The Vietnamese conquest of the new world

Given a choice, I’d pick Tiffany’s for jewellery, Prada for bags, chocolate in cakes, and Bánh Mi for sandwiches. This Vietnamese-French sandwich is an example of how fusion food, if done right, can be utterly marvelous.

Published: 17th June 2012 12:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th June 2012 12:29 AM   |  A+A-

Given a choice, I’d pick Tiffany’s for jewellery, Prada for bags, chocolate in cakes, and Bánh Mi for sandwiches. This Vietnamese-French sandwich is an example of how fusion food, if done right, can be utterly marvelous. It combines sweet, sour, crunchy and soft in one delicious and portable package. There’s a reason why it has taken the Big Apple (and the rest of the US) by storm and is rated ‘the world’s best street food’.

Bánh Mi is a light, crispy small baguette, that is split and hollowed before it is filled with mayonnaise, sliced chili peppers or jalapenos, coriander leaves, cucumber, thin slices of red onion, a tangy-sweet daikon-and-carrot pickle and a drizzle of soy sauce or Asian chilli sauce. If you wonder how the baguette got popular in Vietnamese cuisine, you’d have to go back to French colonialism in Indochina, when the baguette was introduced there. The bread most commonly found in Vietnam is single serve and resembles a torpedo; therefore the term Bánh Mi is synonymous with this type of bread. The Bánh Mi is usually more airy than its French counterpart, and made with a combination of rice and wheat flours. As a result, it has an airy crumb and thin crust.

The variation comes in when you choose what protein components will be center stage. The options are endless, but traditionally, the sandwich was made with thinly sliced liver pate and thin slices of Vietnamese cold cuts. Other filling options include chicken, turkey, lamb, shrimp or seared tofu, which taste just as good or even better. Five-spice minced chicken, barbequed chicken, spicy meatball, garlic-brined pork, black pepper steak, sweet-n-sour turkey, lemon grass or hoisin-seared tofu, river shrimp Bánh Mis are just a few varieties to get started.

This visually appealing sandwich with its green condiments, playing against the white and orange of the carrots and the radish, is great on the tastebuds too. The tenderness of the meat, crunchiness of the veggies and bread and the heat from the chilli peppers makes me say only one thing… Nom Nom!

The author is the writer of AappleMint,

a food, travel and photography blog.

 

Lemon Grass Chicken Bánh Mi

Marinade

● 1/2 cup minced lemon grass


● 1/2 cup sugar

● 3 tablespoons fish sauce


● 1 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper


● 5 shallots, peeled and minced

● 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced


● 2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil


● 2 tablespoons peanut/vegetable oil


● 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce

● 1 kg boneless chicken thighs, cut into large pieces.

 

Pickled Vegetables

● 1/2 cup water

● 1/4 cup rice vinegar

● 1/4 cup sugar

● 1/2 tsp kosher salt

● Pinch of crushed red pepper

● 3 large carrots, julienned

● 2 daikon radish, julienned

 

Banh Mi

● Four 8” baguettes, split and grilled

● 1/4 cup mayonnaise

● 1 cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise

● 10 large coriander sprigs

● 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

● Sriracha/chilli-garlic sauce

 

Lightly pound the chicken pieces with the back of a kitchen knife. In a bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients well. Put in the chicken and marinade for at least two hours or best overnight.

In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and crushed red pepper to a boil. Transfer the broth to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the carrots and daikon and cover to keep them submerged. Refrigerate the vegetables for at least 30 minutes. They stay good for upto three days.

Light a grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Grill it over moderate heat, turning once, until just cooked through and nicely charred. Transfer to a work surface and let rest for five minutes.

Spread the cut sides of the baguettes with mayonnaise on one side and Sriracha/chilli-garlic sauce on the other. Arrange cucumber slices on the bottom halves. Top with the chicken, and shredded and pickled carrots and daikon. Garnish with the coriander sprigs, onions and jalapeño. Close the sandwiches and serve.

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