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.
- For the Pork:
- 2 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons whole black pepper
- 1 onion, cut into quarters
- 3 jalapeños, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup fish sauce
- 3 pound pork shoulder, trimmed
- For the Sandwich:
- 1 French baguette
- 1/3 cup pâté, store-bought or homemade
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 8 ounces roast pork, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 cup pickled carrot and radish mixture (regular red radish or daikon)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced, seeds removed
- 1/3 cup sliced cucumber
- 1 small bunch cilantro
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this banh mi is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
Make the Pork
Gather the ingredients.
Add the warm water, sugar and salt to a large bowl, large enough to hold the pork shoulder and other ingredients. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
Add remaining ingredients to the bowl, then add cold water until the pork is submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Place the pork into a roasting pan and roast at 400 F for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 F. Remove from oven and rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a week or wrap tightly and freeze for up to three months.
Assemble the Sandwich
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.