Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oh my Banh Mi

Last summer I discovered how delicious Vietnamese Banh Mi are. Working next to Chinatown gave me the opportunity to explore lots of great inexpensive lunch options, the $3 Banh Mi being one of the best finds.

These Vietnamese sandwiches originated with the French colonization in Vietnam and is made on a baguette. The meat of the sandwich can vary; cold cuts, pate, or head cheese being the most common traditional ingredients, as well as chicken, beef, roast or bbq pork, and sometimes tofu. The sandwich also contains pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, chili peppers, a little soy sauce and mayo.

When I order them I usually get chicken, beef, or pork. The pickled vegetables give the sandwich it's crunch factor as well as a sweet and tangy taste, the cilantro brings a very fresh flavor, while the chili peppers give the sandwich a kick.

So this week for my lunches, I decided to make my own. How hard can it be? Baguette, cold cuts, pickled veggies, cucumber, cilantro, chili's, soy sauce, and mayo. I figured I'd make a slightly modified version of a real Banh Mi. I planned to use a crusty grinder roll, low-sodium turkey and ham, pickled cucumber & red onion, cilantro, a small amount of cole slaw mix seasoned with some soy sauce, mayo, and sirracha sauce.

I decided that I'd make my own pickled veggies and found a recipe on the Whole Foods website that sounded like it would do the trick. It called for rice vinegar, sugar, salt, 2 Thai Bird or Serrano peppers (I could only find habanero's so I used just one), finely chopped ginger, cucumber, red onion. I decided to add some garlic too. The recipe said they'd be ready in several hours. I packed them in a glass far and popped them in the fridge.

They were ok. Mostly they tasted like cucumbers and onions soaked in vinegar with some habanero. The ginger and garlic flavors seemed to be lost and over powered by the pepper. I definitely need to find a better recipe for these.

Now the sandwich itself was pretty successful, minus the fact that on the first day I made it in the morning and it was kind of soggy by the time lunch rolled around. In the future, I'll try a different pickling recipe and add some carrots to the mix. It won't beat going to Chinatown, it won't beat Momogoose (the food truck that parks in Dewey Square 3 days a week), but it'll do. And maybe eventually I'll perfect these delicious sandwiches so that when I don't work right next to Chinatown I can still enjoy them.


  1. Hi Melissa,

    Hubert tells me you're in his bookclub, and since I made banh mi for him once, he asked me if I had any comments. I use this recipe for the pickles and the sauce on the sandwich. (I marinate and grill pork to go in my sandwiches.) I don't work or live near Chinatown, or else I'd just buy them too!



  2. Hi Jennifer.

    Thanks so much for the recipes. I will have to give them another go.