I love food that tells a culture’s history, and banh mi sandwiches are a perfect example of that! The development of banh mi started in Vietnam in the mid-1800s, while the nation was under French occupation. French colonists brought baguettes and other wheat baked goods with them, but the cost of imported wheat made these items a luxury to the native Vietnamese people. Once World War I hit, however, the disruptions to importing wheat led local bakers to mix rice flour into the bread dough. The result was a fluffier (and more cost-effective!) bread that has become a signature taste of Vietnam.
Up until the 1950s, the fillings for these sandwiches were decidedly French-inspired. By 1958, however, sandwiches with grilled pork or cha sausage started to grow in popularity, especially with fresh and pickled vegetables as a topping. These became the banh mi sandwiches we’re the most familiar with today!
My recipe isn’t 100% traditional, due to the use of a large loaf of French bread as opposed to Vietnamese bread. However, this is still a great option for feeding a family! The combination of hearty pork, vibrant pickled vegetables, Sriracha mayo, and herbaceous cilantro pay homage to the classic in this party-ready dish!
Banh Mi Sub Sandwich
2 large carrots, washed and peeled
1 medium daikon radish, washed and peeled
1 medium English cucumber, washed
1 cup water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2-3 TBSP sriracha, to taste
1 loaf of French bread
1 lb thin-sliced pork (e.g. pork belly, shoulder, ham cold cuts, etc.)
1/2 cup whole cilantro leaves
Use a mandolin to cut the carrots, daikon radish, and cucumber into thin slices, and put them in a heatproof bowl. In a saucepan, combine the water, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring just to a boil over high heat, then remove from the heat and carefully pour over the vegetables. Leave at room temperature for 30-45 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise and sriracha until thoroughly combined. Using a serrated knife, slice the French bread in half lengthwise. Spread the mayonnaise mixture evenly on the inside of the loaf, then fill with the pork, pickled vegetables, and cilantro. Replace the top layer of the loaf on the sandwich, then slice into desired number of portions, and serve.
Serves up to 8 as an appetizer, and up to 6 as an entree.