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
This is a great way to use leftover steak, chicken or pork tenderloin. Vegetarians can layer the flavorful vegetables over hummus or marinated and seared extra-firm tofu. Slice the cold meat thin and let it come to room temperature while you quickly prepare the vegetables. If I don't have leftover protein lounging in the refrigerator, sliced meats from the deli counter make a great substitute. For those of you living a gluten-free lifestyle, or have GF folks in your circle of friends and family, Uti's makes great hamburger and hot dog buns.
If you are avoiding refined sugar, you can successfully substitute Linda's Honey Simple Syrup in this recipe.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
the juice of two limes
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 1-inch "thumb" ginger, peeled and minced
2 to 3 carrots, peeled, shredded or julienned
1 English cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and sliced into half moons
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, diced
4 to 5 radishes, shredded (you can substitute Daikon, but the red is a nice color contrast)
4 scallions, both white and green parts, sliced
Pâté or mushroom pate, optional
4 Hero rolls or soft French baguettes, or Uti's gluten-free buns
1 pound sliced meat, such a beef or pork tenderloin
whole cilantro leaves or arugula, for garnish
1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, stir the sugar, water and salt until combined. Bring to a boil, then let cool. When the liquid is reaches room temperature, add the vinegar. Transfer marinade to a sealed container and refrigerate until needed.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the lime juice, minced jalapeno and minced ginger. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to quickly pickle. Add the rest of the prepped vegetables and add enough marinade to cover.
3. Split the hero rolls and lightly toast. Slather half a toasted role with a thin layer of pâté and the other half with a thin layer of mayo. Layer on the sliced steak or pork and marinaded vegetables. Garnish with cilantro or arugula. Serve immediately.