23 January 2010

Homemade Banh Mi

I love living in Santa Barbara, but I confess there are times when living in a small town gets frustrating...like whenever I start craving boba nai cha, or bibimbap, or banh mi.  We've got some standard sushi places, but when it comes down to it, there really is a sad lack of good Asian food around here.  And given that many of my forays into Asian cuisine miss the mark that I was aiming for, my cravings go largely unfulfilled.  Except for maybe these banh mi.  Traditional Vietmese street food, these sandwiches are SO good: crunchy baguette filled with savory pork meatballs and garnished with sriracha mayonaise, lightly pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and jalapeno slivers.  For your next burger night, try making these guys instead!

A couple notes, first, about the recipe.  To get coarsely grated carrot and daikon, I used this OXO lemon zester.  Pulling it down the length of the carrot and the daikon, I got nicely curling strips which held their shape well.  (You could use a box grater, I suppose, but it might not look as pretty!)

If you aren't familiar with daikon, it's a large white radish, shaped something like a very thick carrot.  It releases a lot of water during grating, so I recommend draining it briefly before adding the pickling ingredients.

Since ground pork is not readily available in the stores around here, I grind my own at home.  If you plan to grind your own pork, make sure the meat is very cold (semi-frozen is even better!) so that it passes through the grinder without getting mashed.  I also recommend chilling the ground meat before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients to obtain the most tender meatballs.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 4 sandwiches

Hot Chili Mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons sriracha or other hot chili sauce
dash salt

Pickled Vegetables
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated daikon
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1 tsp. finely ground sea salt

1 pound ground pork, chilled
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 Tbs. fish sauce
1 Tbs. sriracha
1 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. finely ground sea salt

Vegetable oil, for cooking
1 par-baked French baguette
Thinly sliced jalapeno chilies
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed

Mix together hot chili mayonnaise ingredients; cover, then chill until needed.  (Can be made 1 day ahead).  Place grated carrots and daikon in separate bowls.  Whisk sugar and salt into vinegar until dissolved, then divide evenly over carrots and daikon.  Let vegetables marinate 1 hour at room temperature, stirring occasionally.  (I like to pickle the vegetables separately, so that the carrot juice doesn't stain the daikon orange.  If made ahead, cover and chill until needed.)

Place ground pork in a large bowl and sprinkle remaining meatball ingredients evenly over the surface.  Gently mix ingredients together, avoiding overworking the mixture.  Chill 30 minutes, covered.  Using a tablespoon for each meatball, roll mixture into 1-inch balls.  (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill.)

Heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then cook meatballs (in two batches, to avoid overcrowding) until brown on all sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, bake par-baked baguette according to package instructions.  Transfer meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in oven.

Cut baguette into four pieces and then split each piece, leaving top and bottom pieces attached on one side.  Pull out enough of the soft interior bread from each side to leave a 1/2-inch thick baguette shell.  Spread hot chili mayonnaise over each side, and then tuck in jalapenos, cilantro, meatballs, and drained pickled vegetables.  Enjoy!


Ravenous Couple said...

great job on the carrots and daikon! we always make alot so we just pop them in the shredder of the food processor. Pretty much everything west of downtown is terrible for asian food...we share you pain! :)

erica said...

thanks r.c.! that's a great tip about the food processor. i'm still a little wary of going back to mine after cutting myself on the blade :( but next time i'll give it a try. by the way, i love your blog, it's gorgeous!

Sherry Stockwell said...

What a very cool foodie blog and you are in my home town! We will watch for your posts. Best from Montecito...where it is still raining?

erica said...

Hi Sherry, thanks for visiting Apricosa! I love your Christmas photos...looks like a very beautiful (and delicious) Christmas was enjoyed at your house! Glad to connect with another foodie from the area!

dokuzuncubulut said...

I like it. I'm going to try...

Taiga said...

This looks so yummy - In my opinion, carrot and daikon are the golden combination of vegetables that works in all East Asian cuisines. Wow, I got to go and eat dinner; this made me unable to resist my hunger anymore :-) The restaurant New China in Old Goleta, beside Chinese and Vietnamese for which it is known for in town, serves decent - according to Koreans - bibimbap in authentic tableware along with traditional appetizers. I am not sure if banh-mi is in its menu. If not, that is fine now that I have your recipe!

By the way, while I was reading this, I wondered what kind of "daikon" is used in Vietnam. The word "daikon" is Japanese and what is available as daikon in US is I believe mostly one of Japanese strains, while in a Korean grocery at Patterson & Hollister sells another strain, which is referred to as "mu" in Korean (pronounce like "moo"), that is way shorter, less spicy, and somewhat "sweeter" than Japanese daikon. Regardless of which is closer to Vietnamese one, it might be interesting to try a different strain to see how it works with banh-mi.

Diane Chang said...

I'm writing to you from Bon Appétit magazine and am interested in using your photo for this meatball banh mi in a blog post. Of course you will be credited for the image. Please get back to me and let me know if we can use it! Thanks-

Diane Chang
Bon Appétit Magazine

erica said...

Hi Diane, I'd be thrilled to have you use my photo! Thanks for asking!

Christie Bishop said...

Hi Erica! Great blog! Found your site through Bon Appetit, as we both made the Banh Mi recipe. Love your photos and the recipe; the moment I made it I fell in love! Now I'm slightly obsessed with finding great Banh Mi in LA...not an easy feat!

Dewi said...

delicious sandwich, very intriguing !

Post a Comment