Fun With Making Your Own Banh Mi Viet Subs And The Pickles, Too

Jul 23, 2014

I'm a recent though enthusiastic consumer of banh mi and a longtime fan of Andrea Nguyen's superb cookbooks. Her newest, "The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches," was just released.

That subtitle is no overstatement. If you're unfamiliar with banh mi (bunn mee) Viet sub sandwiches, it's time to try one. And what better way to get started than to make your own with the easy-to-follow instructions in Andrea's handbook. 

The book starts off with the get-acquainted chapter, "Banh Mi 101," and goes on to recipes for the must-have pickled vegetables that make up the bulk of most of the sandwiches. Nguyen has even researched a recipe for the authentic airy, crumbed, crispy-crusted banh mi rolls, which I told Nancy Leson I was going to try making as soon as the weather cools down.

"Well, if you want to sit around and make rolls in the summer, knock yourself out," Nancy pooh-pooh'd. "But I'd be inclined to go to my local Viet grocer or one of the local Asian supermarkets and buy a bag full of those rolls, which are made locally. They're very fresh, and they're really inexpensive."

The handbook contains recipes for all kinds of fillings, both meat-centric and vegetarian. And the meat-veggie ratio in most of banh mi is weighted toward crispy, tart pickles and chilies. So far I've made her grilled lemongrass pork and the super savory sate chicken sandwiches. 

I've also put together the must-have daikon and carrot pickles and the Viet red cabbage slaw, which went perfectly with some Swedish meatballs I was inspired to make after an Ikea safari. Next one I'll try is the Malaysian black curry chicken filling. And I'm really looking forward to making the silky garlic sausage recipe with some of my recently harvested garlic crop.

For more about Vietnamese food there's Andrea's blog, VietWorldKitchen.  It's full of terrific, reliable recipes and just general cooking and eating fun and I'm an almost daily visitor.  Now, back to banh mi.

There's lots of banh mi joints in the area, so as Nancy asks, "Why would you go to the trouble of making your own banh mi when you could go to some store and get the best, most delicious, inexpensive sandwich around?"

Because, as we agree, it's FUN!!

"The things I long for are simple and few. 

A cup of coffee, a sandwich and you."

– Billy Rose/Al Dubin