Wednesday, July 8, 2009
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The first of today's pictures comes from South Vietnam. It was taken in February when temperatures were hovering around 100 degrees. This young woman has something she values more than comfort. Skin tone is a measure of a woman's beauty and social standing in her culture. While her outfit is unusually colorful, layers of protective clothing are worn by some younger women who believe they must have fair skin if they are to marry well. She was a lovely young girl and I'm grateful she allowed me to take her picture. I had just come from a fascinating tour of a bakery down the street from where she is standing. The bread throughout Southeast Asia is truly extraordinary. The French taught them how to bake, but they've improvised and worked on the old recipes and now make bakery products that rival those of their teachers. Vietnamese sandwich rolls are made with a mixture of white and rice flour that produces a crust that crackles on first bite but then yields to a soft interior. A perfect vehicle for holding the ying-yang flavors associated with a Vietnamese baguette. Unfortunately, I live in a community where the rolls for banh mi are unavailable. I've tried to make them, but without success. So, we make do with small French rolls when they are available. The recipe for my sandwiches comes from Thieng Heng, a hole-in-the-wall operated by Vietnamese expats in Paris, France. I came across the recipe in the sale bin of an airport book store. It comes from a treasure of a book called The Ethnic Paris Cookbook. There are several quick steps to the recipe. The first step in making a perfect banh mi is the preparation of a caramel sauce that's used to marinate and glaze a grilled pork tenderloin. While the pork cooks, the topping, a light vegetable pickle made from finely shredded carrots, cucumbers and onions, is assembled and set aside. Finally, the components are layered on a lightly toasted roll and served. There are many recipes for banh mi. I hope you'll visit Wandering Chopsticks and Blazing Hot Wok to take a look at two very authentic versions of the sandwich. Here's my recipe.
Banh Mi...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
. Caramel Glaze
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 (3/4-pound each) pork tenderloins, silver skin removed
. Vegetable Pickle
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into fine julienne strips
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into fine julienne strips
1 small red onion, very thinly chopped
4 (6-inches long) baguettes, cut lengthwise
12 fresh cilantro sprigs
2 jalapeno peppers, finely sliced
Soy sauce or Maggi
1) Place sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until mixture turns dark brown, but not burnt, about 10 to 12 minutes. Prepare a cup of hot water and place within arms reach of stove. When caramel is ready, remove pan from heat. Hold it away you to avoid being burned by splatter. Add 1/4 cup water to cool caramel and stop further cooking. Once it's stopped sputtering, add fish sauce and soy sauce; swirl pan to combine. Set aside to cool.
2) Place shallots, garlic and ginger in a blender. Add vegetable oil and caramel mixture. Blend to a paste. Place tenderloins in a pan and brush all surfaces with caramel paste. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, combine sugar, vinegar and salt in a large bowl; stir until sugar dissolves. Add cucumbers, carrots and onion and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drain.
4) Preheat broiler or gas grill. Place tenderloins on a broiler pan or grill and cook until pork is done, about 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes. Cut in thin (1/8-inch) slices.
5) Toast buns. Spread with mayonnaise, top with meat. Garnish sandwiches with pickled vegetables, cilantro sprigs, peppers. Sprinkle with soy sauce or Maggi. Press down on top of sandwiches to compact and serve. Yield: 4 to 5 sandwiches.
This recipe is being linked to Outdoor Wednesday, an event sponsored by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer.