Vietnamese Sandwiches (Bánh mì)
First, make the pickled veggies. These should sit for 1-24 hours beforehand to marinate. The recipe below will just about fill 1 regular-sized baguette, enough for 2 hungry or 4 regular folks.
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp water
- 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 4-inch long piece of daikon, julienned
Work the salt and 1 Tbsp sugar in to the carrot & daikon in a bowl for about 3 minutes, until some juice collects in the bottom of the bowl. Rinse with cold water in a strainer and squeeze dry.
Next, add the remaining 1 Tbsp sugar, the water, and the rice vinegar. Mix well and let sit, covered, for 1 to 24 hours to marinate.
Next, make nước chấm (dipping sauce). This will make a fairly large amount, and though it's a little tiny bit better fresh, I keep it up to a month or so in the fridge.
- 2 Thai bird or other very hot red chilis
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 2/3 c warm water
- 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 5 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp. shredded carrots
You can just use the amounts above, but it's better to follow these instructions below:
To make a good nước chấm, you should start with good limeade. Squeeze the limes into a bowl and add water and sugar until you get a fairly strong but tasty limeade. Now do it again, but this time, don't drink it all.
Once you have the limeade, add the garlic. Crush the chilis into a paste, leaving a few larger pieces for visual appeal, and mix them into the sauce. Now add fish sauce from the bottle. Easy does it, just keep adding it until it's got a good flavor -- a bit salty, a bit pungent fishy, a bit sweet, and a bit sour.
If you like a milder sauce, you can make a very watery limeade and then add some rice vinegar instead. It contributes less intense flavor.
The type of fish sauce really matters -- use a mild sauce like "Golden Boy", otherwise the sauce will get pretty fishy pretty quickly.
Vegetarian? Soy sauce stands in for the fish sauce reasonably well, though you may also want a bit of vinegar to strengthen up the flavors.
For the sandwiches themselves, they can be filled with pretty much anything. I tend to use FriedTofu, but you can use pretty much any sandwich filling. ("Traditional" Vietnamese sandwiches tend to be tofu, fish cake, shredded roast pork, chicken, pate, ham, ...)
You'll need any or all of the following:
- shredded cucumber
- white onion sliced paper-thin, or green (spring) onions sliced into small rounds
- Vietnamese mint (rau ram) (much better), or spearmint
- cilantro (coriander) leaves
- good fresh French baguette -or- Vietnamese baguette, though I prefer the French variety if it's truly a good one.
salt & pepper
- sandwich fillings: roast meats, fried tofu, sausages, more veggies, anything goes.
Chop up and mix together the mint and cilantro so you can just sprinkle it on each sandwich. Slice the onion into paper-thin rounds. Likewise the cucumber. Likewise the jalapeño.
Heat up the sandwich filling, if appropriate. Toast the baguette until just crispy and warm and fragrant. Spread on some of the mayo.
Add the filling, then the cucumber and onions and jalapeños, then some of the pickled veggies (drained somewhat). Sprinkle on the herb mixture. Sprinkle on some nước chấm. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
These are best if you make them quickly after the bread is toasted, and they're still warm.