My Banh Mi challenge

Banh Mi, attempt #1

This year I've set myself several food challenges. One of them is to try making Banh Mi. This is a Vietnamese sandwich made on a baguette and often filled with pork, pâté, pickled vegetables, cilantro and spicy mayo--though the ingredients may vary. The one key constant is a good baguette.

I first learned about Banh Mi back in 2008 from Wandering Chopsticks, a favorite blog. WC wrote up a recipe for meatball Banh Mi (Banh Mi Xiu Mai) that looks and sounds just amazing. I filed it away in my mind as a novel food I'd like to try someday. Then, last year, there seemed to be a Banh Mi explosion. New York magazine and the NY Times both wrote up the sandwich in the same April week. After some digging I found the LA Times also wrote it up in November 2008, and interviewed White on Rice Couple as part of it. (White on Rice Couple is another blog I admire. They love Banh Mi so much that they have a special site dedicated to it called Battle of the Banh Mi.) What finally spurred me to get going on my own homemade Banh Mi was Sass and Veracity, yet another blogger, who made Banh Mi for the first time recently. The bon appetit recipe provided made it all look so easy, I had to DO IT. And so I did.

That's a lot of backstory... here are the results.

Use a really fresh baguette. Here I have slathered on the spicy mayo, plus cilantro (no pâté or jalapenos for us this time, though I do want to try both). Meatbealls are on deck.

Meatballs added.

Then the carrot-daikon pickles. I used Wandering Chopsticks' recipe for Do Chua instead of the bon appetit version, which is why the pieces are julienned and not grated.

Tasting notes: The sandwich was pretty good, but I kept feeling like the savor and spice of the pork, pickles and hot sauce was getting drowned out by the bready baguette that we used. I think we either need to stuff the sandwich more, or use a thinner baguette. We kept throwing on more pickles and more mayo to try to get more of a kick from the filling. On their own the meatballs are delicious--with strong hints of Sriracha. But they seemed at war with all that bread! (And I did pull out some of the fluffy inside part of the bread, as bon appetit suggested.) I would make these again, and definitely add jalapenos next time.


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Vietnamese French bread is really light so it doesn't compete with the filling. The bread looks like a harder ciabatta style? I know it's probably hard to find Vietnamese French bread so just a thinner baguette might work better. Or even focaccia?

So was the anticipation worth it?

Ravenous Couple said...

well done! if you can't find a a good baguette, try a crispy french one and then peal out some of the white in the inside--that's what they do in VN're literally just eating the crust

"Prof. Kitty" said...

Thanks WC and RC for the bread tips, I've definitely got to pull out more of that white stuff. It's true that I can't get Vietnamese French bread where I am. The baguette I used is considered one of the best around! (And they are great for, like, brie, but not so much for this.)

WC--I think this first try has just built more anticipation for next time! Thanks for the inspiration and recipes... I will keep trying!