken thigh meat or duck leg meat
4 crusty French dinner rolls or 1 French-style baguette cut into four 5-inch pieces, split crosswise
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
Optional: 1/3 cup pate
Quick-pickle the vegetables: Combine the carrot and daikon in a bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over and, using your fingers, rub the vegetables until the sugar and salt dissolve and the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in the vinegar and let stand for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Drain before using.
Whisk all of the mayo ingredients in a small bowl. Chill until use.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the soy sauce, sugar, oil, hot sauce and coriander in a bowl. Add the meat and mix to thoroughly coat. Spread the meat in a small baking dish. Transfer to the oven and cook until crisp and slightly caramelized in parts, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring once.
To assemble, spread about 1 tablespoon mayo on each bottom roll half. Top with a layer of cucumber, then mound some quick pickles over the cucumber. Top with the meat. Arrange the jalapeno slices over the meat and top with cilantro sprigs. Spread more mayo (or pate, if desired) on the top roll half. Serve immediately.
Lynda Balslev is a San Francisco Bay Area cookbook author, food and travel writer and recipe developer.
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