Can you believe it, Facebook is actually blocked in large parts of Vietnam? I've been a little quiet recently because of this. For some reason, BBC and cricinfo are also not accessible... This can be a strange country at times. You don't need much proof of this, just look around and you'll see things like dead snakes fermenting in bottles of alcohol - snake wine, no one drives on a particular side of the road, they don't seem to sleep - Sunday is as busy as a Friday and in Nha Trang, where I currently am, they are working non-stop on new buildings. I mean through the night! They also eat dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner...
One thing they do have that's not strange to me is good food. Not all of it, but the things they do do well, they do exceptionally well. One of these things is called Banh Mi.
Banh Mi is mostly eaten at breakfast or early lunch time. A warm baguette, soft or crispy stuffed with a multitude of ingredients. Each one is skillfully added to the baguette with chop sticks for a taste explosion. I'm a big fan of a hamburger. often the fuller the better. I love stuffing it with cheese, bacon, salad and even a sauce. But what the Vietnamese have done with the humble French baguette is nothing short of astounding. I've never seen so many ingredients packed into a little bun.
- Crispy French baguettes
- Spring onion, julienne
- Baby lettuce, torn
- cucumber, sliced thinly at an angle
- Fresh mint
- Fresh coriander
- Fresh basil (Sweet basil is best if you can get it)
- Tomato, sliced thinly
Spreads and sauces:
- Mayonnaise - homemade is best
- Pork pate - see recipe below
- Pork gravy
- Chilli paste - see recipe below
- Ham, sliced (store bought)
- Egg, scrambled in a tsp of oil
- Shallot, thinly sliced and fried till crispy
- Cut open the baguette like a boat, not all the way so the ingredients don't spill out.
- With a spoon add and spread the mayonnaise, pate, and gravy.
- With chop sticks add the salad ingredients - in Vietnam they add one or two of each things only so not to over stuff the sandwich.
- Add the chilli paste.
- Add the pork ham, the roasted pork and lastly the fried scrambled egg and crispy shallots.
- If you want, you can add some more chilli paste.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 red birdseye chillies, finely chopped
- 250g pork liver
- 150g cooked pork, chopped
- 6 tbps butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- In 2 tablespoons of butter sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes.
- Add the chillies and cook for an extra minute.
- Add the liver and cook for an extra few minutes until brown all over.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to a blender. Add the cooked pork, remaining butter and seasoning and blend until you have a course texture.
- Line an oven proof dish with butter and pack in the blended mixture fairly tightly.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- 8 large red chillies, halved (wear gloves)
- 5 cloves garlic
- 4 Thai shallots / 1 large french shallot, peeled and roughly sliced
- 4 red birdseye chillies, halved (wear gloves)
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp palm sugar
- 4 tbsp water
- 4 tbsp tamarind paste
- 4 tbsp vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Oil an oven tray and place the large red chillies skin side up on the tray together with the garlic and shallots. Roast them for about 30 - 40 minutes until the vegetables begin to blacken.
- In a blender add the roasted chillies, garlic and shallots, raw birdseye chillies and salt and blend until nearly smooth.
- In a pot heat the water, palm sugar and tamarind paste over a medium heat, stirring regularly.
- When the sugar is disolved add the chilli mixture and bring back to the boil. Keep the mixture at a constant simmer for about 10 minutes until thick and sticky.
- Remove the paste from the heat and allow it to cool. Transfer it to a sealable jar and pour some vegetable oil over the top to preserve it.
- The paste will keep in the fridge for about 1 month.
Braai (Grilled) Pork:
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground black peppers
- 6 spring onions, julienne
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 750g pork tenderloin, thinly sliced against the grain
- In a blender mix together the fish sauce, honey, sugar, pepper, spring onions and garlic until finely pureed.
- Marinade the pork in this mixture overnight.
- Thread the pork onto skewers.
- On the braai grill the pork, keep basting them and turn them regularly not to burn them (this can be done in a pan on the stove but the flavour won't be the same). Be careful not to overcook the pork.
- Remove the skewers and serve the pork cold
There's a lot of elements to making the perfect Banh Mi. At the end of the day it's up to you what you put inside yours. Substitute the pork for chicken, beef, duck or prawns but be creative. Spend the time making all the individual ingredients and scatter them in plates and bowls on the table for everyone to make their own. It's a winner and a crowd pleaser.