Back in December 2009, me and Ara had our babymoon (with Azka inside) in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon. Before we get there, we did not really fancy Vietnamese culinary, so I wasn’t really intended the trip as a culinary trip (though I searched for the best restaurant and gems in town). When we’re there, we had our first Pho-gasm experience in two well-known Pho restaurants and the famous Ca Phe Da (ice coffee) which we just realized that Vietnamese coffee is really good. Besides the pho and ca phe, the most enduring foodgasm that we had is the bahn mi (Vietnamese French baguette) and omelet that the landlady served us every morning during our stay in backpacker hostel. That bahn mi, without any exaggeration, was MAGIC, hell, it was only a baguette, but it tasted really good and freshly-baked…! It looked as humble as this:
So what is bahn mi? As quoted; this is a product of French colonial Vietnam, the sandwich combines the basic French baguette (cut with rice flour, giving it a crisper crust and a lighter, more tender crumb) with Vietnamese takes on common French cold cuts or roasted meats, a smear of a sweet, buttery, mayonnaise-like spread, and plenty of vegetables—cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon, and chili peppers. When done right, they’re an insanely tasty combination of contrasting textures and flavors, but the overall impression, as with much Vietnamese food, is of lightness and freshness.
The best bahn mi in the world must be at its epicenter, which is in SAIGON itself. Which makes me feel kinda bummed-out because during out trip to Saigon, we didn’t buy any bahn mi from the street hawker and at any restaurant. Because I was pregnant and freak out to buy something from the hawker (cleanliness) plus not sure whether it is halal. But I’m curious now, maybe I’ll visit HCMC again for the sake of it!
Anyway, here in New Bedford, we couldn’t find any Vietnamese restaurant. There is one resto that sell Bahn Mi, it’s good, but pricey. The nicest Bahn Mi that we could find neaby is in Boston, which is not near at all since it is 1 hour drive. Last week I was craving for one, and decided to make it. I planned to make my own bahn mi “baguette”, but I failed the recipe. So I bought just a regular buns, and make the most of my marinade beef lemon grass and Do chua (Daikon and Carrot pickle) with the confidence that the result would be as foodgasmic as the “real” one.
Recipes as follow, modified from here:
- 1 pound beef sirloin or shaved steak, sliced strips marinade with 4 tbsp of Kecap Manis + 2 tbsp of Fish sauce + 1 stalk (white part) of Lemon grass + 2 tablespoons finely minced shallot + 3 cloves of garlic, minced + 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and salt. Marinade at least for 2 hour or overnight.
- 6 6 to 8-inch baguettes, sliced in half ( I used regular Subs, make sure if you’re using baguette, you have to use it right away or else, it would be hardened)
- Sriracha sauce if you like
- Pickled carrots and daikons
- Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce
- Your choice of boldly-flavored meat or tofu, sliced and at room temperature
- 3 or 4 thin seeded cucumber strips, pickling or English variety preferred
- 2 or 3 cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
- 3 or 4 thin jalapeño pepper slices
- I’m using a grill pan: Grill beef over high heat until browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Place baguette or subs slices on grill, cut side down, and toast until browned, about 1 minute. Remove from grill and evenly divide beef on bottom slices of bread; top with pickled carrots, daikons, and cilantro. Spread sriracha mayo on top slices of bread, arrange on top of assemble sandwich and serve.