Banh mi sandwich
Often when people hear the term “MediterrAsian” they think of fusion food. But when it comes to Mediterranean and Asian food, Trudy and I are real traditionalists and we rarely mix Mediterranean and Asian flavors together. But there is a MediterrAsian fusion meal we do adore, and that’s banh mi.
Vietnam was a French colony from 1885 to 1954, and over that time certain French foods such baguettes, pâté and mayonnaise became integrated into the Vietnamese diet. Remnants of French colonization can still be seen in Vietnamese cuisine today, and the tastiest example of this is banh mi (pronounced ‘bun me’), a Vietnamese sandwich with a distinctly French influence.
The base of this mouthwatering sandwich is a light and crispy baguette, typically with a lick of mayonnaise. Added to this is often pâté, but other popular fillings include barbecued pork, chicken, ham, seared tofu, eggs and fish. Then come all the wonderful hot, salty, sour and sweet Vietnamese flavors from pickled vegetables, soy or fish sauce, chili, and sprigs of cilantro (fresh coriander).
This recipe is our take on banh mi, using staples that we always have in our pantry and fridge. As the main filling ingredient we make our own fish pâté from mashed canned tuna, fish sauce, scallions and mayo. It has the perfect consistency for smearing on the base of a halved baguette.
Pickled shredded carrots and daikon radish, known as ‘Do Chua’ is typically used as a filling in a banh mi, but we’ve found that making a simple lightly-pickled slaw with grated carrot, bean sprouts and diced cucumber provides the same satisfying tanginess and crunch.
Jarred pickled jalapeño slices add the heat element, however you could just as easily use hot chili sauce or flakes, or sliced fresh chili if you prefer. And the final flourish is cilantro — used like a vegetable in its own right instead of simply a garnish.
Banh mi makes an exotic flavor-packed lunch, (it’s particularly excellent picnic fare in summer), and it can also be sliced into small portions and served as finger food.
1 teaspoon superfine (caster) sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ carrot — peeled and grated
¼ cup peeled, deseeded and diced cucumber
1 cup bean sprouts
6 oz (170g) canned tuna in olive oil — drained
1 scallion — finely chopped
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons jarred pickled jalapeño slices
A handful of cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves