When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had the appetite of a million elephants. I indulged in all my favorite food. You can't finish that? Let me help you out. At the time, I was working close to Oakland Chinatown. That meant plenty of cheap and satisfying Vietnamese Sandwiches (Bánh Mì). Pregnant me didn't order just one sandwich. I usually ordered two and both were easily finished in one seating. After I was done, I would order another one, as a snack, for my grueling 15-minute waddle back to the office.
My favorite Bánh Mì? It was hands-down the roasted chicken sandwich (Bánh Mì Gà Nướng). Oh, how I love thee.
What makes the banh mi so delicious? Every banh mi starts off with a toasted French baguette. These are not your ordinary baguettes. You have to seek out these specialty baguettes at a Vietnamese deli or an Asian grocery store. When toasted, these baguettes are crispy on the outside yet magically airy and soft on the inside. Inside the baguette, you have chicken or duck liver pate, mayo, pickled daikon and carrots, fresh slices of cucumber, a few sprigs of cilantro, a couple slices of jalapenos and a squirt or two of Maggi seasoning soy sauce. It is these different textures and flavors that makes the Banh Mi so awesome. Plus, it's a taste of Vietnam that you can easily stuff in your purse.
The difference in the sandwich is the protein. My favorite is the grilled or roasted chicken as mentioned earlier but there are many more options. Other common banh mi sandwiches include grilled pork (thit nuong), grilled pork sausage (nem nuong), Vietnamese ham (cha lua), pork meatballs (xiu mai), head cheese (thit nguoi), bbq pork (thit xa xiu), and tofu (dau hu).
I rarely make Banh Mi at home because I'm surrounded by so many Banh Mi shops. But not everyone is so lucky. For those who don't have access to Vietnamese sandwich shops, I hope you find the following recipe for the grilled Vietnamese chicken sandwich helpful. Enjoy!
Quick note: For my Banh Mi, I found that if I omit the liver pate (laziness), it doesn't taste quite right. You don't need a lot of it on a sandwich. A very thin smear is really all you want and need. Since I need so little, I don't make pate at home. I find just buying the small store-bought tin can is more than enough for about 8-10 sandwiches.
Vietnamese Grilled/Roasted Chicken Sandwich (Bánh Mì Gà Nướng)
Makes 8-10 sandwiches
8-10 6-inch baguettes (toast light until crispy)
Vietnamese Five-Spiced Roasted Chicken Recipe (remove bone and cut into long strips)
1-2 jalapenos (slice thinly)
1 bunch cilantro
1 large English cucumber (thinly slice length-wise)
Once you have all the ingredients in order, assemble the Bánh Mì: Spread a thin layer of mayo on one side of the baguette and a thin layer of liver pate on the other side. Add chicken, pickled daikon/carrot, jalapenos, a sprig or two of cilantro, a few slices of cucumbers and a quick drizzle of soy sauce. Bon appétit!