Meat, pickles, vegetables, chili, and mayonnaise on an airy, crusty baguette - these are the elements of a classic banh mi sandwich.
The best banh mi is the one you grab on the streets of Vietnam, or from the little cafe you ducked into seeking shelter from the monsoon. It's ready in moments, doesn't cost much, and tastes all the better for it. At home, it's better to buy pre-cooked ingredients, so that you don't find yourself working for half a day in the kitchen just to make a sandwich. The fully cooked pork belly from Trader Joe's, for example, is excellent for banh mi, and requires only slicing and a quick crisp in the frying pan. If you must make everything from scratch, do it over the course of a few days. Make the pickles first so they have time to, you know, pickle. Roast the pork for dinner. Make the pâté some Sunday afternoon. Then, when the time is right, pick up a fresh baguette and assemble your lunch.
Speaking of the baguette, it's very important. Stay away from sourdough or levain baguettes for banh mi. Those styles are crusty and chewy, but you're looking for light, airy and crispy. The crust should be thin and the crumb should be soft, yielding easily to the fillings and holding them in place. If you can't find the right baguette, look for fresh bolillo rolls, which are available in many supermarkets.
The pâté should be soft and spreadable to lend moisture to the sandwich. Typically it is made of chicken liver, a flavor of mellow intensity that contrasts beautifully with the pickles and fresh vegetables. Some styles of banh mi are made with pâté alone.
Besides roast pork and liver pâté, banh mi can also be made with cold cuts, meatballs, barbecued pork or beef, and even vegetarian pâté.
Gather the ingredients.
Cut the baguette into two pieces, each about 12 inches long. Reserve any extra for another use.
Spread one side of each baguette with half the pork pâté, and the other side with half the mayonnaise.
Divide the slices of roast pork evenly between the two sandwiches, then layer in the pickles, sliced jalapeno, sliced cucumber and cilantro. Serve immediately.
- For an extra crispy crust on your bread, lightly spray your baguette with water and warm it in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes before using it for the sandwiches.
- If you can't find the right baguette, look for fresh bolillo rolls, which are available in many supermarkets.