I have no idea when I started eating banh mi, the delicious Vietnamese sandwiches that have become wonderfully ubiquitous in Toronto, but I don’t think I’ve ever let two weeks pass without eating at least one.
What’s not to like? A small French baguette stuffed with sharply pickled vegetables, tender meat that’s been in a salty sweet marinade before being grilled, all topped with crunchy lettuce and a touch of fresh coriander and mint. The best part is the variety—you can get an equally good banh mi with chicken, pork or tofu.
In the summer, the Boy and I like to ride our bikes to Chinatown east— more for the food than for the bike ride. We usually grab a banh mi or two (and some sort of sweet for the Boy) to eat near the statue of Sun Yat-Sen while admiring the incredible views of downtown Toronto.
Given the Boy’s love for banh mi (and okay, mine too—if I had to make a list of greatest sandwiches the banh mi would crack my top three for sure) I went in search of a version I could make at home. Food52 delivered.
The original recipe calls for pork tenderloin, but I make ours with tofu (it also calls for mayo, but I don’t dig mayo so I’ve omitted it). There are pork, chicken and tofu options in the recipe below.
These sandwiches are best if the ingredients are given a chance to marinade for an hour so give yourself a bit of prep time (and find something fun to do for the hour that things are marinating: build some Lego, enjoy a cocktail, watch that show you’ve been meaning to get to on your PVR…)
Banh Mi (adapted from Food52)
Makes 6 sandwiches
For the sandwich
Six french bread sandwich rolls
Pickled carrot and radishes (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro leaves (three or four sprigs per sandwich)
A dozen fresh mint leaves (I like one or two leaves per sandwich)
Protein of your choice (recipe for pork, chicken, or tofu follows)
4 ounces/ 115 grams baby carrots
1 bunch radishes
½ cup/ 125mL water
1 cup/ 250mL apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
I use the shredding disc in my food processor and just blitz the carrots and radishes through it. You could also julienne them by hand. Mix all ingredients together. Taste for seasoning. Let stand for at least an hour or overnight.
3 tablespoons Fish sauce
2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 inch of ginger, cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons neutral oil (Grapeseed, or canola, or vegetable, etc.)
Protein: 1.5 pounds pork tenderloin; OR four boneless, skinless chicken thighs; OR two boneless, skinless chicken breasts; OR 14 ounces/ 400 grams extra firm tofu
1. Combine all ingredients, give it a good whisk and taste – it should balance sweet and savory. Adjust to suit your palate (sweeter? saltier? Spicier–add chilies if you like).
2. If you are using pork: slice the tenderloin on the bias into six medallions, tuck between plastic wrap or waxed paper and roll/ pound thin–you want each piece to be just larger than the bread it’s going into.
If you are using tofu: slice the block into quarter inch/ 1 centimeter thick pieces about the size of a credit card. You should get 6 to 8 slices out of the block.
If you are using chicken: do nothing—just put it in the marinade whole; you’ll slice it into eight portions after it cooks.
3. Let the protein marinate for an hour or so.
4. Prepare a grill pan or a grill (gas, charcoal–your call) and get it hot! Chicken should be cooked to 165F; Pork to 160F; Tofu to 160F (thin pork and tofu will cook in about 2 mins/side; chicken will take approximately 5+ mins/ side).
Slice the rolls, add lettuce, protein, (drained) pickled vegetables, cilantro and mint. Enjoy!
Would you agree that the Banh Mi is the king of sandwiches? If not, what kind of sandwich is top of your list? Top of your kids list? Please let us know in the comments!