Yay! I made it to round two of Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog competition. In this round, I’ve been tasked with creating a classic dish from another culture. I chose to make grilled pork banh mi, a Vietnamese style sandwich.
I have to credit two food trucks for my inspiration, Nom Nom Truck and Eat Phammish. They’re regulars on the Los Angeles street food circuit, carting their classic Vietnamese cuisine all over town.
Unfortunately, I can only catch these trucks when they come to my neck of the woods. I figured it would be nice to know how to make one of these tasty, savory sandwiches if I got the craving for one and the prospect of tracking down a truck didn’t seem promising.
My goal was to make a sandwich as good as the pros. One that would have me and my girlfriend Nicole (who is also a banh mi fan) making the “nom nom nom” sound as we ate our home made banh mi.
Wow! This Research Tastes Good!
As I thought about my recipe, I looked back at my research. Of course, it involved eating sandwiches from the trucks! I thought about how they prepared the sandwiches and the final presentation of the entree. I wanted to have that same taste and look in my dish.
Particularly, I wanted the savory flavor from the grilled pork, the crisp freshness of the toppings, and the crusty butteriness of the French baguette.
I searched online for ideas and came across a great recipe for a Black Pepper Pork Banh Mi. The website, Battle of the Banh Mi, is dedicated to making and appreciating these Vietnamese sandwiches. I used their recipe to put my shopping list together and headed off to the market.
The Asian Market Next Door
While I’m sure I could have picked up most of these ingredients at any grocery store, I decided to take advantage of the South Bay’s abundance of Asian markets, especially the ones right down the street from my house!
I love shopping in Nijiya and 99 Ranch Market and could spend hours browsing the aisles of interesting and exotic foods. I managed to stick to my list though, and quickly made it through the stores with the ingredients I needed.
Prepping the Sammie and Sides
Back home, I started preparing the marinade for the pork. I modified the recipe slightly by adding some ginger, a flavor that I love in Asian foods but was absent in my reference. While the pork marinaded, I prepped my condiments and also made an Asian inspired fruit salad with black plums and white peaches. I prefer my banh mi on the spicy side and wanted a cool side dish to balance the heat.
The toppings for the sandwich were fun to prep, smell, and even just look at! The ginger, cilantro, cucumbers, and peppers…they were so fresh and appealing I couldn’t wait to get them on the sandwich.
A Sandwich Worthy of Nomming
After the pork was marinaded and cooked, I prepped my sandwiches. Wow! Visually, they came together nicely with the green condiments playing against the white and orange of the carrots and radish.
Biting into the banh mi, I was pleased with the tenderness of the meat, the crunchiness of the fresh French bread, and the subtle heat from the jalapeño peppers. The cool peach-plum side salad was the perfect accompaniment to the spice of the sandwich.
With affirmations from Nicole, my official taste tester, I knew I had a banh mi worth nomming.
Pork Banh Mi, serves 2
Inspired by Battle of the Banh Mi
1 French baguette, twelve to eighteen inches long
1 pound thinly sliced pork chop, loin, or shoulder
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons fish or oyster sauce
3 packets of raw sugar, about 2 tablespoons
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped ginger
3 jalapeños, sliced with seeds removed (for more heat leave the seeds!)
2 Gherkin cucumbers cut into thin planks
6 to 8 sprigs of cilantro
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
carrot and radish slaw (see recipe below)
- In a large resealable bag, mix the garlic, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, onion, oils, ginger and 1 jalapeno. Mix the ingredients until they are well blended and then add the pork. Marinade the pork in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Place a cast iron skillet over high heat until water sprinkled on the skillet quickly evaporates. Add the pork slices, cooking one side at a time until both sides are brown and the meat is completely cooked through. Alternatively, “scramble” the meat by cutting it into smaller pieces with a metal spatula and fork while the meat is cooking.
- After the meat has cooked, remove the chunks of ginger and jalapeño.
- Slice one side of the baguette making a pocket to hold the meat and the toppings. Open the baguette and spread the mayonnaise on the bottom half. Top with the cucumber planks and then the pork. Add jalapeño slices, cilantro, and carrot-radish slaw.
Carrot and Radish Slaw, makes 2 cups
1 cup daikon radish, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Combine the ingredients and refrigerate.
Black Plum, White Peach Fruit Salad, serves 2
Cut the plum and peach into slices or chunks. Mix the fruit, honey, and wine in a bowl until the fruit pieces are well coated. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.