Week 12, Meal 3: Pork banh mi

I began Week 12 by saying that, for a long time, Lee’s Sandwiches was the only exposure I had to Vietnamese cuisine.

Thankfully, I’ve expanded my palate since I first had Lee’s, but no matter how many bowls of pho I slurp down, or spring rolls I munch through, I’ll never forget my first true Vietnamese love.

Aside from the interesting history of the banh mi, it’s simply a fantastic sandwich.

The version in most restaurants comes with a smear of mayonnaise, but Chef Brian keeps it healthy with a light chili and lime sauce to counter pork stir-fried in tangy tamarind paste.

Here’s Week 12, Meal 3: Pork banh mi.

The Recipe (Yield: 2 servings)

6 oz. French baguette
cilantro leaves and stems

Pork
1 t vegetable oil
6 oz. pork chop, trimmed of fat and thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed, sliced thin
1 t grated ginger
1 T fish sauce
1 t tamarind paste
1 1/2 t honey
1/4 cup water

Chile sauce
1 T lime juice
1 T fish sauce
1 T water
1/2 t rice vinegar
1 t honey
1 small clove garlic, grated
1/4 t chile paste

Most of the work for this recipe is prep and making flavorings/sauces. Start by finely chopping 1 shallot and mincing 1 clove of garlic.

Remove the outer leaves from 1 stalk of lemongrass and slice into thin discs. (Video: How to prep lemongrass.)

Grate 1 t of ginger for the pork stir fry sauce. After, wash the grater and grate 1 clove of garlic for the chili sauce.

Make the pork stir fry sauce. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of water, 1 T of fish sauce, 1 1/2 t of honey and 1 t of tamarind paste.

Make the chili sauce by combining the clove of grated garlic with 1 T lime juice,
1 T fish sauce, 1 T water, 1/2 t rice vinegar, 1 t honey and 1/4 t chile paste.

Ready the remaining carrot slaw from Week 12, Meal 2: Grilled lemongrass chicken over yellow chile rice with snap peas and pickled carrot slaw (recipe).

Slice 6 oz. of pork chop into thin strips. Mine were thin, but I’d go even thinner if I could do it again.

Finally, slice the baguette into 3 oz. pieces. Slice those pieces lengthwise, leaving a hinge in the bread. Pull out some of the bread inside so you can easily fill the sandwich.

After finishing the bread, heat 1 t of vegetable oil in a large saute pan (wok preferable) on high.

Add the ginger, lemongrass, garlic and shallot. Cook for 1 minute.

Add the pork and stir fry for about 2 minutes, until the meat is mostly cooked through. It has to be really thin for this to happen within the target timeframe (that’s why the wok also helps).

Add the tamarind paste/honey/fish sauce mixture and cook for another two minutes, until sauce evenly coats all meat and heats through.

To plate: Drizzle chili sauce on both side of the bread. Top with half of the pork, about 3 oz. Finish with as much carrot slaw as you want and a few pieces of cilantro.

Each bite is both sour and tangy, but the freshness of the cilantro and mint still manage to stand out. A great at-home fill in for a longtime favorite.

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