March madness--all-Asian, all-month--continues...
Inspired by Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, and disappointed by the last several bánh mì (Vietnamese baguettes) we've paid money for here in Montreal, we've started making our own.
AEB Bánh Mì
one small baguette, one 7-inch section from a baguette, or one small torpedo-shaped roll*
mayonnaise, preferably homemade or Japanese
Maggi seasoning sauce and/or light soy sauce
2 Thai green chilies
boldly flavored meat, such as Char Siu pork (recipe follows), thinly sliced
4 thin, seeded cucumber strips, preferably Kirby, English, or Lebanese
2 or 3 sprigs cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Vietnamese daikon and carrot pickle (recipe follows)
Slice the bread lengthwise, leaving it attached on the back side. Hollow out the inside of the bread, making a trough in each half. If the bread is soft, crisp it briefly in a 325º F oven, then let it cool before proceeding.
Muddle the green chilies in the Maggi seasoning and/or the light soy sauce.**
Spread a generous amount of mayonnaise on both halves of bread. Layer the pork, the cucumber, the pickle, the cilantro, and the chilies on the bottom half. Drizzle the Maggi seasoning and/or light soy sauce over top. Close the sandwich and enjoy thoroughly.
Vegetarians: replace the pork with some kind of boldly seasoned baked tofu.
Vegans: replace the pork with tofu (see above) and replace the mayonnaise with your favorite soy-based mock mayonnaise.
Char Siu Pork
2 1/3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, well trimmed (you should be left with about 2 pounds afterwards)
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp light (regular) soy sauce
1 tbsp dark (black) soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
Quarter the pork lengthwise into strips about 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. If there are odd-size pieces, make sure they're of the same thickness.
To make the marinade, whisk together the garlic, sugar, five-spice powder, hoisin sauce, honey, wine, light and dark soy sauces, and sesame oil. Add the pork and use a spatula or tongs to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, turning the pork 2 or 3 times.
Remove the pork from the refrigerator 45 minutes before cooking. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 475º F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a flat roasting rack on the pan. Put the pork on the rack, spacing the pieces 1 inch apart. Reserve the marinade.
Roast the pork for 30-35 minutes, basting with the marinade every 10 minutes or so. To baste, use tongs to pick up each piece and roll it in the marinade before returning it to the rack, turning the pork over after each go. The pork is done when it looks glazed, is slightly charred, and most important, registers about 145º F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven.
Let the meat rest for 10 minutes to finish cooking and seal in the juices. Thinly slice the pork across the grain and serve warm or at room temperature. Or, let it cool completely, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze it for up to 3 months. Andrea Nguyen claims that this pork reheats well in a microwave oven, but we wouldn't know.
Daikon and Carrot Pickle
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
1 pound daikons, each no larger than 2 inches in diameter, peeled and cut into matching thick matchsticks
1 tsp salt
2 tsp plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup lukewarm water
Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling as much water from them as possible. They will soften and liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl. Stop kneading when you can bend a piece of daikon so that the ends touch but the daikon does not break. The vegetables should have lost about 1/4 of their volume. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water. Return the vegetables to the bowl if you plan to eat them soon, or transfer them to a 1-quart jar for longer storage.
To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the vegetables. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
Note: sometimes the daikon develops a strong odor as it sits in the jar, one that could be safely described as "funky." This doesn't mean that the pickle has spoiled. Before serving it, open the jar and let it breathe for about 15 minutes to allow the odor to dissipate.
Perfect for almost any occasion: lunch, dinner, picnics, late-afternoon snacks--you name it. The char siu pork and the daikon and carrot pickle are phenomenal in the bánh mì, but they're also extremely versatile, and ideal as part of a simple rice bowl meal.
* If you live here in Montreal, we recommend a Portuguese torpedo-shaped roll, and we recommend toasting it as per the directions above.
** We've made them with Maggi, with soy sauce, and with a combination of the two.