Pickled Vegetabes. Good.
Creamy Soy Sauce. Good.
Put it all together to make the best sandwich ever. Verrrrrrrry good.
It actually doesn’t seem fair to call this a sandwich. These days, the word sandwich evokes a picture of two pieces of some sort of floppy bread, smeared with PB&J, or cream cheese stuffed into a condensation filled plastic bag, pulled out from the bottom of a knapsack, 20 degrees hotter than it was when I put it in there in the morning.
That is not what’s happening here.
The banh mi is a sandwich at it’s best. It’s basically the little black dress of sandwiches. It consists of 4 very simple components that can be switched up or accessorized in a ton of different ways. No matter what you do to it though, the basic premise is a good French baguette, quickly cooked protein, flavor bomb pickled veg, umami packed mayonnaise and fresh herbs keep this sandwich down to earth, easy to make, portable, and simple but sophisticated.
The banh mi is what happened as a result of Vietnam being a French occupied colony from the middle of the 19th century until Vietnam’s independence in 1954. Like any good group of people, the Vietnamese took the incredible baguette that the French brought with them, made it their own and stuffed it with a combinations of France’s best delicacies and their own deeply cultural pickled veggies. The Banh Mi, which really just translates to mean “bread of wheat”, became a staple across Vietnam because it could be filled with anything and carried around easily.
The first banh mi sandwiches were spread with a thin layer of French liver pate, then filled with a thin layer of thinly sliced meat, topped with pickled vegetables (usually carrots and radishes) and fresh Vietnamese coriander leaves. It was the perfect east meets west combo.
Over time, the Bahn mi has transformed to mean any kind of sandwich as long as it’s in a Vietnamese style French baguette, filled with some sort of protien and loaded with pickled veggies and coriander. They sell them on the streets of Vietnam filled with thinly sliced beef, scrambled eggs, crushed pork meatballs, roasted pork belly, tofu for the vegans out there, grilled chicken and even sardines.
For pretty obvious reasons, I chose to go the route of thinly sliced meat. In my house nobody is vegan, eggs are for breakfast, we keep kosher and if I served my husband and sons a sardine sandwich they would trade me in.
Liver pate was optional so for those that unwisely chose to skip it I created a soy sauce-mayonnaise to add in some of that creamy umaminess they were missing.
Traditionally Vietanam style French baguettes actually have a bit of a thinner crust than regular French baguettes but I couldn’t find that so I just went with I had access to. You can, of course make your own baguette, but then this would not be an easy to make sandwich anymore.
Pickled veggies are a staple in my fridge. They come in many forms, flavored differently and grace basically every dish I serve. If you aren’t obsessed with pickled veggies, you will be after you make this sandwich so double or triple the recipe so that you too will have a well stocked pickled veggie fridge. I also added thinly sliced spicy peppers for some heat and although you can leave it out, I urge you strongly to try the banh mi with it.
However you do it, whether with meat, chicken, tofu, eggs, sardines or really any other protein you can think of just make sure to cross this dish off your list of “I want to make that one day but not today” dishes because you will absolutely fall in love with it at the first bite. And all over again with every other subsequent bite you take.