My first Banh Mi

Back in the ’70s I lived in large apartment building in San Francisco, in the corner of Gough and Market.  At least once a week, my parents and I would walk up to the supermarket several blocks away.  There were a couple of things I often took notice of along the way–the Old Mint Building and a mom and pop Vietnamese sandwich dive where from about 11 until 2pm people would line up to get their sandwich fix.  I had no idea what the sandwiches were called at the time, but I do recall a few ingredients that stuck to my mind: shredded lettuce, carrots, cucumber, salt, pepper and a well-seasoned meat, either beef, pork or chicken.  It was seriously the most satisfying sandwiches I ever had.

It felt like I relived those years, after having realized that all along, I was enjoying my first Banh Mi fix at 9 years of age.  It was a gratifying feeling to know that this sandwich symbolizes more than just its good taste.  It also reminded me of the many quality times I spent with my parents as we walked along the city streets.  All the while, here I am, 36 years later… I made my first Bahn Mi at home and shared it with my 9 year old son.  Below is my own rendition…enjoy!–gcc


Yield: 6 servings

For the Meat:

2 to 3 tablespoon of wok or sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound ground pork (or beef, or chicken)

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Finely grated zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 lime

For Garnish:

1/2 cup of mayonnaise

4 tbsp scallions

2 to 3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce or other chili sauce, to taste

3/4 cup carrots, shredded or julienne

3/4 cup European cucumbers, thinly sliced or julianne

1/2 cup daikon radish, shredded or julienne

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar (optional if you would like to have the pickled version)

For Serving:

2 baguettes cut into thirds

Fresh jalapeño, thinly sliced and seeded

Cilantro sprigs

Mint sprigs (optional)

Lime slices for taste (optional)


1. (Optional–otherwise, omit rice wine vinegar and serve vegetables fresh) To make the pickled vegetables: In a bowl, toss together carrots, cucumbers, daikon, vinegar, sugar, salt and ground pepper.  Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the pork. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon scallions and 1 to 2 tablespoons Sriracha/ or chili sauce to taste. Cover and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons scallions and the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add meat and cook until no longer pink for approximately 7 to 10 minutes.  Stir in 1 tablespoon Sriracha/ or chili sauce, fish sauce, pepper, salt and sugar. Remove from heat and stir in the basil, lime zest and lime juice. Let cool for 5 minutes, then add the mayonnaise mixture.

4.  Hollow out the baguette bread and fill it in with meat mixture. Add the jalapeño, mint and cilantro sprigs onto the meat.  Spoon in some fresh (or pickled) vegetables onto the sandwiches alongside any extras.

GRACE NOTES:  If you want to make your own homemade mayonnaise , as well as, your own baguette (Vietnamese version) here is a great blog I found with the recipes.