Saturday, April 17, 2010

Banh Mi: Imperialism never tasted so good!

Banh Mi is one of the happiest things to ever come out of the colonial era. Banh Mi is a very popular sandwich in Vietnam, but is heavy with French influences—most notably baguette, mayonnaise and pate (I use marinated, roasted portabellas). The Vietnamese components include pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and hot peppers.

One critical consideration is to use really good bread. A couple real nice crusty 8-inch baguettes (cut into 4-inch sections) are great, as are four high-quality French rolls. Whole grain is a great choice, but white is also delicious. You can toast the bread right before you use it or go untoasted. In Vietnam, they actually use a rice baguette, but I find making these from scratch a real hassle.

Finally, it is important that you use real mayonnaise for this dish. Homemade is ideal, and only takes a minute to prepare. Store bought mayo will make an acceptable substitute, though. No lite mayo, Miracle Whip of other bullshit allowed on this sandwich. Seriously.

Prep time: 1 cocktail (not including marinating time)

1/3 cup white vinegar
¼ cup white sugar
2 cups carrot, daikon radish, or a combination of the two, julienned
2 TBSP peanut or olive oil
3 TBSP rice vinegar
3 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP Braggs or tamari (plus additional for topping)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 TBSP Siracha
2 whole portabella mushroom caps
Baguette bread or 4 French rolls
Mayonnaise (recipe for homemade mayo is here)
Sliced cucumber
1 medium jalapeño, chopped into thin wheels
Leaves from ½ bunch cilantro

Combine the white vinegar, white sugar, and a half cup of hot water in a small mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add carrots and daikon and set aside to infuse at least 1 hour (overnight is ideal). This will create a delicious pickled carrot/daikon mixture.

In another small mixing bowl, combine peanut oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, Braggs, garlic, lime juice, and Siracha. Whisk well. Now poke a few holes in the top of each portabella cap and place the mushrooms along with this marinade into a Zip-Lock bag. Gently shake up the contents to ensure the portabellas get thorough marinated. Let stand for at least an hour, though overnight is ideal.

Preheat oven to 400. Bake the mushrooms directly on the oven rack until they become tender, juicy, and cooked through—about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Now it’s time to build the sandwiches. Cut your bread lengthwise, but not all the way through (you want a hot dog bun-style piece of bread). Smear a generous amount of mayo on the sides, then load it up with strips of mushroom, drained pickled carrot/daikon, cucumber, jalapeño, and cilantro leaves. Finish it off with a few extra drops of Braggs and ENJOY!

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