Banh & Me

If you can believe it, we seem to have a difficult time figuring out what to have for lunch on the weekend. The weekdays are generally covered since I cook Sunday thru Wednesday, but after a Friday and/or Saturday night out, or even order-in sushi or Thai, Saturday and Sunday can get a little dicey.

A few months ago (maybe even a year ago), this new little Vietnamese sandwich shop opened up across the street, a shop previously hosting a ‘gourmet kitchen’ where one could buy or make meals using fresh, top-of-the-line ingredients. It was obviously a place I’d never been to, but given the economy and the location I wasn’t surprised it practically became a sandwich shop overnight.

Needless to say, Bon Bon quickly became my go-to for weekend lunch. The sandwiches were big enough to share, and only 4 bucks each! Plus, they serve bubble tea, which I previously traveled all the way up to Western & Addison to get. And if you’re into it, they have a ton of Vietnamese candy to try. Of course, I’ve already frequented the place a couple of times this year, and I posted a quick snippet in the  ‘Chicago Food’ section, which is a new piece I added a few weeks ago to document all of our ventures out of my kitchen ;), so check it out.

Given the ridiculously low price of Bon Bon’s sandwiches, not to mention the fact that I could literally walk to it in my PJ’s if I wanted to (yes, I do still have them on often at noon on the weekends), I never really intended to recreate their ‘bread n’ butter’ banh mi sandwiches, especially my favorite minced pork version. But as usual, there are always a slew of recipes I absolutely can’t resist in Bon Appetit, and last month a pork meatball banh mi was one of them.

It seems I am an avid fan of the meatball, no? Although the latest version was Moroccan, I also made a Mexican meatball stew a few weeks ago that was excellent, but it was too similar to the lovely ancho pork and hominy stew I posted about late last year and therefore didn’t warrant real estate here. These meatballs you see right now? Golly gee willikers, I cannot even describe to you how stupendous they are; a perfect blend of salty, spicy, sweet, so perfect I could have skewered them and eaten them all alone if I hadn’t already pre-tasted the equally perfect pickled carrot/daikon mixture and spiced mayo that would accompany them, sandwich-style.

When you put them all together, encase them in a soft but slightly toasted French baguette, it is nothing short of delightful. And if you don’t have a Vietnamese sandwich shop across the street from you, the only reason you’ll miss it is for the bubble tea.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2010; makes 4

printable version

hot chili mayo
2/3 c mayo
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 T sriracha

1 lb ground pork
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 T fish sauce
1.5 T sriracha
1 T sugar
2 t cornstarch
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t coarse kosher salt

2 c coarsely grated carrots
2 c coarsely grated peeled daikon (the shredder on the food processor works like a charm here)
1/4 c unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 c sugar
1 t coarse kosher salt
1 T Asian sesame oil
4 6-inch-long baguettes (likely cut from 1 long baguette)
4 large fresh cilantro sprigs


hot chili mayo: Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

meatballs: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. If doing in batches, keep warm in 300 F oven.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 F. Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Toast bread for 5 minutes. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops. Garnish with cilantro.

5 thoughts on “Banh & Me

  1. mmmh I love me some banh mi. We are usually too lazy to make this and just make the trek to uptown. I wish there is a banh mi shop across the street from us, I would eat that everyday!

    So would you make this again or just go across the street to get your banh mi fix.

  2. this is crazy talk! i can’t believe you made this! hahaha

    but i do have a soft spot for what i like to call “mystery meat” in vietnamese sandwiches. the one we go to in uptown, i always get the #1 special with head cheese + mystery meat + pate.

  3. Oh, WOW, this looks awesome! And meatballs – of course I love another addition to the meatball catalog! I might just have to whip up some of these meatballs this week, they sound yummy – encased in fluffy bread or not!

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