As the inspiration of my Sandwiches Around the World feature, it is only fitting to start with this sarnie. My discovery of the Bánh Mì made me realise that perhaps whilst opting for the most well-known or accessible sandwiches, I’ve been neglecting the less mainstream but no less delectable creations that may not lie so directly under my nose. So to those sandwiches, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you taste like. But I have a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a lifetime. I will look for you, I will find you, and I will eat you.
Whilst on a trip this summer in Vietnam, not expecting a sandwich to be one of the national dishes, I was immediately intrigued when so many travellers spoke of this addictive street food called ‘Bánh Mì’. With our next stop being Hoi An in central Vietnam, I had been urged to make a visit to the ‘Bánh Mì Queen’. Chop sticks in hand, the queen lovingly constructs sandwiches outside her shop front, serving both locals and lucky tourists like me who had been told of her legendary.
Selling at around £1 each, the Bánh Mì starts with a fresh crispy baguette (popular across Vietnam because if it’s French Colonial past), spread with pork pate and soy sauce and layered with pork char sui, pickled carrots, a fried egg and topped with sweet chilli sauce. The combination of moreish meat and hints of sweetness put me immediately in love with this sandwich. There’s so much going on with the flavours that you just have to keep eating to workout which is the best bit, but really it’s the mix of ingredients that make it so damn good.
Of course there are different variations to the Bánh Mì across Vietnam but hands down the Bánh Mì Queen gets my vote for making the best. Although her sandwich includes a secret sauce (this deeply upsets me but I forgive you queeny) I recreated the Bánh Mì using the recipe below and I was pleased to find it was near enough to the real thing. I feel a mix of love and hate for that sweet Vietnamese woman, for introducing me to this masterpiece but enchanting me with a longing for this sandwich all the bloody time.
Lastly I leave you with an ode to the Bánh Mì, created by house mate Andrew Holder Ross …
A lonely Vietnamese Street Food Stall
An Eager man with ingredients full
He asked me with a look of glee
Have you ever tried a Bánh Mì?!
I say to him ‘No, what’s that?’
He answered, it will make you fat
A sandwich so packed full of treats
The famous food of the Vietnam Streets!
For the Pork Char Siu
- 800g pork shoulder
- ½ tbsp honey
- ½ tbsp light soy sauce
- 1½ tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
(Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Recipe)
For the rest of the sandwich:
- ½ small baguette
- 1 carrot, cut into very fine batons
- ½ a cucumber, cut into fine batons
- pork pate
- 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 egg
- pinch of fresh coriander
- 80 ml white wine vinegar
- 75g white sugar
- For the pork char siu, cut the pork into large chunks. Combinethe honey, soy sauces, hoisin sauce, brown sugar and garlic in a bowl and spread over the chunks of meat. Marinade the pork over night.
- The next day combine the white wine vinegar and white sugar in a pan over a low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat and add the carrot batons. Leave these to soak whilst you cook the pork.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 and arrange the pork on a wire rack placed over baking paper lined oven tray. Cook the pork for 40 mins, turning the chunks over after 20 mins.
- Cut your baguette sideways and spread with pork pate and sprinkle with soy sauce. Cut the pork into around 5mm size slices and create 2 layers in the baguette.
- Fry the egg, omelette style with a little oil, folding it once ready and place in the sandwich.
- Drain the carrots and pile into the sandwich along with the cucumber slides.
- Finally drizzle the sweet chilli sauce and sprinkle the coriander over the top of the filling, close the baguette and enjoy!