Banh mi – a sub with international flavor

Watching the Great Food Truck Race last season on the Food Network was so much fun, and so maddenly frustrating that we can’t wait to do it again.

Fun – watching the three-person teams drive like bats out of hell to new cities, scramble to find potential diners, dig up food sources and negotiate parking problems.

Frustrating  – because of the lack of street food in this area.

What could be better than to step outside your cubicle, head to the curb and order a  fresh-cooked, locally sourced sandwich or daily special with little waiting, no need to sit down or tip a half-interested or harried waiter?

The food truck trend is a hot, going concern, but slow to arrive in this area – aside from a few taco trucks.

What really caught our attention last season was the bahn mi sandwiches from the Nom Nom Truck. These Vietnamese sub sandwiches can be made with anything from meatballs to pate or sardines. The defining ingredients are a slaw of pickled carrots and daikon radishes, cilantro, salty Asian-inspired sauces and spices and a light, crusty baguette.

Then we realized, we don’t have to get a bahn mi off a truck. They are easy to make at home, if not perfectly authentic. Of course, we can’t find Vietnamese baguettes, which are made with rice and wheat flour so they are toast up crispy and soft, but Mexican bolillo rolls work really well. No daikons? Eh. Just thinly slice regular radishes. Their peppery flavor adds another layer to the sandwich. Instead of pate, use liverwurst or braunschweiger. You can also use leftover roasted pork loin or pork chops,  chicken or beef.

We take the idea for another addition from our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, which serves its pho accompanied by a plate piled high with basil and mint. Adding these two herbs to our banh mi adds complexity and a freshness we crave during August.

So let’s review. Asian chile sauce, Mexican rolls, German lunch meat. Homemade banh mi is the United Nations of sandwiches. Hands across the water, y’all.

Banh mi

For slaw:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

2 carrots

5-6 radishes

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a boil. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and cool 10 minutes. While brine cools, peel the carrots and radishes and either use the peeler or a food processor to slice the vegetables into thin strips.  You can also cut them into matchstick-sized pieces. Put the vegetables in the brine and refrigerate for at least an hour.

For sandwiches:

1 baguette, sliced in half or two bolillo rolls

1/2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp. Asian chile sauce (this stuff has a kick, reduce if you need to)

1/2 tsp. fish sauce

1/2 cup cilantro

1/4 pound liverwurst, braunschweiger or cooked meatballs

1/2 cup cucumber, sliced into rounds

1/4 cup mint

1/4 cup basil

4 Tbsp. mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice rolls in half and tear out enough bread from both sides to make a pocket for fillings. Bake bread until crusty and hot. Meanwhile, In a small bowl, combine soy, chile and fish sauces. Remove bread from oven, brush one side of each roll with sauce.  Top with cilantro, then meat, cucumber, mint and basil. Spread mayonnaise on other side of roll. Using a slotted spoon, top with slaw mixture. Combine sandwich halves and serve immediately.

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