Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bánh Mì - Vietnamese Sandwiches Deconstructed

Crusty, white, French bread. Delicious, meaty pâté. Strips of succulent, grilled pork. A dollop of creamy butter slathered all over the bread. Pickled carrots, turnip and cilantro? This French influence on Vietnamese cuisine will pop up now and again as we work our way through the many foods I love to eat. Bánh Mì, which translates to 'bread', are a fantastic sandwich and they're usually quite cheap. They come in many forms, with many kinds of meat, some I couldn't tell you what animal it came from. On the show No Reservations, I saw it served in Vietnam with a fried egg inside it, amongst many more things that aren't put into them here. I really need to make a trip there, if only to eat that sandwich...
These were taken pre-lightbox.
I didn't make these sandwiches today, I bought them from "the best Vietnamese sandwich" place here in Montréal and considering I always buy my sandwiches from there, I guess I agree with that title. So what do you need for a good Bánh Mì? The things I listed at the beginning of this entry are a good start. The only variable in there would be the meat. As far as I'm concerned, any kind of meat could go into these sandwiches as long as the rest stays the same. 

If you've never tried one, the best way to do it is like this: go to the shop, buy as many as you like though I supposed one is a good number to start with. Most places will ask if you want hot peppers in them or not. That's up to you. Some places can also toast it for you, but if not you'll have to go find an oven. Watch it carefully, I've burnt a good number of them in my day. You want a good crunch on that bread, and for the butter inside to have melted. If yours don't have any cucumber in them, slice up some cucumber in long sticks and shove them in there. If you love that soya sauce, some people put a little in their sandwich for an extra bit of saltiness, though I find they already have so much flavour in them. 

It can't hurt to enjoy your first Bánh Mì the way it was meant to be enjoyed, right? Right! However, the shops always slather on way too much butter so to make it a slightly healthier meal I grab a spoon and scoop it out. One piece of bread has the pâté and the other is full of butter, so skim as you please. There's still enough in there for it to melt into the bread when it gets toasted, so there is a marginal difference in flavour, if any. I've never noticed.


let's push things forward