There are sandwiches and then there are SANDWICHES--bread that is packed so full of ingredients, flavors, and textures that they transcend ordinary sandwiches. I find a good Bánh Mì to be a SANDWICH, hearty, satisfying, and full of flavor. If you aren't familiar, Bánh Mì sandwiches are a Vietnamese dish that combine French ingredients like the baguette, mayonnaise or butter, pâté in a classic version, with Vietnamese flavors like cilantro, mint, pickled veggies and spices. Nigel Slater's version listed in Notes From the Larder as 'Sour, Hot, Crisp, Soft. A Sandwich for the Senses'--a very apt description.
Adapted from Notes From the Larder by Nigel Slater
Nigel says, "This morning I make fresh, hot vegetable pickles. I thinly slice a raw carrot, 4 radishes, and a quarter of a cucumber. I bring to a boil a small wineglass of rice wine vinegar and the same of superfine sugar. In go 4 slices of raw ginger and 2 star anise. I then add enough Vietnamese fish sauce to make it interesting, about 2 tablespoons (everyone's tolerance to fish sauce is different; keep tasting as you go), put in the vegetables, and let the mixture cool. After an hour in the mixture, they have become crunchy. Two hours and they are full of zingy bite and refreshing crispness.
I get a wok smoking hot, pour in a little oil, then follow it with a few handfuls of ground pork from the butcher. As soon as it is brown on the bottom, I toss it around the pan, let it color even more, then add 2 copped garlic cloves and a finely sliced tiny, hot red chile, followed by a teaspoon of five-spice powder. When all is sizzling and highly fragrant, I chuck in a fistful of cilantro leaves.
The hot, garlicky pork gets stuffed into a length of buttered baguette, the pickles are placed on top of the pork, and I tuck in 6 whole mint leaves and some more cilantro leaves. The resulting sandwich, eaten as a late lunch, was exciting , refreshing, comforting, crisp, soft, searingly hot, blissfully cool. I could go on..."
Deb says: I stuck pretty closely to Nigel's recipe sketch--just switched out some of the ingredients. For the veggies--I used some baby carrots, a whole small cucumber, part of a red pepper, a chunk of daikon radish, a few pink radishes and some fennel--a great way to use up those random veggies in the crisper drawer. I sliced everything very thinly, using my mandoline where I could. Since I don't eat meat or poultry, I needed a substitute for the pork and ended up using soy crumbles because of the meat-like texture. I used extra garlic and five-spice to add more flavor to the crumbles. For assembling the sandwich, I omitted the butter and hollowed out both sides of the baguette a bit in order to better hold the filling.
Notes/Results: Oh my, this was indeed a SANDWICH--so amazingly good. Let's start with those pickled veggies--which are so simple and delicious. I was happy that I made extra and these will have a regular rotation on sandwiches from now on--if they last long enough to go on them. I noshed on a bunch of my extra veggies but had enough leftover to grace the top of a tuna sandwich--yummy. I think the key for pickled veggies on sandwiches is to keep them super thin, so you can pile them on in delicious layers. I have had Bánh Mì sandwiches where the pickled veggies are cut thick and large enough to go on a crudité platter and the effect isn't nearly as good. The soy crumbles were hot, garlicky and slightly spicy, the extra seasoning gave them a lot of flavor. A little more beef-like than pork-ish, it still worked well in the sandwich and the hot seasoned 'meat' contrasted well with the cool, crisp veggies and herbs. The fish sauce in the veggies keeps this meal from being vegan but you could sub in tamari or soy sauce or there are plenty of vegan 'fish' sauce recipes online if you want to make your own. I served the sandwich Spicy Thai Kettle Chips and the ginger and Thai spices paired well. This one was a winner for me--I will make the sandwich and most definitely the pickled veggies again.
We are 'In Quite a Pickle' at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week--making Nigel Slater dishes featuring pickles. You can see what pickled dishes everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.