Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Banh Fucking Mi.
Only a few times in my life have two words caused such a culinary uproar, awakening my palette to new tastes, and making me understand just how powerful food can be. These sandwiches, which to me are the pinnacle of cultural-culinary fusion, are very hard to describe to someone off the street. The combination of the highly-flavored proteins (not just meats, try the BBQ Tofu at Mei Sum), fresh pickled vegetables and herbs, chiles, and creamy dressings might just be enough to wow someone on their own, but to put this on a baguette? Simply incredible. I first spied this recipe in Bon Appetit right before we left for our holiday trip and have been dying to make it since that very moment. We had some high quality Banh Mi last week in NYC at Nicky’s, which re-awakened the taste and led me to put it on the menu for lunch, today. Enjoy! I know I did.
A few notes about the recipe: The hot sauces and chiles are not in any way optional. They are essential to the flavor of the dish and to leave them out would leave a somewhat bland sandwich. If you can’t take the heat, this is not the recipe for you. It’s not obscenely spicy, but hot sauces or chiles play a part in every major component. Make sure to find the freshest bread you can, as it will need to be soft. Leave yourself a bit over an hour so that the carrot and daikon have a chance to come to their full flavor potential. In general this is not a hard dish, but there are a fair number of steps to make the various components so take your time and above all else, enjoy yourself!
Pork Meatball Banh Mi (Serves 4):
- 2/3 cup mayonaisse
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. (or more! go nuts!) sriracha or other thick hot sauce
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. sriracha
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 cups carrots, grated coarsely (about 5-6 large carrots)
- 2 cups daikon radish, peeled and grated coarsely (about 1/3 daikon)
- 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil (not dark)
- 4 10-inch individual baguettes or 4 10-inch sections cut from 2 baguettes (we used one baguette in 4 pieces – it worked but was crowded)
- 1 jalapeno chile, sliced very thin on diagonal (with seeds intact)
- 1 bunch cilantro, washed and whole
- Combine carrots, daikon, sugar, rice vinegar, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside at room temperature for one hour or more, tossing occasionally.
- Combine mayonnaise, hot sauce, and green onions in another bowl. Cover and refrigerate, taking out 10 minutes prior to service to come up in temperature.
- Mix all meatball ingredients together in large bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form meatballs, rolling about 1 tbsp. of mixture in your hands per meatball. It will be easier if your hands are cold, so work quickly. This should make about 16 meatballs.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat sesame oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the meatballs to pan, browning completely and cooking thoroughly. Reduce heat if necessary, if meatballs brown too quickly. Remove cooked meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the second half.
- Add cooked meatballs to another baking sheet (or clean the original) and place into oven to stay warm.
- Slice baguette pieces horizontally in half and pull out insides with your fingers. Place baguette pieces in oven to warm slightly.
- To assemble sandwiches, spread the chili mayo on both sides of baguette, then starting from the bottom up, add jalapenos, meatballs, 4 or more whole cilantro sprigs, and a good covering of the drained vegetable mix. Cut in half (if desired), bring extra napkins, and enjoy!