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Pork Meatball Bánh mì

September 8, 2010

sandwich cross-section, and the ever-tasty sriracha chili sauce

This is not the first time I’ve mentioned bánh mì on the blog, and I’m willing to wager that this isn’t the first time you’ve read about them – the Vietnamese sandwich craze has thoroughly swept the U.S. of A and these humble treats are now making appearances on upscale restaurant/gastro-pub menus, being hawked from trendy food trucks, and enjoyed by folks the world over. And although I’m always a bit wary of overblown food trends (I think I’ve seen one frilly, cloyingly sweet cupcake store too many), I think these highly savory, highly portable treats are worthy of their hype.

Given my firm stance on the bánh mì bandwagon, I was pretty thrilled when Bon Appetit published a recipe for a pork meatball version in their January 2010 issue. In the spirit of summertime picnic-ing (and my substantial backlog of recipes to try) I only recently got around to testing the recipe. The recipe was delicious as published, and the authentic flavor of the meatballs took me right back to to Ho Chi Minh City. Even if you have to make a special trip to your local Asian market, make sure you acquire some good fish sauce and sriracha before giving this a try – both are critical to the flavor of the dish.

banh mi picnic on the Bolt Bus

Pork Meatball Bánh mì
from Bon Appetit, January 2010

This recipe is terrific as written and any changes I might make are more in the assembly than the actual formulation of the meatballs. First of all, you may choose to skip the chili mayo step (and the extra dirty bowl) and opt to smear a bit of mayo/sriracha on each baguette half, then sprinkle with the chopped green onion. If you live with a mayo-phobe as I do, this method comes in handy – each person can craft their sandwich to taste. It also should be noted that next time, I might replace the baguette with a softer, high quality sub roll. Just as I dislike burgers served on ciabatta, less-than-perfect baguette crust can be pretty tough, requiring enough gnawing to interrupt sandwich-eating bliss. Also, you’ll notice the absence of daikon and jalapeños in my photos – unfortunately, my supermarket didn’t have any so to my dismay, I had to omit them. Feel free to do the same if your produce department is lacking.

The recipe below yields four very large sandwiches. If you have leftover meatballs (which the two of us definitely did), they keep well in the fridge for a couple of days. You also might consider making a large batch, freezing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then transferring the frozen meatballs to a ziplock bag and pulling out a few as neccesary for a quick take-to-the-office lunch or easy weeknight dinner.

for the pickled veggies:
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (if you have trouble finding this, omit it or substitute with radishes)
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

for the hot chili mayonnaise:
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)

for the meatballs:
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (like sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil (for frying)

to assemble the sandwiches:
4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (or sub/hoagie rolls, as noted above)
thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
fresh cilantro sprigs

Start by assembling the pickled veggies – in a bowl, whisk together the salt, sugar and rice wine vinegar. Add the daikon and carrots and allow to marinade for an hour, or as long as possible. Next, combine the ingredients for the mayo (if using), season with salt, cover and reserve in the fridge.

To make the meatballs, combine the pork, garlic, onions, herbs, seasonings, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Mix using clean hands or a rubber spatula until ingredients are incorporated – avoid over mixing, as meatballs will become tough. Using a tablespoon (and clean, moistened hands), portion the meat mixture into 1-inch balls, setting aside on a baking sheet or large plate. If you feel like doing this part in advance, you can chill the meatballs, tightly wrapped overnight in the fridge.

When all meatballs are formed and you’re ready to cook them, heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over a medium-high flame. Preheat the oven to 300°F. When oil is hot add meatballs, being careful not to over-crowd the pan. Working in two or three batches, sauté the meatballs until they are golden brown and cooked through completely, adjusting the heat if neccesary – each batch should take 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cooked meatballs to the preheated oven to keep warm until serving. (If it’s 90+°F in your un-airconditioned apartment, you may elect to skip this phase – they’re delicious even when not piping hot).

To assemble the sandwiches, slice each baguette section in half. Spread each half generously with mayo, then layer with jalapeños, cilantro, drained pickled veggies, and meatballs. Put sandwich together and enjoy with additional pickled veggies and sriracha nearby.

critical ingredients: good bread, sriracha and cilantro

pickled carrots

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2010 6:15 pm

    That looks so good. Please mail me your leftover sandwiches.

    (I miss you guys)


  1. Lunch Bunch: Pickled Veggies and Bibimbap-Style Rice Bowls « My Studio/Kitchen

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