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Bánh mì: The perfect sandwich

I want you to consider the sandwich.

Simple, portable, quick, it is the most common food item that we eat, the first food we truly learn to make on our own, and whether it be a barbeque sandwich piled high with pulled pork or a peanut butter and jelly quickly crafted on white bread, there is beautiful simplicity and elegance to the sandwich.

Above all other types of sandwiches sits the one that is just better – the Bánh mì.

A product of South Vietnam, the Bánh mì is a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisine that mixes fiery, fresh flavors with creamy and savory elements in one portable, affordable and tasty sandwich.

The first bite of this sandwich is a blast of fresh crunchy sensations from the French baguette, followed quickly by the creamy mayo, the bite of fresh jalapeño, and the savory taste of grilled meat.

“Vietnamese food can be delicious and nutritious! With Vietnamese dishes like Pho and Banh Mi, ingredient selection and proportions are key,” said Elyse Sartor, outpatient nutritionist for Northside Hospital, including Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

Sartor said that the best part about dishes like the Bánh mì is that they rely on fresh ingredients, use natural ingredients like lime juice, rice vinegar, peppers, and spices for the bulk of their flavor, and can be easily customized to fit any dietary need.

“Crispy vegetables like radishes and carrot take the texture of Vietnamese foods to the next level, while using brown rice instead of white rice, white rolls, or white rice noodles adds fiber, B vitamins and a pleasant “chew” factor,” she said, explaining that the Bánh mì can easily be transformed into a rice bowl dish.

For this month’s column on simple, delicious foods, I chose to breakdown several different popular Bánh mì recipes online and see if I could show readers what makes this sandwich so special.

 

Banh Mi open
- photo by Bradley Wiseman

Ingredients – Chicken Lime Bánh mì

1⁄4 cup fish sauce

1⁄2 cup lime juice

2 Tbsp honey

3 -4 cloves garlic, minced

1 chopped jalapeno

1 1⁄4 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts

1⁄2 cup hot tap water

1⁄4 cup rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. honey

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 carrots, diced in thin matchsticks

2 radishes, sliced thinly

6 soft sub rolls

1⁄2 a cucumber, diced thin

1 cup cilantro leaf

Mayonnaise (optional)

1 diced jalapeño (optional)

Sriracha (optional)

 

1.    The key to this recipe is the marinade, your sandwich will still be good with normal grilled chicken, but with the marinade your taste buds will thank you. Mix fish sauce, lime juice, honey, garlic, and chopped jalapeño in a large Ziploc bag.

2.   Filet your chicken breasts thinly in half and add them to the bag, mixing each thoroughly in the marinade. Refrigerate the mix for at least one hour, but keep in mind that the longer you let this sit, the better it will be.

3.   While your chicken is marinating, begin making the “pickled” vegetables, by combining your sliced carrots and radishes in a mixing bowl with hot tap water, honey, rice vinegar, salt and red pepper. Cover this mixture and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes

4.   After the chicken is done marinating you have several choices of how you can cook it. All of the recipes I read for this column tell you to grill your meat, but I don’t have a grill so I opted for “grilling” chicken in my trusty cast iron skillet.

5.    Heat the “grill” to medium and cook the chicken breasts for 5 minutes per side until internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

6.   Remove from the chicken from heat, cover with foil, and let them to rest for 5 minutes. Dice the chicken in thin strips or slices.

7.   Slice each sub roll and toast the insides lightly before adding mayonnaise (if you want it) to one side of the bread. Add layers of chicken, pickled vegetables, diced cucumbers, fresh jalapeño, and top the sandwich with cilantro leaves.

8.   Enjoy and repeat.