It’s prime football season, and you know what that means. Snacks! And lots of them. But as much as we’d love to polish off a whole bag of Juanitas and a giant bowl of guac while watching football on the tube, we have to keep our aging metabolisms in mind. Fried stuff is out. Fresh veggies are in. That being said, a platter of crudites doesn’t exactly say “Go Hawks!” We crave some meat. And some spice. And a beer to wash it all down. In other words, we crave a really good bánh mì.
The best thing about this classic Vietnamese sandwich is that it satisfies so many cravings all at once. There’s the heat from the jalapeños, the tangy funk from the pickled carrot and daikon, the herbal cilantro, the rich meat, the carbs from the light and crusty Vietnamese roll.
But we also love it because it’s so dang easy. Making the Vietnamese pickles (called do chua) is the hardest part, only because you have to plan ahead and do it at least an hour before. But once they’re made, they’ll keep for weeks, making future sandwiches that much faster. Sure, you can grill up some special marinated meats to tuck inside, or make a batch of Vietnamese meatballs, but it’s so much easier to just reach for some good quality ham and pâté and call it a day.
And since we live in Portland, we reach for locally made Olympia Provisions. Their rich, chunky country pâté and smoky-sweet sweetheart ham are perfect in this sandwich, and super easy to find at New Seasons. But you can use whatever meat you have on hand, even leftover turkey. The goal isn’t to adhere to tradition, it’s to create a tasty sandwich. As long you have those a tub of those do chua pickles on hand, you’re halfway there.
Easy Banh Mi Sandwiches
Using high-quality store-bought pâté and ham makes these sandwiches a cinch to make. But you can use any leftover grilled or cured meats you like. And the pickled vegetables keep for weeks, making future cravings that much easier to satisfy.
Pickled carrots and daikon (do chua)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
4 Vietnamese French bread rolls
1/2 cup pâté
1/4 pound thinly sliced ham
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
To make the pickles: Combine carrot and daikon in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Massage the vegetables until they begin to soften and are no longer brittle, about 1 minutes. Rinse and place in a large, quart-size canning jar. Add the sugar, vinegar and water, attach the lid, and shake until sugar is dissolved. Allow to marinate at least 1 hour before serving. (Will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.)
To make the sandwiches: Split each roll in half lengthwise so it can open like a book. Spread the bottom half with a couple tablespoons of pate and the top half with mayonnaise. Layer a few slices of ham and jalapeno on top of the pate. Add a scoop of the pickled vegetables (being sure to let the excess brine drip off). Top with a few sprigs of cilantro sprigs. Close up the sandwich, slice in half, and serve.