A Bahn Mi sandwich is hands down my favorite kind of sandwich. It combines so many things I love and makes me feel like I am having a fresh, crisp salad and a decadent, crusty sandwich all in one. I have heard the sandwich described as a way the Vietnamese reclaimed the French bread that French colonization brought to Vietnam, filling it with their own ingredients and tastes. I order one whenever it is on the menu somewhere (our local fish shop in Mathews serves a yummy blackened mahi bahn mi) but I have also started making them at home.
You can vary what meat you use (or make it with grilled tofu) and some bahn mi sandwiches come with pate on one side but I find that too much so I omit the pate. I have played around with them over the years, but what I have settled on is good, crusty French bread, a spicy mayo, caramelized pork or chicken, pickled daikon (a large radish) and carrots, a few thinly sliced jalapenos, and lots of fresh mint, cilantro and Italian (flat) parsley. I make the mayo, pickle the veggies, wash the herbs and marinate the pork ahead of time so that assembly is easy.
Bahn Mi Sandwich
Start with a good crusty French bread. Cut into sections and slice in half. Remove some of the soft inner bread to create a bigger cavity for all of the yummy fillings. Slice jalapenos (seeded, if you do not want them too spicy) and cucumbers. (You can also add these to the daikon and carrots marinade if you want them pickled as well.) Wash a large bunch of mint, cilantro and flat parsley. Set aside.
Pickled Daikon and Carrots
Peel the daikon and carrots. Cut into match stick sized pieces. The quantity depends on how many sandwiches you want to make but I make extra and stick them in the fridge to spruce up a sandwich or salad during the week. I tossed about ¾ cup of each with 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and let rest at room temperature for at least an hour. (They can also be kept in the fridge for up to one week.)
Slice pork very thin. (I used boneless ribs and then further cut them down.) Again, quantities depend on how much you are making. I bought 2 lbs of ribs and used the following marinade that is an amalgam of several recipes I found online.
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Mix marinade ingredients well in a bowl. Add the pork to the marinade and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or longer in the fridge. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature for about 20 minutes before grilling.
When ready to assemble the sandwiches, grill the pork. I delegated this to David with our outdoor grill, but you could also use a cast iron pan (you want it to get very hot with a little olive oil) on your stove. Sear for just a few minutes per side.
I make homemade mayonnaise whenever a recipe calls for mayonnaise because it is so gosh darn easy with a Cuisinart, especially since I have settled on a recipe that allows for a whole egg rather than having to separate one.
Put 1 egg (at room temperature), 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a Cuisinart with a metal blade. With the motor running, add 1 cup of canola or safflower oil through the feed tube until combined. Done!
Remove from the bowl and mix in Sriracha to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble the sandwiches, heat the bread in a preheated 375 oven for a few minutes. Split open and spread the spicy mayo on both sides. On the bottom, add slices of the caramelized pork, then layer cucumbers, jalapenos, pickled daikon and carrots, and finally top with lots of fresh herbs. Top with the remaining piece of bread and serve (and eat!) immediately.
I serve the sandwiches with an Asian Cucumber Salad from Food Network.
Asian Cucumber Salad:
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound sliced persian cucumbers
2 sliced scallions
1/4 cup cilantro
2 tablespoons minced ginger (recipe calls for sliced pickled ginger)
1/2 finely chopped red jalapeno
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Slice the cucumbers and sprinkle with salt to release the water. Set aside.
Combine the vinegar, sesame oil, sugar an salt. Add the cucumbers, scallions, cilantro, ginger, jalapeno and sesame seeds. Mix well.