This post is sponsored by La Brea Bakery
I've always loved the bold pop of flavors in a bánh mì*, the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich. There's something about the flavorful meat, the bright crunchy pickled vegetables, the creamy pate, and the crusty bread that come together to form the ultimate perfect sandwich.
The French first introduced the basic French baguette to the Vietnamese in the early 20th century during the French colonization of Vietnam. Back then, a simple Parisian-style sandwich consisted of a French baguette, butter, and ham. These sandwiches (called “bánh mì Tay“) were meant for the French locals living in the area, and were associated with expensive European delis.
After French rule ended, the Vietnamese began adding their own local ingredients to the simple sandwich, such as pickled vegetables, cilantro, and other Southeast Asian herbs. Voila, the bánh mì we know today was born, and it soon overtook the French version of the sandwich.
Today, a bánh mì typically involves a baguette filled with some sort of meat, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and liver pate.
The quality of the bread can make or break a quality bánh mì. This is why when La Brea Bakery contacted me about designing a recipe with their artisanal bread, I immediately decided that I wanted to try making a bánh mì.If you're from the West Coast, you most likely have heard of La Brea Bakery. Founded by Nancy Silverton (James Beard Award winning pastry chef) in 1989, La Brea Bakery is one of the largest artisanal bakeries in the U.S. I became familiar with Nancy Silverton because she was one of the three main judges for Project Food Blog, an international blogging competition that I won back in 2010 (man, time flies!).
La Brea Bakery sells bread that is baked 80% and then frozen. This means that you can bake fresh, crusty artisanal bread in your oven in just 3-5 minutes, which is a HUGE time saver.
But before I get ahead of myself, let's go back to how we make each component of the bánh mì. We'll start with the pickled carrots and daikon, which takes a bit of advanced preparation.
Pickled daikon and carrots are an essential element in a good bánh mì. They provide the tart, crunchy balance to the rest of the sandwich. I had just received some beautiful carrots from my CSA farm share, so I decided to go ahead and shred them and pickle them. Usually you would pickle daikon as well, but since I didn't have any on hand, I stuck with carrots only.
I made up a simple solution of water, rice vinegar, salt, and sugar and pickled the carrots overnight.
The next morning before leaving for work, I assembled a fresh bánh mì in about 20 minutes (including photography, which slows everything down!). It's really easy!
First bake the La Brea Bakery sourdough French baguettes for about 5 minutes at 425°F, or until they turn golden brown. To save even more time, use a toaster oven. Mine preheats in less time that it takes me to cut the cucumbers (see below). Ideally, use a perforated baking tray (notice how mine has holes in it!). This allows the heat to crisp up the bottom of the loaves as well. If you don't have a perforated baking tray, place the rolls on a piece of parchment paper.
While the bread is baking, prepare the vegetables, like chopping cucumbers.
Wash and roughly chop the cilantro. I had some Hungarian wax peppers from my weekly farm share, and Bryan loves spicy food, so I sliced a few spicy peppers as well.
Once the bread is ready (and it was FAST!), assemble the sandwich.
I didn't have mayonnaise at home, so I just spread the pate on both sides of the bread.
If you can get Vietamese cold cuts or you have time to marinate and make grilled Vietnamese flavored pork, definitely try that route! However, if you're short on time or it's easier for you to get normal cold cuts, they work fine as well. I decided to use a mixture of mortadella and ham, which was delicious.
Top with pickled vegetables and cucumbers.
Pile on the cilantro.
The sandwich is best enjoyed fresh.
In my case, since I brought it to work for lunch, I actually re-toasted the bread so that it was nice, warm, and crunchy when I devoured the sandwich. The sourdough bread was delicious. It tasted more like freshly baked bread from an artisanal bakery than normal supermarket loaves. It definitely took the sandwich to another level of quality.
Next time, if I'm not as time-strapped, I do hope to try making the Vietnamese marinated grilled pork version of bánh mì.
However, I still like this bánh mì because it is super easy to make, only takes minutes to assemble on a busy workday morning, and is really good! Just make sure you use really good bread!
La Brea is Coming to Boston!
This weekend (September 19th and 20th), The La Brea Bread Truck is stopping in Boston as part of its nationwide La Brea Bread Tour. It left Los Angeles in late July and has been slowly making its way across the country stopping in various cities across the nation. Boston is the last stop, and it happens this weekend! Click here for more details.
Easy Bánh Mì Sandwich Recipe
adapted from Serious Eats
1-2 cups shredded carrots and daikon
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup water (warm enough to dissolve)
½ cup rice wine vinegar
Combine ingredients and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add shredded carrots and daikon and let sit at least one hour or up to overnight. Remove from the solution and use in the sandwich.
Bake La Brea Bakery French Baguette in the oven at 425°F for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown at the top.
Filling (makes 1 sandwich)
1-2 slices bolonga or mortadella
1-2 slices of ham
pate (sufficient to spread on both sides of the bread)
3-4 inch long piece of English cucumber, cut into sticks
handful of pickled carrots and daikon
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Spread pate on the inside of each half of the cut baguette. Add ham, mortadella, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and cucumbers.
*Although today the word “banh mi” is today associated with the Vietnamese sandwich in America, the term actually technically only means “bread”, and a sandwich having meat would have a descriptor after it (e.g. banh mi thit = bread with meat).
Disclaimer - this post is sponsored by La Brea Bakery. All opinions are my own.