Friday, May 29, 2009

Making Banh Mi

Banh Mi

Now, I certainly can't claim that we are anything even approaching experts on Banh Mi. Quite the contrary - we are relatively recent converts to the Church of the Vietnamese Sandwich. What I can say, however, is that we've been making, eating and enjoying Banh Mi a lot lately. And you should, too.

Banh Mi starts with good bread. Luckily, our Banh Mi obsession has coincided with Sherry getting more into bread making. We've tried a number of baguette recipes, some more complex than others, and have been happiest with the simplest - I love it when that happens!

Our Banh Mi bread of choice is a straightforward, knead-rise-shape-and-bake recipe from a basic Williams Sonoma bread book. No overnight starter or slow-rise retarding - the dough is shaped into personal-sized "baguette" sandwich rolls and ready in time for lunch:


Another key ingredient in Banh Mi is some sort of meat filling. At home, we've been favoring pâté. One nice version that we've used is from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, by Andrea Nguyen:

Liver Pate - Vietnamese Style

Her recipe uses chicken livers, ground pork, ground beef, eggs and some extra pork fat. It sets up quite firm and slice-able, and is flavored with an aromatic mixture of onion, garlic, salt, pepper, Cognac and Chinese five-spice powder.

Liver Pate - Vietnamese Style

No need to make your own pâté, though - your favorite store-bought variety will do just fine. We really like using a humble liverwurst.

Next up, what I think is the most important component of Banh Mi - the pickled vegetables. We do a quick-pickle of carrot, daikon radish and cucumber with a bit a jalapeño for some kick.

Banh Mi

Start with the meat on the bottom, top with the tangy marinated vegetables, add a generous amount of cilantro and mint, and you're good to go.

Banh Mi

While pâté is our most common protein of choice, we have had great success experimenting with other fillings as well. Case in point, this chicken milanesa Banh Mi with hit of chile-lime sauce:

Banh Mi

So, if you haven't made your own Banh Mi before, we definitely encourage you to give it a try.

The pickled vegetables are really the only part you need to make yourself, and they are easy. Here is the recipe we've been using:

Marinated Vegetables for Banh Mi
1 large carrot, peeled
1 4-inch piece of daikon radish (about 1 1/2 inch diameter), peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 2-inch piece of cucumber, peeled
1 jalapeño

Cut the carrot and daikon into 2-inch lengths. Julianne each (matchstick or thinner) and place into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Using your hand, massage the salt throughout the vegetables. Let sit for 5 or 10 minutes, at which point a piece of carrot should bend in half without breaking.

Add the sugar to the rice wine vinegar and stir until completely dissolved. Thoroughly rinse and drain the carrot and daikon. Return them to the bowl and cover with the vinegar-sugar marinade. Let sit at room temperature about an hour.

Meanwhile, cut the cucumber into 1/4-inch sticks (discard the seedy center). Cut about half of the jalapeño into thin slices. Taste to assess the heat level - if very hot, cut the slices in half. Add the cucumber and jalapeño slices to the carrot-daikon mixture for the last 30 minutes.

To use, grab a generous pinch of vegetables and gently shake, but do not drain. Use as a condiment or garnish. Makes enough for about four 6-inch Banh Mi. Extra carrot and daikon can be stored with the marinade in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks (discard extra cucumber or jalapeño).


  1. That was quite the endeavor making all those from scratch! I'll have three Please..

  2. those are some beautiful pictures. i think i will try making it myself...went out to get some at a new place, but was again disappointed. i've never had liverwurst before, so i'll be trying this out soon

  3. Dennis - we're not open for takeout, yet, but I'll keep you posted...

    HWMNBN - definitely give it a go. The trickiest part will probably be finding appropriate bread.

  4. Weird weird weird! Coincidence, Coincidence, Coincidence! You just commented on my terrine post, but I also posted a banh mi this week! GREG

  5. Hi Greg - great minds think alike!

  6. i'm pretty impressed you did all this yourself. i go out for banh mi quite a bit but have never even thought of making it at home.

  7. can i have your bread recipe

  8. Hello,
    Could you please post the baguette recipe? or maybe a link for the "williams sonoma" book? there are few of the Williams Sonoma book and I am not sure which one to get!
    Thanks in advance for your sharing.

  9. We have this one:

    but it looks like it is out of print. Looks like this might be the new edition:

  10. Hi Mike,
    Thank you for your info! found it at our local library. (your baguette sure look much better than the one inside the book!)again, highly appreciated your prompt info.