November 13, 2010

Banh Mi: Vietnamese Sandwiches

My obsession with Vietnamese food is definitely not a secret to my close friends and family. It began after moving to San Francisco where Vietnamese restaurants are as common as hole in the wall taco shops in Southern California. I've already expressed my love for pho and bun bowls but what I crave most is Banh Mi or simply-Vietnamese sandwiches. The combination of ingredients has changed the way I think about matching flavors in my cooking. The salty pork, sweet and sour pickled carrots, the spice from the chiles offset by the cooling cucumbers, and the herbal notes from the cilantro make this one of the most complex, delicious tasting sandwiches in the world. My local Vietnamese hole in the wall, Irving Cafe & Deli, is one of the places I miss the most when I'm out of the city. I tried my best to replicate the perfection of their sandwiches here in Melbourne and it turned out pretty well! 

I used an Asian barbecue marinade mix since I'm not staying here for much longer and didn't want to stock up on a bunch of new bottles and spices. This one was absolutely perfect for these sandwiches and can be found in most grocery stores on the international food isle. 

Vietnamese Sandwiches
For Pickled Carrots: 
1 Large Carrot, shredded (you can shred to whatever size you like or chop into match sticks)
2 tsp. Superfine Sugar (more, depending on how sweet you want it)
2 tsp. Salt
2 Tbs. White or Rice Vinegar

For pork:
1/2 lb. Deboned Pork Leg or tenderloin if you're fancy, cut into thin, bite-sized pieces
1/2 packet of Mama Sita's Barbecue Marinade Mix
2 Tbs. Vegetable oil

For the rest of Sandwich:
3 Baguette Sandwich Rolls--You want some that are slightly crusty on the outside, soft on the inside
1 English Cucumber, sliced on a diagonal
1 Serrano Chili, thinly sliced (optional)
1 Bunch of Cilantro
Cracked Black Pepper
Fish Sauce for drizzling on top (optional)

After shredding the carrots add the salt and let sit while you chop the pork. Squeeze the liquid out of the carrots and add the rest of the ingredients. Let sit for at least 45 minutes. 
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. After cutting the pork, coat with 1/2 packet of marinade mix. Let it marinate at room temperature 30 minutes before cooking. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil to a wok or large frying pan. Cook the pork pieces on medium high heat until just cooked and still tender, around 6-8 minutes if your pan is large. 
While the pork is cooking, throw the baguette rolls into the oven to warm. To assemble the sandwiches slice the rolls in half leaving one side still attached, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise, top with 1/3 of the pork, three or four pieces of cucumber, a couple slices of chili pepper (or more if you can handle it), a few sprigs of cilantro, and the pickled carrots. Finish with a crack of black pepper and a drizzle of fish sauce for even more umami flavor.

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