BANH MI/ VIETNAMESE SANDWICHIn their Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet cookbook, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid shared that Banh Mi or also often referred to as Mekong subs are standard street fare from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Phnom Penh to Vientiane. The French introduced bakery-produced baguettes to their Southeast Asian colonies (Vietname, Cambodia, and Laos) and they become an entrenched part of the food traditions in towns and cities. Mekong subs are a brilliant example of a colonized cuisine co-opting a good idea and going it one better.

I first got hooked to banh mi when I still lived in Oklahoma. I can never forget this little Vietnamese shop that is located in the almost-middle-of-the-street with a milk bottle on top of the roof. It’s a pretty distinctive way to be recognize isn’t it ? I can’t remember who brought me there for the first time. The store is really tiny and the banh mi is freshly made when you order. The best thing about this place, besides the great banh mi they have, is the price of the banh mi. You can get 3 banh mi for $5.00 (tax included). Yes…where can you get a deal like that. The banh mi is huge too and loaded with meat and all the good stuff. Geez…I’m hungry just typing it. Every time I visited the little Vietnamese town there, I always got the banh mi. I might not be able to eat all 3 at one go, but I always got 3. They were selling it for $2.00 each with tax included (which was still cheaper than the banh mi I bought here, it was for $2.75 before tax).

What makes this sandwich so special (at least to me) is the Vietnamese baked pate, the mayonnaise, the pickled daikon and carrots shreds along with fresh coriander to top it off. The whole combination is simply bombastic. Love this sandwich so much. Banh mi is certainly has gained lots of popularity in North America these days.

What you will need:
  • One 6- to 8-inch length French bread/baguette, split, or substitute a kaiser roll, sliced open
  • Butter (optional)
  • Mayonnaise (you can use olive-oil based mayonnaise for healthier version)
  • Vietnamese Baked Cinnamon pate or store bought or substitute with ham, left over chicken meat or any meat you like
  • Minced bird chiles or slices of jalapeno (optional)
  • Fresh coriander sprigs
Vietnamese Baked Cinnamon pate (if you choose to make your own):
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 lb boneless lean fresh ham or trimmed shoulder or other roast
  • 1 oz pork fat (optional)
Radish and carrot pickled:
  • 1 cup julienned daikon/radish
  • 1 cup julienned carrot
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
Preparing the radish and carrot pickled:
  1. Use 1 Tbsp of salt and sprinkle over the carrot and radish. Rub the salt in and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Use your clean hands and squeeze the extra liquid out from the radish and carrot (you’ll be surprised by how much the salt extracted the water out). Rinse with cold water and drain off. Place the vegetables in a glass jar or container. Add in sugar and vinegar. Stir to mix everything and store in refrigerator and let it marinate overnight
Making the Vietnamese baked cinnamon pate:
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the corn starch and fish sauce, then stir in the remaining marinade ingredients. Add enough water to make a fairly liquid paste
  2. Trim the pork of fat, cut into ¼-inch slices, and put into the marinade. Turn to coat with the marinade, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or as long as 24 hours. Before proceeding, place the meat and fat in the freezer for 30 minutes
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Place the fat in a food processor and process to a paste. Remove and set aside. Place the chilled meat mixture in the processor (batch by batch) and process to a fine paste. Add the fat (if using) and pulse briefly to blend the two
  4. Transfer the mixture to the baking pan and press it evenly into the pan with wet hands. Smooth the top and place in the center of the oven
  5. Bake until browned on top, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan. Slice into long narrow slices. Store, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month
Assembling the sandwich:
  1. Spread both cut sides of the bread lightly with butter on one side and mayonnaise on the other. Lay few pieces of pate slices on it. Top with carrot and daikon shreds and a few pieces of minced chiles, if using, and coriander, spreading them along the length of the sandwich. Close and press firmly but gently to make the sandwich hold together. Serve whole or cut crosswise in half


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