I used to associate the sandwich with soggy bread, limp lettuce and processed meats. But once sentenced to bologna and cheese slices, the sandwich has now morphed into something irresistible and complex. The ingredients used to make these delicious sandwiches have led to endless combinations that has forced us to ask – What makes the perfect sandwich?
For some people, it’s the bread used to embrace the delicious fillings – crusty, soft, warm or toasted. For others, it’s what goes between the 2 slices of bread that defines the sandwich. Is it the crispy bacon, criss-crossed over each other or layers of smoked meat that are ready to topple over? Or the spicy mustard and mayo slathered over the bread slices? Perhaps it’s the creamy avocado, crunchy lettuce and fresh, juicy tomato slices that compliment the other flavours in the sandwich.
Could it be the grilled cheese sandwich or a sandwich pressed into a panini as the melted cheese slowly oozes out? It may be the PB&J, incredibly simple and satisfying, or layers upon layers of ingredients that practically compromise the structural integrity of the sandwich.
My version of the perfect sandwich may quite possibly be the Banh Mi – a mash up of Vietnamese and French traditions. Sold originally by street food vendors in Vietnam, it offers an addictive combination of flavours that I can’t get enough of. This sandwich, no different than any other Vietnamese food, is a balance of contrasting textures and tastes. Soft and crusty bread filled with creamy pate, salty and sticky pork, crunchy cucumber and sweet and tangy pickled vegetables. The refreshing taste and smell of basil and cilantro heightens your senses and your mouth tingles from the spicy mayo and fresh chillies.
The banh mi sandwich can vary according to what you have in the fridge. Change up the herbs with fresh basil or mint, use lettuce for crunchiness or different breads and sauces to keep it interesting.
I marinated the pork in a mixture of soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Grilling the pork helped to caramelize the brown sugar, and bring out the incredible flavours that makes this sandwich so amazingly wonderful. I crammed as much pork , herbs and pickled vegetables into the crusty bread that I could without it breaking apart and smothered the bread in spicy sriracha mayo. The spicier, the better!
What’s your favourite version of the Banh Mi?
- 1 lb pork tenderloin
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- ½ lime, juiced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 3 shallots, sliced
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup of carrots, julienned
- 3 radishes, sliced thinly
- 2 jalapenos (or other chillies), sliced thinly
- 1 crusty baguette, sliced in 3-4 sandwich rolls
- sriracha mayo
- basil, cilantro and/or mint leaves
- cucumber slices
- fresh chilli slices
- Slice the pork into ½ cm slices. Place in a bowl and mix in the soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, honey, lime juice, garlic and shallots. Marinate for at least 1 hour.
- For the pickled vegetables, combine the ⅓ cup water, sugar, rice vinegar and 1 tsp of salt into a jar and add the carrots, radish slices and jalapenos. Mix all together and store in the fridge, sealed tightly, until ready to use.
- When you're ready to eat, grill the pork on medium high heat until cooked through.
- Cut the baguettes open and slather on the spicy mayo. Add the basil/cilantro/mint leaves and then 3-4 pieces of grilled pork. Layer on the pickled veg, cucumber slices and chillies.
- Take a BIG bite and enjoy!!