Banh Mi

This post is not so much a strict recipe. It’s more of a call-to-action. If you’re a person who likes to eat sandwiches(in other words, if you’re a person), you should be eating bánh mì. Now, if this is new to you, I’m sure you have lots of questions, the first of which might be something like, “How the hell has something so delicious and wonderful been absent from my life?” Don’t despair. You’re here now. You are reading this very post, which means that the Universe has decided that the time is ripe for you to indulge in your very own bánh mì.

The word bánh mì is Vietnamese for “bread.” The name, however, has become synonymous with pretty much any sandwich. As for what goes in it, the rules are pretty loose. I’ve had bánh mì piled high with pork liver pâté and smeared with homemade mayonnaise, or filled with spicy meatballs, or layered with crispy tofu and sweet hoisin sauce and covered with fresh cilantro. The common thread between nearly all bánh mì is thus: they’re served on airy, toasted rice flour baguettes with pickled vegetables and hot chilis.  Like so many of the world’s most delicious foods, they represent a sharp contrast of flavors and textures: rich and creamy mayonnaise, crispy baguette, sweet pickled carrot, spicy peppers, savory meats, and bright herbs. What’s not to love.

The bánh mì you see above is a vegetarian incarnation. It’s filled with a sort-of asian omelette, seasoned with dark soy, toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. The soft inner walls of the baguette are covered with a deeply rich mushroom-thyme pâté and super-rich mayonnaise. The sandwich is topped with pickled carrots, fresh cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. IMG_8017

Egg Bánh Mì

Ingredients:

baguette or hoagie roll, toasted

few sprigs fresh cilantro

red onion, sliced thin

jalapeno, cut in long strips

cucumber, cut in long spears

For the pickled carrots:

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 carrot

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch of salt

To make the pickles, use a vegetable peeler to create long, thin shavings of carrot. In a deep bowl, mix the rice wine vinegar, water, sugar and salt together and add the carrot. Place the pickles in the fridge to chill.

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For the homemade mayonnaise:

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

pinch of salt

In a large bowl, add the egg yolk. With a whisk ready, add a couple drops of vegetable oil, stirring gently but constantly. This process takes patience, but once you’ve learned how to do it right, you’ll thank yourself. Continue to add the oil, drop by drop, while whisking slowly. You should notice, after a while, that the mixture will begin to thicken. When thick, add the dijon and the pinch of salt and stir to combine. Set aside.

Mushroom Thyme Paté

For the mushroom-thyme pâté:

3 cups crimini mushrooms, finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 yellow onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

salt, to taste

In a large pan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic, and thyme. Let this mixture cook for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is soft and homogenous. Add the pepper. In a separate small bowl, mix the flour and 1 tablespoon of the milk.  Stir to form a thick paste. Add this paste to the mushroom mixture, and stir well to incorporate. Now crank the heat to high. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. After a minute or so, the mixture should be thick. Remove it from the heat, season to taste with salt, and put it into the fridge in a small container. As the mushroom mixture chills, it will continue to thicken into a consistency much like a pâté.

For the Omelette:

2 eggs

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

Heat a large pan on medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. A large amount of oil is essential for preventing the egg from sticking to the bottom of the pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, soy, sesame oil, vinegar, and sugar. Pour the egg mixture into the hot pan. Using a wooden spoon (or chopsticks), gently pull the egg from the sides of the pan to prevent sticking. It also helps to gently shake the pan every so often. The egg will not need more than a minute or so before it is ready to be flipped. You can turn it with a large spatula, or, if you’re feeling brave, flip the entire thing by giving the handle of the pan a decisive and quick forward movement. Once flipped, it will need no more than a minute to be fully cooked.

Putting it together:

After toating the baguette, split it open and spread the inside generously with the mayonnaise and the mushroom pâté. Slice the egg and place it in the baguette. Top with the pickled carrot, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, and red onion.

You’ll find that this sandwich is incredibly versatile, and that, assuming you have a few of these things on hand, you can make something incredibly satisfying. This is also the perfect thing to make for a crowd of hungry people.

Enjoy!