Sunday, February 27

Banh Mi at Home

Have you ever suddenly realized that there is one dish that you really love, like love to the point of ordering it every time you see it on a menu, but that you rarely make at home?  I had that realization the other day about a sandwich I often crave, the banh mi.  Warm, juicy, marinated meat tucked into a fresh baguette and topped with a cool carrot and daikon radish slaw.  You can't forget the crisp cucumber, sliced jalapeños, fresh cilantro and slathering of spicy mayonnaise.  I've had delicious restaurant versions filled with duck pate, tofu or shredded pork.  I've even enjoyed a banh mi in hotdog form from Asia Dog at the Brooklyn Flea. No matter how they're made, I really can't get enough of these Vietnamese deli stalwarts.  For my own take on the sandwich, I decided to used marinated and grilled chicken. The acidic flavor from the marinade and the char from the grill (or grillpan) create the perfect contrast to the crusty yet tender baguette and cool, spicy toppings. Hearty, cool, spicy hot and complex, these sandwiches are the perfect dose of freshness as we approach warmer weather.  There's nothing like fulfilling your cravings at home.

Chicken Banh Mi 
Makes 1 full baguette sandwich (serves 2 hungry people)

For the marinaded meat:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup fish sauce 
juice from 1 lime
2 Tbsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

For the slaw:
1/4 lb of daikon radish, thickly shredded
2 carrots, thickly shredded
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the spicy mayonnaise:
1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 Tbsp hot chili sauce (I use sriracha)

Sandwiches:
1 fresh, crusty baguette, sliced in half
1/2 hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
Fresh cilantro, roughly torn or chopped
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced or julienned 

In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, 2 tablespoons sugar and garlic.  Place the chicken breasts and 1 thinly sliced jalapeño in a large, resealable bag.  Pour the whisked marinade over the chicken.  Seal the bag, be sure the marinade evenly coats the chicken and place the bag on a plate or in a bowl to prevent any possible leakage. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours. 

Meanwhile, in another small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, 1/8 cup sugar, toasted sesame oil and salt.  Combine shredded carrots and daikon in a separate, large bowl.  Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble sandwiches.  

Mix the mayonnaise and chili sauce together. Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble. 

Once the chicken has marinated, turn your outdoor grill to high or heat an oiled or non-stick indoor grill pan over high flame.  Remove chicken from marinade and scrape off any jalapeños that may have stuck to the meat.  Grill chicken for approximately 10 minutes (5 minutes per side) or until just done. Remove chicken to a plate and cover with foil while you prepare the other toppings.

Pour a bit of the slaw dressing over the shredded carrots and daikon.  Toss to coat and add more dressing, bit by bit, until the slaw is lightly coated.   

Remove the chicken to a plastic cutting board and slice into 1/2 inch slices.

Spread the prepared mayonnaise over both sides of the halved baguette.   Arrange sliced cucumbers over the bottom half.  Top with the chicken then cover with the slaw.  Top with cilantro and jalapeño slices.  Cover with the top half of the baguette.  Slice into portions and enjoy.

Fresh lime juice gives the grilled chicken a fresh, citrusy punch.
Shredded carrots and daikon radish bring a cool crunch and vinegary bite to this sandwich.
A few Asian pantry staples you'll need for this recipe:  fish sauce, rice vinegar and toasted sesame seed oil.
Slice it up and enjoy this classic Vietnamese sandwich at home. 

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