Aside from pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup), the banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich/Saigon sub) is arguably the second greatest Vietnamese import into the American food culture. Evolving from French colonial influences in Vietnam, the french baguette, pate, and mayonaise was combined with classic Vietnamese ingredients like cilantro, peppers, pickled carrots and daikon as well as the a plethora of meat options that make this sandwich arguably one of the best sandwiches ever invented.
A good banh mi begins with good bread. The banh mi baguette in Vietnam has a crispy flaky crust with a light and airy crumb, almost non-existant–very unlike your standard hoagie/sub sandwiches at Subway or Quizno’s. When you bite into it, it shatters and you’re left with small bits of crust on the table. We’ve yet to find this type of baguette here in the states.
Despite what you might think, we do not cook daily. We live about a 5 hr drive apart and so when we’re too lazy to cook on our own during the week, we always have nem nuong and thit nuong in our freezer to the rescue until we see each other on the weekends to cook.
So to make lunch for this week, we stopped by our favorite Vienamese baguette shop in Little Saigon, Tip Top bakeries and picked up some great Vietnamese style baguettes to make Banh Mi Nem Nuong and Banh Mi Thit Nuong.
Grill the nem nuong. In the mean time, split baguette down the side (hollow out the inside if your bagguette has too much filling) and toast lightly. Spread on pate and mayonaise. Add the grilled nem nuong and top with cucumber slices, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon and optional chili and a few spritz of Maggi or light soy sauce.
Nem Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties)* 2 lbs. ground pork (you may mix ground turkey or chicken to reduce fat) * 1-2 heads of garlic (cloves peeled; we love the intense garlic flavor but use according to taste) * 1/3 cup sugar * 1/2 tbs salt * 1/2 tbs pepper * 4 tsp or 1 small package of baking powder * 1/4 cup water * 1 drop red food coloring or 1 tsp coco caramel syrup (optional and found in most Asian groceries)
Using food processor, process garlic until fine puree. Combine pork, garlic, salt, pepper and sugar in mixing bowl and mix well. In separate bowl, combine baking powder, water, drop of red food coloring or caramel syrup (this adds a very nice color to the pork when grilled) and stir. Mixture will fluff and foam.
Fold the baking powder into mixture and allow meat to chill for about 30 min to 1 hr or longer for more bouncier, airy texture. The baking powder adds more firmer, bouncier texture. Now you’re ready to form the patties. Keep meat mixture in the fridge for a few hours to let it set and easier to handle when forming patties or mini sausages. Keep a bowl of water handy and your hands wet for easy handling.
We use an indoor grill (such as George Foreman) as it’s quick, easy to clean, and makes great grill marks. Grill until golden brown and slightly charred.
This is the first post in a series on banh mi. Stay tuned for our posts on banh mi thit nuong, homemade mayonnaise, and pate recipes!
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