Chicken Meatball Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwiches)

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I remember my first Banh Mi sandwich that I devoured in San Francisco while traipsing around the city with my dear friend Carly. She took me to a fabled store in the Tenderloin district where the sandwiches cost about $2 (but probably could have been sold for $9.) My first taste was that of love. Herby, sweet, salty, cruchy and fresh, these sandwiches are a perfect way to utilize some of the garden veggies you may be growing out back, or the farmer’s market produce you might pick up on the weekends.

This recipe comes from the January 2010 edition of Bon Appétit. You can find the original recipe here. I stayed pretty true to the original recipe, but substituted ground chicken breast instead of the ground pork. This saved about 100 calories (of fat) per serving so I thought it was worth it. You put so much goodness into the meat, that I didn’t miss the fatty porky flavor and neither did Edward.

Next time I make these, I might try cooking the meat on the grill, although I’ll have to figure out some way to bind the meat– as it is, it is a little too gloppy to make solid burger (maybe panko?) I’m also interested in exploring vegetarian versions of this sandwich. In San Fran, I sampled a tofu Banh Mi that had deliciously marinated and sweet grilled or fried tofu.

There are several components for the sandwiches and the ingredients are divided accordingly…

Carrot & Daikon Slaw: 

  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon radish (or plain old red radishes)
  • 1 very thinly sliced small cucumber (optional)
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Mix these ingredients together in a medium bowl and let sit at room temperature for about an hour. 

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Hot Chili Mayo:

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)

Mix these ingredients together and set aside in the refrigerator. 

Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Mix these ingredients together and then shape into 1-inch balls. When ready to cook, coat a large pan with about a tablespoon of Asian sesame oil and fry/saute about half of the meatballs until they are browned on all sides and cooked through. This will take about 15 minutes. Remove the first batch from the pan to a clean plate and tent with foil, or place in a 300 degree oven. Then repeat with the other meatballs.

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Other ingredients for the sandwiches:

  • 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
  • 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs
Assemble the sandwiches: 
  1. Cut the baguettes in half and then hollow them out so only about  a 1/2 inch of bread is on the circumfrence of the crust. 
  2. Spread the mayo on each side of the baguette halves. It is okay to get wild and spread a lot on there. 
  3. Place the jalapeño slices on the bottom half along with about 4 sprigs of cilantro. (Go easy on the jalapeño if you’re sensitive to spice!) I think some mint might be good here too.
  4. Place a 1/4 of the meatballs on each baguette half. 
  5. Drain the slaw and cover the meatballs with a heafty portion. 
  6. Slap on the other baguette half and enjoy!! 

These make a tasty lunch or summer dinner. I’d recommend serving with some fresh fruit dressed up with a little few mint or basil. 

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