GLOBAL STREET FOOD at home: My (leaner) take on a pork ‘Banh Mi’

I fell in love with Banh Mi, a Vietnamese-style sandwich, the very first time I tried it. It became a lunch favorite while I worked in Downtown Santa Ana and could make a quick run to Little Saigon. Small shops all over the area sold Banh Mi for a very reasonable price that, luckily, did not do justice to the flavor and kick, let alone the serving (I was just out of grad school!).

My own diet and lifestyle motivate me to look for healthier alternatives to the food I like. And yes, I KNOW how amazing a braised pork belly Banh Mi tastes (and it IS pretty tasty) but I also know I can still get amazing flavors without going over board with the calorie/fat intake. That’s how I came up with the Pork Meatball Banh Mi recipe.

To make sure I got the leaner ground pork I wanted for the recipe, I chose the cut and asked the butcher to grind it for me. Some worry meatballs will be dry if using trimmer cuts but ginger, garlic, and onions help keep them moist and give them a lot of flavor. The spicy homemade mayonnaise brings a little punch to the sandwich that perfectly goes with the tanginess and crunchiness of the daikon and carrot slaw. A perfect little bite each time!

Pork Meatball Banh Mi with Daikon and Carrot Slaw and Spicy Asian Mayonnaise

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

Daikon and Carrot Slaw

  • 1 large daikon, about ½ lb, peeled and julienned
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp grape seed oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Pork Meatballs

  • 1 lb lean ground pork
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely shredded in a microplane
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, shredded or finely minced
  • 1 tbsp ground fresh chili paste
  • ½ tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • ½ tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Coarse sea salt to taste

  Spicy Asian Mayonnaise

  •  1 small egg yolk
  • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅔ cup grape seed oil
  • 1 tbsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 tsp jalapeño, seeded, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp scallion greens, finely sliced in an angle

 Making mayo at home is quick and easy, but if you still want to use store-bought mayonnaise just add the last three ingredients on the list to some mayonnaise (2/3 to 3/4 cup) and you are all set.

Sandwich

  • 2 French baguettes cut in half for 4 pieces
  • 8 sprigs of fresh cilantro

PREPARATION

Daikon and Carrot Slaw

Whisk together rice vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and both oils. Combine daikon and carrots in a medium bowl, drizzle with dressing, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Pork Meatballs

In a large bowl, combine ground pork with the rest of the ingredients. Shape into 1” meatballs and place on rimmed baking sheet. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven at 375ºF.

Heat 2 tbsp of canola oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs to skillet in batches to avoid overcrowding; quickly sear on both sides and transfer to baking sheet. Set in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until pork is medium inside. Remove from heat.

Spicy Asian Mayonnaise

Combine the egg yolk, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and salt in the container of a food processor (you can use a blender too). Blend mixture on medium-high until smooth. Reduce speed to low and start pouring oil into the blender on a stream. Allow mixture to emulsify and get thick. Now you have made mayonnaise! Transfer to a small bowl; add chili-garlic sauce, jalapeños, and scallion greens. Cover and refrigerate.

Sandwich

Slice each baguette piece horizontally in half. Remove some of the extra dough from inside the baguette, if desired. For each sandwich, spread spicy Asian mayonnaise and fill with a quarter of the meatballs. Top sandwiches with daikon and carrot slaw and sprigs of cilantro. Press on baguette tops, wrap, and serve!

TIPS 

Serve the Bahn Mi with an Asian cucumber salad. The perfect side dish and very refreshing. Get creative!!—thinly slice English cucumbers and add chopped red bell peppers. I like to dress mine with a sesame vinaigrette!

 

I made the bread at home this time. Of course, it’s a lot simpler and faster if you pick up French baguettes from the bakery. But I sure encourage you to try it some time!!—nothing like fresh, warm bread just out of the oven. I made four 9-inch individual baguettes.

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