My first encounter with Bánh Mì was at a corner market in downtown San Jose, California. The small store featured a tiny counter where the thinly layered sandwiches were made to order. What makes Bánh Mì special and crave-worthy is the lightly pickled vegetables that top the choice of savory filling. The sandwiches were inexpensive and it wasn't uncommon for my male work colleagues to order more than one for lunch.
Bánh Mì can be difficult to source in my stretch of the Sonoran desert so I went about creating a recipe that I could make easily at home. Traditionally, the sandwich bun is very light in consistency and texture. When I'm too lazy to make baguettes, I buy hoagie rolls. I've been known to slice the rolls open and remove some of the inner crumb to make the bread lighter.
The rolls in San Jose weren't toasted, but I like to toast the buns, then slather a bit of pâté across the bottom bun. Unless you absolutely despise pâté, don't skip it. The pâté adds a special flavor that you're not going to add in any other way. I've made Tartine Bakery's quick chicken liver pate, and I've also used a tasty vegetarian mushroom pâté from Trader Joe's. Layer on thin slices of protein, top with the pickled vegetables and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves or arugula. If I had to choose between the cilantro or arugula, I'd choose arugula.
Everyone I have served this sandwich to loves it. This is a great make ahead meal and I wouldn't hesitate serving Bánh Mì buffet-style for a party. You can grill the meat a day or two ahead of time. Then all you need to do is make the pickled vegetables on the day your serving and thinly slice the cold meat. The vegetables will hold beautifully in the brine for many hours in the refrigerator. If you have leftover vegetables, they'll still be tasty the next day but they do lose a little crunch with aging.
If you make this recipe, let me know if you love it as much as I do. Also, I'd appreciate reading about your favorite sandwich in the comments.
Bánh Mì (Vietnamese Sandwiches) - GF and Paleo Versions