The banh mi sandwich is perhaps the most welcome legacy of French colonialism in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s traditional cuisine does not include sandwiches—yet the country is responsible for one of the most legendary concoctions to ever grace two pieces of bread. The term banh mi actually means “bread,” and refers to a Vietnamese baguette. The French introduced bread during the colonial era, and Vietnamese cooks adapted the recipe to include rice flour as well as wheat. The result is airier than the French version, with a crispy crust that won’t rough up the roof of your mouth.
Technically, anything served on this bread could be considered banh mi; the earliest versions consisted only of a smear of liver paté. In South Vietnam, however, the recipe evolved to include traditional Vietnamese ingredients, like cilantro, caramelized pork, and pickled vegetables. With bread, mayo, and paté as a nod to its French influences, the sandwich is east-meets-west at its best.
The bread can make or break your banh mi. You can purchase Vietnamese baguettes in Asian supermarkets, but if you can’t find them you can use any light baguette—nothing too dense or crunchy. A supermarket Kaiser roll is a better choice than a rustic loaf from a bakery.
Vietnamese Pork Banh Mi
For the pork:
- 2 lbs boneless pork butt or pork tenderloin sliced and pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
- 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Vegetable oil
For the pickles:
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
- 1 lb daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp plus 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 4 baguettes
- Paté (optional)
- Cilantro sprigs
- Sliced jalapenos
- Combine all ingredients from fish sauce through black pepper. Cover pork with mixture and marinate for at least one hour, up to overnight.
- Place carrot and daikon in a bowl and sprinkle salt and 2 tsp sugar. Using your hands, massage vegetables until they are softened and have released their liquid; you should be able to bend a piece of daikon without snapping it. Drain and rinse in a colander.
- In a 1-quart jar, combine 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar, and water. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add vegetables and marinate for at least one hour or until you’re ready to cook the pork.
- Preheat outdoor grill, indoor grill pan, or cast iron skillet to high heat. Add vegetable oil and sear meat for 1-2 minutes on each side until browned. Be careful not to overcook.
- Slice baguettes and scoop a bit of bread from the inside to make room for the filling. Spread one side with mayonnaise and the other with paté (if using). Layer pork with pickled vegetables, cilantro, and sliced jalapenos.
Sample the iconic sandwich of Ho Chi Minh City when you join O.A.T. for Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam.