When I started this project nearly a year ago (wouldjya believe!?) there was never any doubt what I’d be making for V. I’d never had Vietnamese food before what with that whole, I’m pretty much allergic to all of Asia thing, but I’d heard great things. Friends and family raved about the cuisine and years of TV food watching had thought me that Vietnamese was consider one of the great cuisines of the world with it’s melding of flavors from both Asia and France.
With a long history of occupation by the French that didn’t end until 1945, the Vietnamese incorporated certain French culinary traditions in to their diet. One of these traditions was the consumption of baguettes which are now a staple in the Vietnamese diet. Now baguettes are delicious all on their own, but those culinary wizards in Vietnam found a way to make that famous French bread even better; they created flavor sandwiches called Banh Mi!
There are many different types of Banh Mi, but after some research I decided to make pork meatball Banh Mi and after that… well… a few other things fell in to place.
Randomly my coworker Julie came in to the office one day and reported that she’d started making her own pickled daikon, a key topping for Banh Mi, and she said she would be happy to share. This time around I also have an expert taste tester, Josh, who’s enjoyed many a Banh Mi in his time.
Of course when one has an expert taste tester coming for dinner one wants to make it a nice meal. Banh Mi’s traditionally use cucumber as one of their toppings. Now as you know, even though I don’t always succeed, I do try to shop mostly seasonally; of course February in New York isn’t exactly cucumber season. So I was going to skip it, but I also needed a side dish to serve with the sandwiches and I found a recipe for a Vietnamese inspired cucumber and pineapple salad and… well… you can guess the rest (and by rest I mean shrink wrapped plastic with a “product of Mexico” sticker on it. I know, I know!).
On the upside I really liked the crunch that my hypocrisy added to the sandwich. Ah well; nobodies perfect.
Pork Meatball Banh Mi
For the meatballs
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 Tablespoons of scallions; finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic; minced
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons mock soy sauce (or real if you’re not allergic)
- Pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons fresh mint; finely chopped or torn
- 1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro; finely chopped or torn
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
For the sandwiches
- Baguettes (the softer variety)
- Finely chopped scallions
- Fresh cilantro
- Thinly sliced jalapeno
- Thinly sliced cucumber
- Pickled daikon
Make the meatballs
Preheat oven to 375.
In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Do not over mix. Don’t be shy, the best way to do this is with your hands.
Roll in to 1 inch round balls and place on foil lined cookie sheet.
Bake until cooked through; about 20 minutes.
Yields about 14 meatballs
Slice open baguette and spread mayonnaise on each side. Load in ingredients to your taste. Top with meatballs . Close sandwich and press down a bit. Serve.
Notes: I sliced the meatballs in half before putting them on the sandwich to help them stay in place. Traditionally Banh Mi are spicy so don’t be shy about the jalapeno slices if you can take the heat. They also traditionally have a pile of cilantro on top. I like it that way, but cater to your taste. If you don’t like cilantro, try some mint instead.
FINAL VERDICT: A+
OMG these were so so delicious. They’re receiving only my second ever A+!
I think it’s the combination of flavors and textures that makes this sandwich so great. In each bite you get salty, spicy, sweet and briny and also, crunchy, crusty, chewy, meaty, squishy! I would definitely make these again!
Both me and Josh, my expert taste tester, agreed that the meatballs themselves were fantastic. I would also make the meatballs on their own for a party and serve them with some kind of spicy dipping sauce. If I were to make the meatballs on their own I’d probably pan fry them instead of baking to get a nice crust.
Vietnam definitely did not disappoint!