Americans think they have sandwiches down.
Hamburger, cold cut on rye, and Philly cheesesteak. What more do you need?
Unfortunately, in my opinion none of these can touch the Vietnamese sandwich called banh mi. The combination of marinated and roasted meat, spicy mayo, and tangy pickled veggies is just irresistible.
For my Pork Belly Banh Mi recipe
, I made everything from scratch except the bread. I’ll show you how to do the same and also suggest a few shortcuts.
Pork belly can be an intimidating cut of meat, but just know that it’s really hard to mess up. The belly has so much fat in it that it’s almost impossible to overcook!
The key to cooking it right is to take a sharp knife and score the skin of the belly, making light cuts all over the skin. This helps the fat render out of the belly as it cooks and makes the top of the belly super-crispy.
After I scored mine, I also rubbed it with sesame chili oil and seasoned it well with salt and pepper.
Start the belly roasting at 500 degrees to get some nice browning on it. Roast it at that temperature for 30 minutes. Then turn your oven down to 350 and roast it for another 45-55 minutes.
It should be really crispy on the exterior and a lot of fat will have rendered out of it.
This was my finished roasted belly.
Once it cools a bit, you can go ahead and slice it up. For the actual sandwich, I recommend dicing the slices a bit so you get some crunchy bits and some tender bits in each bite.
Okay. Let’s go back in time. While the belly is roasting, you can make toppings for the sandwich. The first topping is a spicy homemade mayonnaise. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making mayo, feel free to use store-bought mayo and just stir in some hot sauce.
If you do want to make your mayo, I like to temper mine over a water bath to kill any bacteria that might be in the egg. To do this, just whisk together the yolk, water, lime juice, and salt in a medium metal bowl.
Whisk this over simmering water until the mixture starts to steam and froth. It will also thicken a bit. It should only take around two minutes to heat up and you want to make sure you are whisking constantly so the eggs don’t cook!
Once the yolk mixture is steaming and frothy, you can be fairly certain that any bacteria is killed. Now go ahead and start whisking in your oil, starting with a very small amount. I start with literally a few drops of oil and whisk it in. As the mayo thickens you can add more and more oil at once.
Eventually, you’ll have all of your oil whisked in. Then you can stir your hot sauce into the thick condiment.
This might seem hard, but once you get the hang of it you can whip up homemade mayo very quickly. I can make a batch in about five minutes these days.
Besides the mayo, I also mixed up a quick slaw to top the sandwich. The slaw has a fair amount of vinegar which helps cut through some of the fat from the pork.
Just dice the daikon radish very finely (you could use normal radishes also) and then shred the carrots and cabbage and toss everything with rice wine vinegar, salt, and sugar.
Let this sit for at least thirty minutes before using it, but FYI it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
You’ll also want some fresh cucumber and cilantro to top the sandwich. These give a nice herb flavor and some serious crunch.
When you’re ready to make a sandwich, toast some baguette and slice it in half. I like to use about eight inches of baguette for each sandwich.
Then slather each side with the spicy mayo and top it with a few handfuls of diced pork belly.
Top with a handful of the slaw and fresh cucumbers and cilantro. I also like to add an extra drizzle of hot sauce to my sandwich, but that’s personal preference.
This sandwich is rich, tangy, and filling. I’m pretty sure I could eat as many of these as you put in front of me!Nick is seriously in love with this sandwich. Be sure to check out his blog, Macheesmo, his book, Cornerstone Cooking, and check out his Tablespoon profile.