During the whole stuck-in-limbo-at-an-airport ordeal, Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches seriously ameliorated the unfortunate situation at hand; now, I’m hooked. While I’ve always loved the distinct and contrasting flavors and textures of these sandwiches, they only became a craze when I had the perfect banh mi sandwich – hitherto unrivaled. It was the classic and unmodified version, the image of sandwich perfection. It was love at first bite.
The sandwich is packed with amazing flavors that distinguish it from all other sandwiches. It typically consists of some sort of meat, garlic aioli, cucumbers, pickled daikon and carrot matchsticks, cilantro, and thin slices of jalapenos. It’s spicy, sweet, salty, cool, tangy, soft and crunchy all at once. You get the whole package all between a warm and crusty french baguette. Per history, these Vietnamese sandwiches exemplify French influence with an Asian twist. How can you resist?
Its popularity has definitely increased exponentially over the recent years. They’re often referred to as the “Saigon sub”, “Vietnamese sub”, “Vietnamese Po’ Boy”, or “Vietnamese Hoagie” in various states all over America. Lucky for me, these sandwiches are easy to find in the Asian-dominant state of Hawaii. They can actually be found at most Vietnamese groceries, bakeries, and shops, making them accessible and inexpensive. Though there are hundreds upon thousands of adaptations around, I find that the traditional version (with thinly sliced roast pork, Vietnamese sausage, and spreadable pâté) is not only the most authentic, but also the most satisfying.
Pork & Pâté Banh Mi Sandwiches
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 cup carrots, julienned
1 cup daikon (Japanese white radish), julienned
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tspn salt
For Garlic Aioli:
1 egg yolk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
4 mini French baguettes, about 10-in each
12 thin slices charsiu (Chinese roast pork)
8 thin slices of Vietnamese pork sausage (Cha-lua), or bologna
8 thin slices of Vietnamese salami, or desired meat
Thin layer of spreadable pâté per sandwich, (optional)
4 long slices of cucumber, or cucumber sticks
4 sprigs fresh cilantro
2 tspns soy sauce
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Let sit at room temperature for an hour, tossing occasionally. Drain liquids and refrigerate.
For Garlic Aioli:
Place egg yolk in a bowl. Using a whisk or hand-mixer, break yolk and gradually add oil (in a slow stream) while mixing it quickly into the yolk.* As it emulsifies into a mayonnaise-like mixture, add minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
*The oil must be added very slowly, otherwise the yolk and oil will separate.
Cut each baguette in half, lengthwise, and toast lightly (stove top or oven). If using, spread pâté on one side and slather aioli on the other. Fill each baguette with the roast pork and arrange 2 slices of sausage and salami on each sandwich. Season each with the soy sauce. Add a cucumber stick to each sandwich. Then fill each sandwich with the slaw and top with cilantro sprigs and sliced jalapenos.