Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Banh Mi

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
. Pork
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
. Assembly
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.


The Quintessential Magpie said...

Mary, this is an absolutely fascinating post. You amaze me not only with your knowledge of cooking but of cultures as well. I enjoyed reading every word of this, and I find that recipe fascinating.

Thank you for sharing, and Happy Outdoor Wednesday to you!


Sheila :-)

the ungourmet said...

Wonderful recipe and very interesting info about the covering of the skin in South Vietnam. I really enjoyed reading this.

This recipe looks so delicious!

Cathy said...

This sandwich is wonderful, Mary, and your recipe is so tempting. Its often difficult to replicate the delicious specialties we find when we travel.

Yum, now I'm craving this sandwich.

Pauline said...

Banh Mi! Absolutely the best sandwiches out there. I'm Vietnamese myself and love getting these things when my family goes to the Asian supermarket. We have such a wide variety of meat fillings you should try. The best are with cha lua (pork loaf), BBQ pork, or ham chay (veggie meatloaf). Mmm, making me want some right now!

Debinhawaii said...

Wonderful post and a delicious looking Bahn Mi. I like to get them for lunch sometimes. (I think I need to get one tomorrow--you have me craving them!) ;-)

Selba said...

When I look the first picture, I couldn't stop to laugh coz' the cover of the face of the girl looks kinda an underwear, hehehe....

It's so interesting that Asia people love to have fair skin, like me, I'm afraid of the sun and prefer gloomy weather :)

Good to learn about the Bahn Mi recipe.

Donna-FFW said...

Terrific sandwich. I love tenderloin, so versatile.

So interesting ..another culture. Amazing how she covers herself up, and we like to get a tan in the hot sun.Love your culture teachings:)

Martha said...

Viet Nam is an interesting country . . . the recipe looks good -- alas, we can't even find decent real bread here on the prairie much less great French rolls!

Chef Fresco said...

Cool post! Yummy looking sandwich!

Thoughtfully blended hearts said...

This is such an interesting post...I loved it...wonderful photos plus interesting culture equal perfection...applause...

My Little Space said...

That looks delicious! Asian style burger, right!

Haden News said...

This sandwich looks amazing!! I would love to taste that bread... Your story was very interesting, thanks for sharing. Enjoy your day.

Beautiful Pear Tree Lane said...

Hi Mary,
What a wonderful and informative post, I always enjoy visiting you. Thank you for sharing this recipe too.

Hootin' Anni said...

I'm definitely grabbing this recipe! [I love hard, crusty bread]

Oh and not to impugn the beautiful gal you have pictured here, but I first thought she had a pair of ladies underwear on. Seriously. After reading your post I realized it was netting. Your post was most educational....I didn't know that about the women there and their skintones being a part of 'good marriage prospects'.

Terry said...

Great post, I really want to try the sandwich.

Katherine Aucoin said...

What an interesting story and how funny that young women in here want a golden brown tan to attract men!

The sandwich looks wonderful and I had no idea that the Asian bakers were so inspiring.

Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Oh My Gosh Mary, as always you never let me down with something new to try. This sandwich looks delish. Can't wait to try it. I loved the picture of the beautiful young girl. I too, love the faces of all of the different countries. Our faces tell so much about us. Thanks for sharing. Stop by soon and say hi. Country Hugs, Sherry

Glenda/MidSouth said...

She had to have been so hot!
Sandwich looks good.

Maria said...

Your posts always make me smarter. Thanks:)

Janie's World said...

I was fascinated by the girl in 100 degree weather who was covered up completely like it was winter. Being in California, someone would be considered crazy for wearing so many items of clothing in such heat. Californian's also worship the tan even though skin cancer is such a high price to pay for a tan.

The food looks yummy!

Christi @ A Southern Life said...

Fascinating information. I would love to try one of the authentic rolls. They sound wonderful. Very interesting about how the young girl cares for her skin.


The Cooking Photographer said...

Oh wow Mary. What an amazing trip. I almost always learn something when I go through your blog.


the wild raspberry said...

what an interesting post...isn't it funny that we americans bake in the sun for beauty?
have a wonderful day.

sunnymama said...

The first picture and your explanation are really interesting! Thanks for sharing and happy outdoor wednesday :)

Mila said...

I love this post!!! I thought that only the Japanese and Chinese believed in the beauty of fair skin. Thanks for the update! And that sandwich looks delish!

Debbie said...

What an interesting post and wonderful recipe!

The Blonde Duck said...

They can't just wear sunscreen?

Mary said...

BD, they can't afford it and in this climate they'd perspire through it. Vietnam has made huge strides since the war but it is still a poor country.

mbkatc230 said...

This sounds really delicious! I may try this, just won't tell DH that there are "pickled veggies" on it. He will eat every bite, THEN I'll tell him the ingredients lol. I haven't been married for 28 years for nothing! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe. Kathy

Brenda said...

How fascinating! The ways of women in other parts of our world!

Katy ~ said...

Such an interesting post!

I would like to try that sandwich!

Smilingsal said...

Ah, what price beauty!

Lori E said...

Too bad I already rubbed down my tenderloins with BBQ rub or I would have run to the store for fresh cilantro and veg. pickles. Everything else is here. Rats. (I mean darn it not that I have rats!)

haleysuzanne said...

What a gorgeous sandwich! I love the caramel glaze you use on the tenderloin. This is my favorite banh mi recipe that I've seen.

Lori said...

I loved my quick American version but I am so drooling and pining now to make it in a more authentic way. Thank you Mary for the enlightenment!

Robin said...

I have always wanted to attempt to make this. Perhaps I'll get it together to give it a go! Thanks for the recipe.

Natashya said...

Yum, this is something I have always wanted to try. You make it sound easy. What brought you to Vietnam?

xinex said...

A perfect delicious sandwich...Christine

Chow and Chatter said...

this looks great love vietnamese food we have a community in Greensboro NC nr me, so sad the girl is covering up
In India they often want to be fair as well, did you live there? Rebecca

Mary said...

Gals, we did not live in Vietnam, but we've spent a lot of time, personal and work related, in China and Southeast Asia. I love that part of the world. It is in the process of "becoming" and the changes we see are wonderful. The energy there makes the old feel young.

Rhonda @ Shellbelle's Tiki Hut said...

Mary, I loved this post, but my favorite part is the comment you left about that part of world "becoming" and the wonderful changes you've seen. I haven't been, but from what I've read and seen on TV, I agree with you. Living in California for so many years I was exposed to such cultural diversity and that is probably #1 on my list of what I miss.

Related Posts with Thumbnails