Strangely this obsession was developed in London rather than on my travels through Vietnam last year. As a lover of all food (no discriminating here) I wanted to try as much Vietnamese food as possible during my two weeks there, even doing a street-side cookery course making Hoi An white rose and bánh xèo. Bánh mì, however, wasn’t one of my priorities. ‘A sandwich?’ I thought, ‘Something I could make at home? Nope, not exciting enough.’ Oh how wrong I was. How very very wrong. Bánh mì is not just a sandwich, it is so much more than a sandwich.
The reason I was able to develop this obsession in London, is due to some incredible Vietnamese restaurants and lunch spots opening up; it seems I’m not the only one paying attention to this fantastic cuisine. The main source of my addiction is relatively new spot Hawker in Camden. The owner, Michael, travelled Vietnam to get a full understanding of the food, working in local street venues and restaurants to learn the tricks and secrets behind the Vietnamese flavour. This, my friends, is why his food is some of the best Vietnamese in London. When the pho broth has depth of flavour like a deep well, and the bánh mì is crispy, saucy and contains an intricate web of tastes you didn’t know you could experience all at once, you know you’re onto a winner.
You should be excited, I’m so excited i’m having trouble containing myself, that Michael at Hawker has actually given me his BBQ pork recipe to use with my bánh mì. I know. Forever grateful doesn’t even cut it.
A bit about bánh mì (pronounced ‘Ban Mee’): In Vietnamese, Bánh translates loosely as the word for bread, and the term bánh mì has become synonymous with the fabulous baguette and it’s even more fabulous contents. Traditionally, the bánh mì baguette is made with rice flour and wheat flour, but being in London with less access to the traditional sort, I have settled with a very crusty, airy wheat baguette as my bánh. Bake in the oven baguettes would be a good option.
In the ‘classic’ bánh mì, you will generally find a combination of pork cold cuts, pork sausage, pâté and the constants of cucumber, pickled carrot & daikon and coriander. I find pâté works in every bánh mì (so does Hawker) and adds a certain layer of wonderment that is indescribable. I’ve used a good quality smooth chicken liver pâté which was insane but please feel free to make your own or use a pork pâté. You can make bánh mì with chicken or tofu (if you are so inclined) and add different Vietnamese flavours. I’ve gone for barbecue pork, cause it’s the best and Hawker knows where it’s at.
BBQ PORK BÁNH MÌ
Marinating 3hrs – overnight
Cooking & prep: 1 hour 20
Assembling: 5 mins
Quantities: 4 bánh mì
Kitchen Stuff: baking tray, tin foil, jar (for pickles)
1 Cucumber, cut into batons
2 spring onions, thinly shredded in matchstick size
1 large bunch of coriander, leaves picked
100g – 150g chicken liver pâté
yuzu mayonnaise (3-4 tbsp mayonnaise with 1tsp yuzu mixed in – or just use mayo)
4 crusty baguettes (100 – 150g each) – I have included tips on how to ‘refresh’ day old baguettes.
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
bánh mì carrot pickles (Makes one large jar full)
250g (4-5) carrots, julienned (cut into thin matchsticks)
250ml (1 cup) white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
100ml warm water (warm enough to dissolve sugar)
110g (1/2) cup soft brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
1. PORK MARINADE: Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a medium-large mixing bowl. Add the pork and rub the marinade thoroughly into the pork shoulder. Cover the bowl with cling film, pop it in the fridge and leave to marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
IMPORTANT: Make sure your pork is at room temperature before roasting, otherwise it won’t cook how you expect it to (from experience). Remove the pork from the fridge at least an hour before cooking.
2. COOK THE PORK: Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Transfer the pork to a baking tray and cover fully with tin foil or a baking tray lid. Cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the foil / lid and bake for another 15/20 minutes to char the pork. Rest for 20 minutes before cutting.
4. BAGUETTES: I used day old baguettes and refreshed them in the oven, this is an amazing trick. Moisten a clean tea towel and ring it out until just damp. Turn your oven to 200ºC and wrap your baguettes in the damp towel for 15 minutes whilst the oven is warming. Put your baguettes in the hot oven for 5 minutes, the outside will be crispy and the middle moist and fluffy. If they are today’s baguettes, just pop them in the oven for 5 minutes without the damp towel to get a crispy crust.
You can do this whilst your pork is resting.
5. BUILD YOUR BÁNH MÌ: I know you’re quivering with excitement. So am I.
– Slice open your crusty baguette on one side and remove some of the white fluffy crumb. This allows more space for all the delicious ingredients.
– Spread a medium to thick layer of pâté on the bottom half of the baguette and a medium to thick layer (depending on preference) of mayonnaise on the top.
– Slice thin chunks off your pork shoulder and arrange on top of the pâté.
– Add 4-5 cucumber batons to the baguette, push them towards the back of the baguette so they don’t slip out.
– Layer on 2-3 tbsp drained pickled carrots (I love lots of carrots) and about 1 tbsp shredded spring onion.
– Add a good handful of coriander leaves and top with sliced red chilli (optional).
– Drizzle with sriracha.