Craving something meaty, spicy, crunchy, sweet, salty and creamy, that has the intoxicating aroma of basil and chilies? Let's make some Vietnamese Pork Meatball Banh Mi sandwiches. (Actually, these are made with turkey, but you couldn't tell, could you?)
The vegetables usually go into the sandwich, not on the side, but this was prepared for a kid who wasn't sure how he felt about pickled carrots and cabbage.
The roll comes from La Canasta del Pan, in Jackson, WY. My favorite Mexican/French bakery just started making these mini-baguettes, perfect for a Banh Mi.
is a French-Vietnamese hybrid of a sandwich, and classic street vendor fare if you are traveling in Vietnam. It seems to have a bit of a cult following amongst urban foodies in the US. Checking out the website entitled "The Battle of the Banh Mi"
, I learned that if you want to find a real Banh Mi in our area, you'll have to drive to Denver. Let's just make some, it's easy.
Vietnamese pork meatball Banh mi, deconstructed. You don't have to have it on a big French roll.
Here I made them with turkey instead of pork not because I was trying to be healthy, although it is a healthier alternative. I was shopping at the "big" grocery store and became grossed out at the ground pork selection, which contained "pork products" from the "USA" and "Canada".
I could have gone to one of the wonderful butchers in town, who would have ground up some locally sourced fresh pork for me, but being in a hurry I just grabbed ground turkey instead. Turkey works.
Is anyone else addicted to Sriracha sauce? Also known as "Rooster sauce", it was invented by David Tran right here in America. See Culinary Word of the Day for more.
Ground turkey (although pork is my favorite) works because there are so many other flavors going on here. Garlic (lots of garlic), basil, green onions, fish sauce, and Sriracha sauce make for a meatball packed with a big, spicy punch.
Slice the Napa cabbage as thinly as possilble. If you are very observant, you will note that this is just a plain old green cabbage, but it works.
The first thing you do when you make this dish is to quickly pickle some vegetables. Grated carrots and daikon (a Japanese white radish) are traditional choices, but I prefer using a combination of carrots and Napa cabbage. I just love Napa cabbage, and so does our turtle, so everyone is happy.
Pickling sounds complicated, but in this case all it entails is dissolving equal parts unseasoned rice vinegar and sugar, adding salt, and tossing it all with the grated or thinly sliced vegetables. The vegetables pickle while sitting on the counter for about an hour. All you have to do is toss them a bit if you are walking by.
Then you'll want to make the Hot Chili Mayo. Even if you don't feel like making Pork Meatball Banh Mi, you should probably make some Hot Chili Mayo anyways. Three reasons come to mind. 1. It's easy. 2. It's great on turkey sandwiches. 3. It adds spice to everything, including scrambled eggs, grilled fish, hamburgers, pork chops, and chicken. You name it, and Hot Chili Mayo will make it better.
Hot chili mayo is just mayonnaise with Sriracha hot sauce and scallions. It's addicting. It also reminds me of Spicy Red Pepper Miso Mayo, a vegan alternative which you can buy at Jackson Whole Grocer.
For a printable version of each recipe, click on the file below it.
Vietnamese Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Makes 4 generous sandwiches.
1 recipe Vietnamese pork meatballs
1 recipe Quick-Pickled Napa Cabbage and Carrot Salad
1 recipe hot chili mayo
4 mini-baguettes, or 2 large baguettes
This recipe has a few different components, but it is really easy. First, make the pickled vegetables because they will need to sit for about an hour. Then make the Hot Chili Mayo and refrigerate it. Try not to keep dipping your fingers into it. Next, make the meatballs. If you are going to eat your Banh Mi right away, keep the meatballs warm in the oven until ready to serve. Or you can make it all ahead of time, and just reheat the meatballs. It is nice if the bun is warm too!
You can go all out and put sprigs of cilantro, slices of jalapeno, or other pickled vegetables on your Banh Mi, but let's keep it simple.
My version of Banh Mi was adapted from Jeanne Thiel Kelley's recipe in the January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.
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Vietnamese Pork Meatballs
1 lb. ground pork (or turkey)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped (Buy a bunch; you'll need 2more for the sauce).
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 Tbsp. hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
sesame oil, for frying (not toasted or flavored sesame oil), or canola oil
- Gently mix all ingredients (except for the oil) in a bowl.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
- Using wet hands, use a tablespoon to scoop up meat and form a 1 inch meatball. Place on a baking sheet.
- Heat sesame or canola oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Add about half the meatballs to the pan (they should not touch in the pan) and fry until golden brown on all sides, about 15 minutes.
- Place cooked meatballs on another baking sheet, and keep warm in a 200 degree oven.
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Quick-Pickled Napa Cabbage and Carrot Salad
This sweet and crispy salad can be served as a side dish, or stuffed into a Banh Mi sandwich.
Wash your carrots well, peel them with a vegetable peeler and discard the bitter peel. Then use the vegetable peeler to make nice long strips.
I like to hold the carrot straight up and down by its root end, and peel from top to bottom. It's hard to photograph, but easy to do!
- 2 cups carrots, shaved into long pieces with a vegetable peeler
- 2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (about half of one large head)
- 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
- Add the vinegar, sugar and salt to a large bowl. Stir to dissolve.
- Add the vegetables, and toss well.
- Let sit for at least an hour at room temperature, tossing it if you are around. You can make this ahead and keep it in the refrigerator; it stays crispy for several hours.
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Hot Chili Mayo
If you have some leftover Hot Chili Mayo, use it on grilled fish, hamburgers, scrambled eggs, turkey sandwiches...everything!
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise (lowfat or regular)
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
- Stir all ingredients in a small bowl.
- Taste. Add salt if needed, or more Sriracha sauce.
- Can be made up to a day ahead; store tightly covered in the refrigerator.
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Culinary Word of the Day: Sriracha Sauce (ser-RACH-a)
Named after the seaside town of Sri Racha in Thailand, inventor David Tran once sold this hot sauce on the streets of Viet Nam with his parents. The sauce was so popular, they made enough money to emigrate to America. Initially marketed to other Vietnamese immigrants, his "Rooster Sauce" became wildly popular among Americans. It has the consistency of ketchup and is almost as ubiquitous at our house. Gourmet magazine included Sriracha Sauce on its list of the top ten ingredients of 2010.