Well, Kramer and I finally saw The Phantom Menace in 3D last night for Valentine’s Day (isn’t that romantic). I have to be honest; I was pretty disappointed with the 3D quality. I expected more for Industrial Light and Magic! I know that the movie wasn’t shot with 3D in mind, but still, when you advertise “Star Wars in 3D” I at least expect to be somewhat impressed. It wasn’t quite worth the mild headache that 3D movies usually give me, but it was definitely fun to see it in theaters again, especially the pod racer scene and the Darth Maul fight scene with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. I have to say, though, Qui-Gon Jinn was kind of dressed like The Dude from The Big Lebowski, including the haircut. I never noticed it before, but the realization made the movie a little bit better, I think.
So, here’s the other thing about Kramer and me: We’re off to Aruba tomorrow! I am beyond excited. I can’t wait to lay on a beach, drinking cocktails out of coconuts. That’s standard in Aruba, right? Anyway, I will be taking the next week or so off to enjoy my vacation, but I wanted to leave you with something fun and delicious, hence the bánh mì. These Vietnamese sandwiches are “so hot” right now in New York, but they’ve been around for ages, as it is the result of French colonialism in Vietnam and the surrounding countries. You take a French baguette, stuff it with Vietnamese ingredients, and you’ve got yourself a bánh mì. I figured that we would start off with a simple combination: Vietnamese caramelized pork with pickled vegetables and plenty of hot chili paste. I was able to utilize my pickled red onions in this recipe, along with some other pickled vegetables, and I have to say, Kramer and I devoured these sandwiches faster than most things, that’s for sure. There’s just something about taking a big, hearty bite out of one of these giant bánh mìs. The best part is that there are a million different variations of this sandwich. You can use all vegetables and/or tofu, for instance, for a vegetarian version, or you can use chicken, fish or beef. There are even versions with a pork pate, which I plan to get around to making soon enough, that are even more delicious. The caramelized pork can be eaten on its own, too, with some rice, but I highly recommend treating yourself to a crusty baguette for this Vietnamese treat.
First, quickly pickle your radishes and carrots.
Get your sandwich ready by spreading a bit of mayo, hot chili paste, cucumbers, pickled carrots, pickled radishes, and pickled red onions.
- 3-4 carrots, peeled and cut thinly into matchsticks
- 8-10 radishes, cleaned and sliced thinly
- 3½ cups water
- 5 tablespoons distilled vinegar
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large shallots or 1 sweet onion, minced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 pounds pork shoulder or butt, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1¼ cup water
- ¾ teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 small baguettes, toasted and sliced or 1 large baguette, cut into 4 pieces, toasted, and sliced
- pickled carrots (recipe above)
- pickled radishes (recipe above)
- pickled red onions
- thinly sliced cucumber
- hot chili paste or Sriracha
- caramelized pork (recipe above)
- *All of these ingredients can be interchanged/left out/added to – make this sandwich into whatever you like!
- Bring your water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and peppercorns to a boil. Place your vegetables in a jar or sealable container, then pour the liquid over the vegetables. Seal the lid and place in the refrigerator. Let sit for at least 6 hours, or as long as a few days, as the flavor will develop the longer that they sit.
- First, you need to make your caramel. Place your sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a small pot over high heat, and stirring frequently, cook until it becomes a dark golden color, about 5-8 minutes. You need to be sure to do this over high heat, because if the heat is too low, the sugar will crystalize instead of caramelize. When the sugar has caramelized, set aside until ready to use.
- Heat your olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot or pan with a lid. Add in your minced shallots, and saute for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add in the garlic, and cook for 1 minute, stirring the entire time. Add in the pork and cook for 8-10 minutes, until browned on all sides.
- Add in the fish sauce, cook for 3-5 minutes, until it has cooked off, then add in the water, peppercorns, and salt. Stir to combine, turn the heat to medium-low, and add in the caramel. Cover the pork and cook for another 50-60 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and the sauce has reduced. When your pork is ready, turn your oven to broil and put the pan in there to crisp up the pork; the sugar will caramelize beautifully, but watch it, because it will only take about 1-2 minutes under the broiler before it starts to burn.
- Spread some mayo and hot chili paste or Sriracha on each sandwich, and top with pickled vegetables, cucumbers, cilantro, and your caramelized pork. Slice and serve.