Posted by: CJW | July 26, 2010

Charred Pork Banh Mi

Having already professed my love for banh mi (or Vietnamese sandwiches), I don’t have much more to say here on this post. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you again about how much I love these sandwiches, how they’re the perfect package combining crusty bread with tender meat and crunchy vegetables, and beautifully balanced flavors of sweet, salt, spice, and acidic pickles. You know, because to bring this all up will only create a craving in both you and in me for a banh mi that will only drive us crazy until a sandwich is acquired… Damn it… I need to get to the International District now…

I made these sandwiches for two reasons: 1) having recently eaten a super delicious but fancified ginger braised beef banh mi from a local mobile eats vendor I realized how much I’d been sorely missing these sandwiches when they weren’t almost daily fare now that law school is over; and 2) we got these lovely purple beet radishes from the CSA. On the latter point, I kept thinking how pretty those radishes would be after a quick pickle when sitting atop a banh mi with lots of bright green cilantro and scallions and lovely orange carrots.

I also had another goal– I wanted to try to recreate that delicious charred pork that you find on banh mi or in vermicelli bowls. So I took some pork tenderloin and marinated it in a mix of fish sauce, sugar, and garlic. The sugar seemed particularly key in attaining that bit of caramelized, sweet burned crust. Basically, the flavors here were right, but I think I made a mistake out of laziness: I broiled instead of grilled. I know– sacrilege, especially when we’re in the height of grill season. But it was at the end of a long day and although we don’t regret having bought a charcoal grill to appeal to our foodie sensibilities, it just hasn’t worked out on a logistical level when you’re hungry and it’s late in the evening and you can’t wait the 45 minutes for the coals to light and heat the grill. If I were to do this again, I’d keep my marinade as is, but I’d slice the pork first, soak the individual slices in the marinade then skewer them and grill over charcoal to maximize that smokey flavor and the surface area of each piece of pork getting some of that crust. But if you want a perfectly delicious but less work intensive and not quite perfect pork banh mi, then go ahead and follow this recipe as is. I promise you that your mouth will still be insanely happy.

  • 2 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed and 1 large garlic clove minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into thin slices
  • 1 large purple beet radish, cut into thin slices
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/2 bunch spinach, washed, spun dry and torn
  • baguette rolls
  • hoisin sauce, Sriracha, sliced scallions and cilantro for garnish

In a bowl, combine brown sugar, molasses, fish sauce, smashed garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, and sesame oil. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Place pork tenderloin in a large ziplock bag then add the marinade. Seal the bag and make sure the marinade is distributed so it covers all the pork. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to over night.

Combine granulated sugar and rice vinegar in a medium container that has a fitted lid. Dissolve sugar in vinegar then add the radish and carrot slices. (Ideally, also add some peeled and sliced cucumber too.) Add enough warm water to cover the vegetables. Let this sit for at least 2 hours.

Combine mayonnaise, minced garlic and lime juice in a bowl and mix until well combined. Set aside.

To assemble sandwiches: broil pork tenderloin for a total of 20-25 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 155 degrees F, turning pork halfway through cooking time to ensure a crust on all sides. Remove from broiler and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Split rolls then toast. Spread mayonnaise mixture on both sides of the roll. Add 5-6 slices of pork and top with spinach, pickled vegetables, and a sprinkle of scallions and cilantro. Let your eaters add Sriracha and hoisin sauce to taste.

CSA Count: 3

Cilantro, carrot, purple beet radish

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