Luckily, I live in a town with lots of places to get my favorite sandwich, the Banh Mi! A delicious import from Vietnam, it combines Asian flavors and spices with the crusty bread of baguette. My take on the Banh Mi is not very authentic, partly because the ingredients I use are easier to get at a neighborhood grocery, and partly because these are the flavors I like best. A traditional Banh Mi tends to use a liver pate and roast pork. I like to use a grilled or broiled pork tenderloin and skip the pate (I’m not a liver fan!). Many people use daikon, but I often have trouble finding it, so if I don’t make a special trip for it, I skip it. Luckily, this still makes a very delicious sandwich! I used to be very intimidated by working with Asian flavors and fretted over making sure it was as authentic as possible, trying to make a special trip to the Asian grocery store. Now, I feel freer to take the inspiration and make it my own based on easy availability of ingredients and my own tastebuds. I still enjoy getting a banh mi at some of my favorite Asian grocery stores and delis, but knowing I can make a pretty great one at home is wonderful too.
Notes and Suggestions:
I like to use seedless cucumbers that are individually wrapped, but feel free to use whatever cucumber you like best. I love cilantro, but I know some people think it tastes like soap. Feel free to omit the cilantro, or substitute Thai basil or parsley. I do think it adds quite a bit to the flavor, so if possible, I try to add it. I like to cut the pork tenderloin in half prior to grilling as I think it cooks more evenly that way. Feel free to leave it whole or roast rather than grill. I usually plan on making a double batch so that I can quickly make the sandwiches again for dinner the following night. You can also substitute chicken or steak if you are not able to eat pork. The same marinade would be delicious with either as well!
First, you need to marinade the meat. If I know I’m going to make these ahead of time, I marinade it the day before to truly get as much flavor as possible into the meat. If you don’t have the time, try to marinade it for at least an hour.
To be honest, I’ve used all kinds of different Asian flavors as marinades for this recipe, some more authentic to Vietnamese cuisine, some more based on laziness and what I have in my refrigerator that week. The one I’m listing is my personal favorite, but if I’m wanting to whip this up quick, I’ve used Trader Joe’s Soyaki as a marinade in a pinch. I think the marinade is a fun place to experiment with flavor without messing up the rest of the recipe too much. All you really need for a good marinade is oil, some kind of acid (vinegar, citrus juice, etc.), some kind of aromatic (garlic, ginger, etc.), and some kind of herb (Thai basil, cilantro, etc.). I know when I started getting more confident in my cooking and trying new things, the marinade was the easy place to start and made a huge difference in flavor. Trying different marinades made me feel like I was being “creative” when I was cooking and less reliant on the recipe.
If possible, I also like to make the Sriracha Mayonaise and Pickled Cucumbers ahead of time because I think the flavors marry better when they’ve had time to hang out together. A day ahead works well, but again, one hour if you can.
Banh Mi SandwichesCuisine: VietnameseDifficulty: Moderate
An easy take on a Vietnamese pork sandwich
1 loaf Baguette or Crusty French Bread
1 Jalapeno, sliced into long sticks
1 Carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 handful of Cilantro
- For the marinade:
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 LB)
1/4 cup Peanut Oil or Vegetable Oil
2 TBSP Lime juice
2 TBSP Rice Vinegar
1 TBSP Garlic, crushed
1 TBSP fresh Ginger, crushed
1 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- For the Sriracha Mayonaise:
1/2 cup Mayonaise (I prefer Hellman’s)
3 TBSP Lime Juice
1 TBSP Sriracha
2 tsp Cilantro, chopped
- For Pickled Cucumber:
1 Seedless Cucumber finely sliced
1/3 cup Rice Vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Sugar (you may substitute honey if you prefer)
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp Black Sesame Seeds (optional)
- A day ahead if possible, mix all of the marinade ingredients together with the pork and allow to marinate in refrigerator overnight.
- Mix the mayonnaise, sriracha, lime juice, and cilantro. Store in refrigerator.
- In a medium bowl, stir the rice vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and black sesame seeds. Add the cucumber slices and shake well. Store in refrigerator.
- Grill or broil your tenderloin until full cooked (no longer pink in the middle). For grilling, 8-10 minutes per side on medium heat. For broiling, 10-12 minutes on the first side and 8-10 on the second side, 6-8 inches from the heating element. Allow meat to rest 10-12 minutes before slicing. When ready, slice the meat into rounds.
- Assemble the sandwiches: slice your baguette, slather on a thick layer of sriracha mayonnaise, layer on slices of pork tenderloin, add cucumbers (careful to not get too much vinegar on your sandwich by picking up with a fork), carrots, jalapeños (I use 4-6 per sandwich based on heat preference), and cilantro.
- If you double the recipe, you can easily assemble delicious sandwiches the next day.
- I would not assemble the sandwiches too far ahead of time as the cucumbers will begin to make the bread a bit soggy.