Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

Banh mi is just about the sexiest sandwich around right now. New Yorkers are absolutely besotted with it, if the New York Times is to be believed, and as a result, the rest of us must hear about it all. the. time. I've never sampled the real deal myself, but it seems to be an ode to the pig that is resounding in little cult waves across the country.

Fine. Take some French colonial influences--like baguettes, mayonnaise, and pate--to Southeast Asia and slap them together with local tastes like burn-your-face-off peppers, cilantro, and pickled stuff. Add 13 different layers of pork and you're sitting on a gold mine of foodie-hipster street food.

While I'm not going to run out and do extensive research, sampling, and blogging about the 10 best banh mi spots in Boston (which probably don't exist anyway...) I am willing to try the approximation in and old Bon Appetit I was flipping through the other day. One particular article was all about fancying up the meatball. I like meat. In ball-shapes. I also like fancy sometimes. Why not try the Pork Meatball Banh Mi?

Well I'm happy to report that it was go-ood. Really, meatballs in general are a good idea. But meatballs with zesty Asian spicing swimming in hot sriracha mayonnaise and showered in pickled vegetables? That's quite a sandwich.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
serves 2; ready in about an hour

Hot chili mayo
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp hot chili sauce; I used sriracha (the rooster)

1/3 lb ground pork
2 Tbsp finely chopped basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp hot chili sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

The Rest
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup grated daikon radish
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
2 small baguettes*, or one large baguette cut into 6-inch lengths
fresh cilantro
  1. Make the mayo: stir all ingredients together and season with salt, if desired. Store covered in the fridge.
  2. Make the veg: stir together carrots, radish, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally, while you are preparing meat.
  3. Make the balls: gently mix all the meatball ingredients together and form into balls. Use about one Tablespoon amount and form 1-inch balls. You should get about 8. In a small skillet heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Saute all the balls at once, turning often, until browned through. Mine took 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  4. Make the sandwich: Slice baguettes in half and pull out excess middle bread, leaving the shell 1/2-inch thick. Spread mayo, then layer plenty of fresh cilantro sprigs, then meatballs. Squeeze out pickled vegetables and sprinkle over. Top with remaining baguette half.
*About the baguette: I brought home a firm, bready baguette from work to use for this sandwich. Not the best choice. The real Vietnamese baguette usually used for banh mi has a combination of wheat and rice flour, giving it a nice, thin crackly crust and a soft interior. When you're looking for bread, the softer the better in this case.

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