This Vietnamese sandwich recipe, banh mi, come from a fantastic little cookbook called I Love Meatballs! by Rick Rodgers.
Asian cuisines are super popular in the western world and Vietnamese recipes are known for their wonderful flavors and mix of sweet and salty. The banh mi is the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich, and you will see all sorts of wonderful variations. This is a delicious version of that Asian classic.
Did You Know?…
Banh mi is the name for meat based Vietnamese sandwiches. These fantastic sandwiches can be made from a variety of meats, but usually combine the signature sweet and salty tastes.
The sweet in this recipe comes from an easy caramel sauce that the meatballs are coated in. The tangy salty flavor comes from the pickled vegetables.
Asian fish sauce is the not so secret ingredient in this recipe. It is an Asian food staple. You only need a touch, but it brings out all the flavors in an amazing way.
I love meatball recipes. They are versatile, economical and tasty. This is definitely one of my new favorites.
This is what Rick Rodgers says about his fantastic bahn mi sandwich recipe:
“How to make the succulent Vietnamese banh mi sandwich is as personal as choosing what to put on your hamburger. Some cooks include a slice of liver-y pork pâté, or substitute Korean kimchi for the pickled vegetables, or schmear the roll with mayonnaise. Here’s a meatball version with a sweet-savory caramel sauce balanced by the tang of crunchy pickled root vegetables. An inexpensive plastic V-slicer juliennes the vegetables in no time. If you can’t find daikon, double up on the carrots.”
Vietnamese Banh Mi with Quick Pickled Vegetables
For the Meatballs and Caramel Sauce:
- 1 1/4 pounds ground pork
- 2 tablespoons shallots, minced
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, nam pla or nuoc mam
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce, nam pla or nuoc mam
- Sriracha, or other hot red pepper sauce
Quick Pickled Vegetables:
- 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar, not sushi vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 carrots, medium, cut into julienne pieces
- 1/2 daikon radish, small, cut into julienne
- 4 crusty French rolls, long, split
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, for serving
- 1/2 cucumber, medium, peeled and thinly sliced, for serving
To make the pickled vegetables:
- Whisk the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the carrots and daikon and mix. Let stand for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. For longer storage, transfer the vegetables to a covered container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
To make the meatball mixture:
- Combine the ground pork, shallots, fish sauce, cilantro, cornstarch, garlic, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.
To make the caramel sauce:
- Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Cook without stirring, occasionally swirling the saucepan by its handle to combine the syrup and washing down any crystals on the inside of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, until the mixture caramelizes to the color of an old penny, about 3 minutes.
- It should be smoking and smell slightly acrid. Carefully add 1 cup hot tap water (it will splatter and harden) and stir until the caramel is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Making the Meatballs and the Sandwich:
- Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the pork mixture into 16 equal meatballs. Transfer to a baking sheet. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the caramel sauce.
- Cook, uncovered, until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has reduced to about 3 tablespoons, about 6 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce and season with hot sauce. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
- For each sandwich, place 4 meatballs in a roll and drizzle with some of the caramel sauce. Drain the pickled vegetables. Top the meatballs with as much of the pickled vegetables as you wish, along with the cilantro leaves and cucumber slices.
- Serve warm, with the hot sauce and any remaining pickled vegetables on the side.