Thursday, June 7, 2012

Banh Mi Sandwich

Have you ever had a new food experience that was love at first bite? Banh Mi was one of those moments for me. The combination of flavors and textures blew my mind. Growing up in a small town where the most exotic cuisine was American Chinese or pizza it wasn't until I began working in a restaurant that the world of food opened up to me. I remember with distinction when my fondness for Vietnamese food in particular began. In college a friend from Taiwan introduced me to a hole in the wall Pho restaurant on Newbury Street. The soup was so unique yet comforting and delicious and the fresh spring rolls where an entirely new concept to me. When I left that night I was changed forever and a love of discovering new foods was born. 

The Banh Mi sandwich sounds like nothing spectacular but it is an art form. A shop serving little else opened in my neighborhood and the owner knows me by name. Yup, I am having an affair with a sandwich. This week I decided to try my hand at making them at home and it is pretty easy. However I don't think I will ever give up entirely on my neighborhood shop because I think I would break the owners heart. She is such a nice lady. For a bit of background information check out this link at one of my favorite blogs. Viet World Kitchen's Master Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe.

My gringo version can be made easily at home and while food lovers fight over the exact mayo recipe I was happy using Japanese mayo . I got it at an asian market but you can use regular mayo if you have it as well. This is all about convenience and making it work in your everyday life. 

Gringo Banh Mi Sandwich
Serves 2

1- Whole Wheat Demi Baguette, cut into 2 portions
6 oz Thinly Sliced Grilled Pork or Chicken
2 Tbsp Regular or Japanese Mayonnaise
Jalapeno Pepper (Optional), thinly sliced
1 C Daikon Carrot Pickle
English Cucumber, thinly sliced
6 Sprigs Fresh Cilantro

Heat oven to 325 and toast the outside of the bread until crisp. 

Spread 1 Tbsp mayonnaise on the inside of roll. Then layer with meat, cucumber, daikon carrot mixture, jalapeno and lastly cilantro. Serve immediately.

It sounds so very basic but trust me, it is SO worth it. I wouldn't recommend leaving anything out as the flavors all really work together. 

We will finish the tour of my favorite Vietnamese dishes to make home tomorrow with my version of the classic fresh summer rolls. You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vietnamese Pickled Daikon and Carrots (Do Chua)

A new sandwich shopped opened up close to my house and to my delight they sell Banh Mi and very little else. Vietnamese cuisine is one of my very favorite and I eagerly tried the shop a few days within opening. There is something about the freshness of flavors that I love and can not seem to get ever get enough. One of our favorites in our house is the fresh summer spring rolls that I will post later this week. Back to the Banh mi. The vegetables on top are what really make the sandwich for me so I eagerly did some research when I got home. As I munched on my DELICIOUS sandwich I realized it was quite easy to assemble on my own so I went to Whole Foods, bought the veggies and made the pickle that afternoon. To my surprise other than it being a lot of cutting it is quite easy to duplicate right in your own home. 
I decided to post the recipe after an old friend emailed me asking for ideas to spice up her healthy cooking. Most canned pickles are high in sodium but as this is a fresh pickle and will not be canned it requires very little salt and you get the added benefit of the vinegar. Vinegar is great for the body and has many medicinal claims. That being said this dish works as a side dish, condiment and as a topping for sandwiches. We ate the whole bowl in one day and I am already plotting my next batch. Perhaps on top of a pulled chicken sandwich...We shall see. 

It is rare that I use a recipe in its original form but this one I did because it was new to me and I respect the author Andrea Nguyen a great deal. Her cookbooks keep winning awards and she is respected world over as an authority on Vietnamese cuisine. 

Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua) from Viet World Kitchen

Makes about 3 cups
1 lg carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
1 lb daikons, each no larger than 2 inches in diameter, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp plus 1/2 C raw cane sugar
1  1/4 C distilled white vinegar
1 C lukewarm water
In a medium size bowl mix the carrots and daikon with the salt and 2 tsp of sugar. Mix with your hands massaging the vegetables until they become slightly limp and water begins to accumulate in the bottom of the bowl. You want them to still be a crunchy but flexible. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Shake out excess water and return to bowl. In a small bowl combine the rest of the sugar, white vinegar and water stirring to dissolve sugar completely. Pour over vegetables and let sit at least 1 hour before eating. Keep refrigerated. 
Serve with a variety of grilled meats or tofu or as a topping on sandwiches. 
Asian Marinated Grilled Pork Chop with Daikon Carrot Pickle and Thai Basil
Check back tomorrow for my version of the Banh Mi recipe!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Asian Fish Soup

It has been rather cold here for the last few days. The first day was a bit of relief from the oppressive humidity of Memorial Day weekend but now it has gotten a bit dreary for the first week of June! The weather had me craving soup to warm up and since we had some lobsters over the weekend I just happened to have made some lobster delicious lobster stock that would work perfectly. Fish soup it would be! 
This broth based soup has a delicate flavor while still managing to be healthy and hardy. A mix of mushrooms will add complexity and earthiness to the mild cod fish. The whole wheat dumplings I found at H-Mart last week were a nice compliment to the soup and the finish of scallions at the end really brightened the flavor so I wouldn't suggest skipping them. For a vegetarian soup, or if you just like tofu like I do, the original recipe called for firm tofu and I think it would be fantastic. 

Asian Fish Soup (Adapted from Cooking Light)
4 Servings

5 Cups Lobster or Fish Stock
2 Cups Boiling Water
1 oz Dried Shitake Mushrooms
2 Tbsp Julienne Fresh Ginger
1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2 tsp Dark Sesame Oil
1/4 tsp Salt
1 lb Firm White Fish, like Cod
2 Cups Mixed Mushrooms, Cut in Quarters
12 Prepared Dumplings, Whole Wheat if Possible (Optional)
1/4 Sliced Scallions, Green Part Only

Combine 2 cups of boiling water and dried mushrooms in a small bowl and let soak for 20 minutes. Strain mushroom broth through a fine sieve. Reserve mushrooms. Add mushroom broth to fish stock through the next 7 ingredients in a dutch over. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Add fish, dumplings (if you are using them), and mixed mushrooms. Simmer an additional 10 minutes. 

Portion into 4 bowls and top with scallions. Serve immediately.