While planning the menu for my class next week, “Simply Thai”, I was reminded how much I enjoy the flavors of Southeast Asia. The delicate balance of hot, sour, salty, sweet found in these cuisines, consistently awaken and delight my taste buds. I was first introduced to this flavor profile in a Thai restaurant while living near San Francisco. I was so intrigued that I vowed I would learn to cook this style of food if it took my whole life. It didn’t, fortunately, as I had many good teachers along the way. I now have a large collection of recipes I make that were inspired by cooks from this area of the world.
Baguette and sandwich “love” were the motivators that drove me to this standard street fare available from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Phnom Penh to Vientiane. Lucky for us it has gained popularity in the US and this delicious treat is now offered in many restaurants. I have eaten many versions of the Banh Mi sandwich, some good and some just OK, so I decided I would come up with a recipe that was tailored to my tastes.
Pickled vegetables, always carrot and sometimes daikon, are a unique feature of this creation so a little forethought is required. I would say 30 minutes, preferably overnight, to get the maximum flavor of the pickling. OK, you might be saying, this sounds complicated, but believe me it is not and the required planning is well worth it. Just as baguettes were introduced to Southeast Asia by the French, so it goes for butter and mayonnaise which some consider essential ingredients for this sandwich as well. I went with the mayo but passed on the butter. You decide for yourself.
Here is my creation.
Recipe Serves 4
1/2 c water
1/4 c sugar
1/4 unseasoned rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
1/2 c julienned carrots
1/2 c julienned daikon radish (regular radish would work as well, you could slice thin instead of julienne)
4 (10-inch) baguettes
Mayonnaise as needed
8 thin slices of roast turkey or ham
8 oz. pork pate, sliced ( I bought it at the grocery store)
1/2 c cilantro sprigs
1/2 c mint leaves
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced thin (more if you like a lot but I used it sparingly)
1/4 medium English cucumber, sliced thin
4 t soy sauce
Asian-style chili oil, to taste
- In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and vinegar and bring to a boil. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
- Add the carrot and daikon, mix well, and season with salt. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes or store in the refrigerator overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the baguettes open lengthwise and slather the insides with mayonnaise.
- Arrange them on a baking sheet and bake until hot and crusty, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven and fill with the turkey (or ham), pate, cilantro, mint, jalapeno, cucumber slices and a hearty portion of the pickled carrot and diakon.
- Drizzle with soy sauce and chili oil (if using).
- Grind desired amount of black pepper on each.
Eat and enjoy!
There are at least four restaurants in this area, that I know of, that feature the banh mi on their menus. All four make them differently. I have seen them made with ham, salami, headcheese (traditional, believe it or not), seasoned pork, roast beef as well as other things. There is even a vegan version available at one local cafe. Whatever makes you happy should determine what goes into yours. I will say the pickled vegetables, herbs and fresh vegetables bring a flavor punch and a brightness as well as authenticity that would be sadly missed if they were left out. Seriously, without these, it would be just another sandwich. Right?
I am thankful to have this sandwich in my repertoire and even happier when I get to eat it. Its versatility allows you to unleash your creative juices. I urge you to customize it to your liking and report back about your creations.