I am most certainly no Fort Knox. If you ask my sister, this is definitely not a good thing. (She still loves me…cause she has to. Just don’t mention Preggo Gate of 2012.) But when it comes to food this is definitely a good thing.
It’s one of my life’s missions to endlessly seek for those miraculous mouthfuls that make you consider Eating an official hobby on one of those “About Me” bio pages. Most importantly, I love getting the chance to spill these deliriously delicious secrets any chance I get.
One of the best kept secrets in the sandwich world is a little Vietnamese sandwich called a banh mi. This mouthful of joy pulls a masterful mash-up (10 points for alliteration?), balancing those crispy-juicy-chewy factors that make me sigh after each bite.
There are a couple of key components to achieving sandwich perfection:
- Bread. Not just any bread, but a soft, yet chewy piece of bread with a hint of crunch on the exterior. A Viet style french baguette is perfect bread for the job.
- Meat. I went with crunchy, caramelized chicken thighs with this one but really you could do almost any protein OR even, dare I say it?, vegetarian. (Don’t hate. Vegetarian can be pretty darn good!) Pork is used most commonly. Of course an asian marinade with some soy sauce, ginger and honey brings it all home.
- Pickled veggie slaw. These add a crisp, a crunch and a tang. I added to the typical carrots and daikon radish with some thin-sliced english cucumber.
- Mayo. Almost every self-respecting sandwich needs mayo or an aioli. That meat and zippy pickled slaw craves a creamy schmear to balance and round it out. Your tongue will thank you. Even better, add in a squirt or 5 of sriracha and give that mayo a kick.
- Fixins’. For me, a banh mi isn’t quite complete without a few jalapenos to make your eyes leak tears of awesome and some fresh cilantro leaves to give a vibrant, herby pop in your mouth.
And there you have it.
ahem. Take notes, boring American sandwiches.
Caramelized Sweet Ginger Banh Mi
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (will be longer if you marinate the meat longer)
Serves: about 4 to 6
4 chicken thighs
1 tablespoon mirin
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons honey or agave
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno, sliced
1 inch ginger, grated
1/2 orange, juiced
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons oil
cilantro, for serving
jalapeno, sliced, for serving
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 english cucumber, cut into matchsticks
Make the marinade for the chicken thighs by mixing together the marinade ingredients through to the green onions in a small bowl. Put the marinade and the chicken thighs in a large resealable bag and let marinate for 1 hour up to overnight.
Meanwhile get the slaw going. Degorge the vegetables by putting the carrots and daikon radish together in a colander in the sink or over a bowl. Sprinkle them with the 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Mix the vegetables to distribute the salt and sugar and then let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes. The vegetables will lose some of their water and feel more pliable. Thoroughly rinse off the carrot and daikon.
In a small bowl combine the apple cider vinegar, lukewarm water and 1/4 cup sugar. Add in the carrots, daikon radish and cucumbers and let sit for at least 1 hour.
To get the best caramelization out of those chicken thighs cook them on the grill or in a grill pan on medium-high heat until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F – about 10 minutes per side.
Assemble the sandwich by smearing one or both sides of the sliced baguette with the sriracha mayo. (You can easily make your own sriracha mayo by mixing in a couple of teaspoons of sriracha sauce with mayo – the hotter you like it, the more you can add.)
After the chicken has rested for about 5 minutes, cut the thighs into slices sized to fit on the bread. Layer the crispy chicken inside the bread with a generous pile of slaw and some cilantro and jalapeno slices.
You could easily substitute a pork tenderloin or loin and achieve equal tastiness.