Here we go. The first one to be ticked off of my list this year. I chose lunch to prepare this sandwich as I am trying to avoid carbs in the evening nowadays.

Much as I wanted to bake fresh baguette, I decided to buy some instead as it would mean I’d be up way before breakfast to prepare lunch! I have a jar of do chua made three days earlier and apart from my chosen protein and chili mayonnaise, the rest of the ingredients are fresh.

Local Street Food Stall

Bánh mì starts with great baguette. The Vietnamese use either rice flour or a wheat-rice flour mix which results in a lighter bread with a beautifully crisp crust. With no available authentic Vietnamese breads here, I used the common French variety. The baguette can be hollowed out and quickly toasted to achieve a crunchy shell but I didn’t do that for this version as I was having it for lunch and wanted a more substantial sandwich.

The fillings are typically meats like pork, cold cuts, liver pâté or head cheese (which is a terrine of flesh culled from the head of a calf or pig). Here’s an extensive list of filling choices to satisfy whatever you’re craving at the moment. I’m doing the pork meatball variety.

The thing that makes bánh mì an outstanding sandwich apart from the bread are the accompaniments. Just like the celebrated phở, the herbs and vegetables add that fresh flavor and awesome texture. Hanoi street vendors offer sliced chilis if you like it a bit spicy. I am choosing a subtler heat by leaving out the hot peppers and instead mixing some hot sauce with the mayonnaise.

Easily one of my favorite sandwiches in the world, now recreated in my kitchen and personalized to my liking. And may well be repeated many times during the course of this year.

Boom! Checked off the list. One down, nine to go.

Vietnamese-Style Pork Balls

Bánh Mì Xíu Mại (Pork Ball Sandwich)

Ingredients

Vietnamese Pork Balls

500 grams ground pork
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
2 fresh red finger chilis, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying

Chili Mayonnaise

1/2 cup mayonnaise
6 dashes Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Assembly

4 individual baguettes
1 bunch cilantro
1 English cucumber, sliced into discs
1/2 cup Do Chua, pickled carrots and daikon
1/2 cup duck liver pâté, optional
Maggi seasoning, optional

Directions

In a bowl, mix all ingredients for the pork balls, except the oil. Chill for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to develop.

Heat oil in sauce pot over medium high. Shape ground meat into 1-inch balls and drop into the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pot. Fry meatballs until brown and cooked through. Set aside to drain in paper towels.

Mix ingredients for chili mayonnaise. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

Assemble the sandwich. Slice baguette lengthwise but not all the way through. If you want a crunchier sandwich, hollow out the baguette and lightly toast. Slather both halves generously with chili mayonnaise. If using pâté, spread on top of mayonnaise. Add a layer of cilantro leaves on both halves. Arrange cucumber slices and meatballs on top of the cilantro. Add a few dashes of Maggi seasoning, if using. Top with pickled carrots and daikon.

Enjoy!


About Karima

A hospitality professional who has a passion for languages and the arts, Karima loves to travel to culinary destinations and acquire a deep understanding of their food philosophies. At home, she finds pleasure in cooking and mixing cocktails for her family and friends.

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