Vietnamese Banh Mi (Sandwiches)

Vietnamese Banh Mi  Bahn Mi for Me

We have three ladies who work for us here in our office without whom this place would fall apart. They represent The Money: from billing and AR, to payroll and HR; they handle it all.

Two are sisters from a large half-Chinese, half-Vietnamese family. I mention this because they have a lot of family get-togethers, and family get-togethers almost always involve food. In this case it’s a lot of food. Good food. A lot of really good Vietnamese food…and I totally benefit from the left-overs that they bring in, when it is all said and done.

It’s not always left-overs. On any given day you can find some tasty treat. Sometimes it’s fresh pork buns, still warm from the ovens of the bakery in Chinatown. Other times there are these cute, little egg tarts that are great with coffee. My favorite meal surprise is the Bahn Mi sandwiches. (My mouth is watering as I write this.)

I love Bahn Mi, and when they magically appear, my day is that much brighter. My favorite is the grilled chicken, but you can never go wrong with the classic. The combination of meat and pickled veggies with the cilantro and chilies on fresh French bread is rhapsodic, and worthy of enthusiastic discussion. In fact, we have been having a conversation about Bahn Mi in the office today—basically echoing the sentiments here. If I were a betting girl, I would lay good odds that I know what we will be having for lunch tomorrow…

Vietnamese Banh Mi (Sandwiches)
Serves 4

This basic recipe is for Grilled Chicken Ban Mi. See below for variations for Black Pepper Pork and vegetarian Lemongrass Tofu. 

Ingredients
For the Meat
2 cooked chicken breasts from a rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced
(Or see below for pork and veggie variations)

For the Pickled Veggies
1/2 pound daikon, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
1/2 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon sugar

For the Sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

For the Sandwich
1 24-inch soft baguette (Vietnamese or French, but not sourdough)
1/4 pound liverwurst
2 fresh jalapeños, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch rings
3/4 cup packed cilantro sprigs
Lettuce leaves
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°F, making certain the rack is in the center.

For the Pickled Veggies
Shred the daikon and carrot in a food processor fitted with medium shredding disk or with a box grater. Stir together vinegar, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Toss everything together in a bowl, and let slaw stand, stirring occasionally. After at least 15 minutes, drain the pickled veggies in a colander.

Prepare the Bread
Meanwhile, heat baguette directly on the oven rack, until crusty. This should take about 5 minutes. Cut off and discard round ends, then split lengthwise.

For the Sauce
Mix the oil, fish sauce, and soy sauce together in a small bowl, and brush on cut sides of bread.

Assemble the Sandwich
Spread the liverwurst on the bottom layer of bread, and top with chiles, onion, and cilantro. Arrange chicken, pickled veggies, and lettuce over the cilantro. Spread the top layer of bread with mayonnaise and cut sandwich crosswise into four servings.

Variations
Black Pepper Pork Bahn Mi

Ingredients
1 pound of pork chops, shoulder or loin. Sliced thinly.
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 table spoons of fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1-2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper. If you like the spice and flavor, add more!
2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots or onion
1/4 cup vegetable or grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon of sesame seed oil

Directions
Prepare the Meat
Mix all the marinade ingredients (except for pork) in a plastic bag, and allow them to dissolve in oil. Add slices of pork, and marinate for at least 1 hour.

Heat frying pan over medium. In single layers, place slices of pork into hot pan. Flip to cook second side, once the first is cooked.

Replace the chicken with this cooked pork in the recipe above.

Veggie Bahn Mi with Lemongrass Tofu
Replace the chicken with Lemongrass Tofu. Omit the liverwurst and fish sauce from the recipe above. You can use an extra layer of mayo to add richness.

Lemongrass Tofu

Ingredients
1 package of extra firm tofu
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
5 tablespoons soy sauce or tamarin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 -2 stalks of fresh lemongrass (about 1/4 cup chopped)

Directions
Drain the tofu, and blot dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces.

Wash the lemongrass, and chop the bulbs and portion of the stalk that is tender. Place chopped lemongrass in mortar & pestle and continue to crush pieces till they are small and pulverized. Add 2 cloves of garlic into the mortar, and crush garlic together with lemongrass.

In large plastic freezer bag, combine crushed lemongrass, garlic, vegetable oil, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Mix the marinade well, then lay the tofu slices in gently on top of each other, so that they don’t break. Make sure the marinate coats each slice.

Allow the tofu to marinate for at least 1 hour, until all slices have soaked up the flavor.

Heat an non-oiled frying pan, and fry slices of tofu until both sides are golden brown with a nice firm crust.

Allow the tofu to cool, and assemble the Banh Mi as per the instructions above.

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