The first time I heard about banh mi sandwiches was on Dorie’s blog in 2009. Don’t most good things start with Dorie? She and her son had fallen in love with a chicken banh mi during their Souteast Asian trip and recreated it at home. Dorie described the sandwich in such a desirable way that I knew I would make it one day. Last week I stumbled on this pork meatball version and I could not resist getting the ingredients.
Last Saturday I woke up to the sun shining and was excited to add meatballs to an already glorious day. I prepped the meatballs, chili mayo and sandwich toppings and put them in the refrigerator before we headed out to sharpen the lawnmower blade and retrieve our repaired window screens. When we returned, I happily cooked the meatballs in my cast-iron skillet and sliced the beautiful baguette while Marc popped the screens back in and readied the lawn mower for cutting the grass. I slathered the bread in chili mayo and watched as the meatballs took on a deep golden crust. Marc was drawn into the kitchen from his garage project sensing meatballs in the air. I put the banh mi together and it was a piece of food art.
We loved it. The sandwich has a nice amount of heat that leaves a slight tingle on your lips. The sugar helps create a flavorful crust on the meatballs and imparts sweetness to the already fresh herb flavor. All of this is tucked into a fresh baguette. Do you need any more reasons to make this?
Recipe: Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Makes 4 sandwiches
2/3 C. mayonnaise
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 T. hot chili sauce (sriracha recommended)
1 lb. ground pork
2 T. basil, finely chopped
2 T.cilantro, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely sliced
1 T. fish sauce
1 T. sriracha
1 T. sugar
2 t. corn starch
1 t. freshly ground pepper
1 t. coarse salt
2 T. sesame oil for cooking meatballs
Other Sandwich Components
1 long baguette, cut into 4 equal pieces
1 C. cilantro sprigs
1 jalapeño, very thinly sliced (I used a small measuring spoon to remove ribs and seeds to control heat)
julienned carrots and radish with a sprinkle of rice wine vinegar (I did not have this on-hand, but will try soon!)
1. In a large bowl mix all of the meatball ingredients together with your hands. Using moistened hands roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or up to one day. Now is a good time to prepare the spicy mayo and get the rest of the sandwich components ready.
2. When ready to cook meatballs, preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.
3. In a 10 or 12-inch skillet (preferably cast-iron), heat 2 T. of sesame oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add half of the meatballs. Cook for 1 minute on one side and then rotate meatballs to another side. Cook for another minute on that side. You should have a nice brown crust forming. When turning for the third time, lower the heat and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F or the juices run light pink. Continue turning meatballs as not to color any one side too much. They will darken quite a bit from the sugar, but do not be alarmed. When the first batch is finished, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and put in the oven to keep warm. Cook the rest of the meatballs in the same way.
4. Take your 4 pieces of baguette and using a bread knife, cut the baguette in half horizontally, but do not cut all the way through. Pull out some of the soft bread from the inside of the baguette to make room for the ingredients. Spread spicy mayo generously over each bread shell. Add cilantro, jalapeño slices and then 3 meatballs. Top with carrots and radish. Serve immediately.