I have recently become infatuated with Bánh Mì sandwiches. They are just so perfectly balanced. I love how the fat round richness of mayonnaise and spiced pork plays against the acidic flash of pickle-y vegetables and a flourish of herbs. The crunch of a toasty baguette tastes all the better when smeared with smooth pork pâté. This sandwich is pleasantly spicy and full of flavor. It has heft and character, but all those herbs and vegetables keep it bright. I think it’s pretty wonderful.
The recipe below is ideal for a small, casual dinner party. Everyone builds their own sandwich, so take those ingredients you like and leave the rest. For a vegetarian friend, I made a chickpea salad to replace the meat: chives, basil, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, salam oleck, scallions, mirin, sesame oil, rice vine vinegar, and soy sauce. Words that every host loves to hear: You can prepare the whole thing in advance–when my guests arrived, I simply slid the tray of meatballs into the oven and flipped the switch on the toaster oven.
You might notice an absence of cilantro from the sandwiches in the photos: I don’t love it, and neither does the Frenchman. And since we eat everything you see in the photos here at The Roaming Kitchen, it was left off my shopping list. However, it would be very wrong of me not to include it among the ingredients. If cilantro isn’t your thing, I won’t tell. If it is, please pile it on with abandon–it will only brighten the sandwich. Also, my suggestion is to use a baguette on the softer side. It will be easier to press in all the ingredients, and easier to eat as well.
Finally, a disclaimer: I am fully aware that my recipe deviates from a traditional Bánh Mì preparation. I filtered this version through the lens of what I find tasty. I also used what was readily available to me–standard Bánh Mì bread is made using some rice flour, which gives it a lighter crumb than the French variety. However, since I don’t know of any Vietnamese bakeries near me, a regular old baguette it was. Even if this version isn’t “classic,” I hope you will still find it delicious. Serves about 10 people
1 egg yolk, fresh as possible
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup canola oil, or another neutral oil
a pinch of kosher salt
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 jalapeño peppers
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Flash-pickled carrots + daikon:
2 medium carrots
1 large daikon radish
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
1 white onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1.5 pounds freshly ground pork
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon kosher salt
freshly grated black pepper
1.5 tablespoons salem oleck
1.5 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 tablespoon mirin
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cups chopped parsley
3/4 cup ribboned basil
Building the sandwiches:
4 Persian cucumbers
1 small terrine pork pâté
Make the mayonnaise: Add the egg yolk, the mustard, and the black pepper to a small bowl. Give everything a little stir, to incorporate. Slowly pour the oil into the bowl in a very thin stream while constantly whipping with a fork or a small whisk. Add a little bit of oil at a time, waiting until the oil has ‘disappeared’ before adding more. The whole process should take about 5 minutes, and will require a bit of muscle. When it is finished, the mayonnaise will have risen in the bowl and turned a paler yellow. You should be able to tip the bowl over without the mayonnaise falling out. At that point, add kosher salt to taste. Stir in the sliced scallions, the sriracha, and the lemon juice. Let the mayonnaise rest in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for at least one hour before you use it. (You can also make the mayonnaise the night ahead.)
Prepare the jalapeños: De-stem the jalapeños; slice them thinly and crosswise. Use your fingers to pick out and discard most of the seeds. (My advice: immediately after you complete this step, wash your hands well with soap under warm water. More than once, I have rubbed a jalapeño-finger into my eye. Just trust me, it is not a barrel of laughs.) Empty the sugar, the salt, the white wine vinegar, and the rice wine vinegar into a pint container, or any small tupperware. Close the lid and shake the container, to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the jalapeño slices, and give the whole thing another shake. Let the jalapeños sit anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour.
Prepare the carrots and daikon: Peel the carrots, and double peel the daikon radish, if it has a thick skin. Julienne the vegetables. Meanwhile, mix together the sugar, the salt, the water, and the apple cider vinegar in a quart container, or any medium-sized tupperware. Close the lid and shake the container, to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the carrot and radish to the container, and shake it up a bit, to coat the vegetables. Let everything sit for about 20 minutes, before draining the vegetables. (You don’t want them to be too wet going into the sandwiches.)
Prepare the meatballs: Mince the onion and slice the scallions very thinly. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and then saute the onion and scallions until soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. When the onion and scallions finish cooking, turn off the heat. Pour on the sesame oil, and give everything a little stir. Allow the onion and scallion to cool slightly.
Heat the oven to 375F. In a large bowl, mix (but do not over mix–you do not want the meatballs to be tough) the onions/scallions, the ground pork, the lightly beaten eggs, the salt, a few cracks of black pepper, the salem oleck, the ginger, the soy sauce, the mirin, the bread crumbs, the parsley, and the basil. Form the meat mix into 30-35 mini meatballs, about the size of a golf ball.
Move the meatballs onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (The meatballs will hold in the refrigerator for a few hours, covered with plastic wrap. Take them out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to cook them.) Cook the meatballs for 18 minutes, and then allow them to rest for 10 minutes, tented with foil. They should go into the sandwiches still warm.
Building the sandwiches: Cut the cucumbers into long, thin slices. Cut the baguettes into 5-inches long pieces. Split them open, and lightly toast. (Try to time this with the meatballs, so that the bread is just slightly crisp and warm, and the meatballs are warm but well rested.)
Remove the pork pâté from the terrine. Scrape away any gelatin with the back of a knife, and discard it. Slice the pork pâté lengthwise into thin sheets.
Set out the bowl of mayonnaise, the flash-pickled jalapeños, the flash-pickled carrots + daikon, the cucumber slices, the pork pâté slices, and the cilantro. Allow your guests to build their own sandwiches.