The Vietnamese Sandwich
If you visited Vietnam, surely you saw along the roads there are a lot of stalls preparing food all day long, practically the Asian Street Food.
The Banh Mì is among the most symbolic: a French baguette, as a former colony, stuffed with Crispy Pork Belly, mayonnaise, liver paté, cucumber, carrots pickles, daikon, coriander and chilli, we could define it as a very colorful (and stuffed) variant of our porchetta sandwich. There are many variations of Banh Mì and the fillings change according to the geographical position you are in, starting from Hanoi crossing the whole country until you reach Saigon, each province with its particular recipe and nuance of tastes even if the bread and the pancetta remains almost unchanged.
I ate it for the first time in Paris, which is just right 10,000 km away from Saigon! In the heart of Paris, more precisely in the district number 13, where the Asian communities live, from a gastronomic point of view it is like being transported to Asia: there are plenty of restaurants and markets where you can find the scents and flavors of the East. Whenever someone from our family goes to Paris, buy as many sandwiches as possible to pack in your suitcase. Waiting a year or two to eat a Banh Mì was way too much, so we started to replicate it at home and being that the bacon lends itself very well to BBQ cooking we started reworking the recipe to be cooked in your trusty charcoal devices / gas / pellet.
Ready for this journey across the globe?
- Bread: aesthetically and tastefully, the French brides well with the preparation, even if the original Banh Mì is made with a French baguette, the important thing is that the bread is crispy outside, soft inside.
- A pork belly with rind, about 1.5 kg in weight
- 200 gr. of Mayonnaise
- Smoke: Wild Black Cherry
For the marinade:
- 2 tablespoons of 5 spice mix. It is a traditional mixture of spices used in Chinese cuisine and then spread throughout the Eastern kitchen, it is already ready but if you want to create your own variant the ingredients to use are: powdered cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, pepper in Sichuan berries, cloves. For the doses and the procedure there are many recipes on the web, maybe soon we will propose our version in these channels 😉
- 1 tablespoon of seed oil
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of sugar / honey
For the side vegetables:
- 200gr of carrots
- 200g daikon. It is an Asian variant of radish. Visually very similar to carrots but white in color. Besides being rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and vitamin C, B vitamins and fiber, daikon helps burn fat thanks to its ability to metabolize them. Not surprisingly, in Japan it is served in combination with tempure and fried foods in general.
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of fine salt
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
Per il paté di fegatini:
- 300 grams of chicken livers and clean chicken hearts
- 50 gr of butter
- 1 ladle of broth
- 1/2 glass of sake, alternatively white wine may be fine. Did you know that the Sakè, being obtained from the fermentation of rice, is not classifiable either as a distillate or a liqueur but is a separate category?
- Oil q.b.
Step 1: The belly
Cooking bacon with rind is a challenge for every griller because, once it is cooked, it must have two diametrically opposite characteristics: very crispy rind (we should have the same sensation transmitted by a bag of chips) and very soft and juicy meat.
We scrape the skin with a knife to remove hair and impurities, then turn it over and proceed to remove any excess fat, simultaneously incising the meat to form squares of 4-5 cm per side, this will help absorb the marinade in depth.
We prepare the marinade by mixing together the mix of the 5 spices, the soy sauce, the salt and the oil and then we go to brush it in the middle of the incisions we made.
Pour the remaining part of the marinade into a baking pan and place our belly with the rind upwards, paying attention that the marinade does not completely submerge our piece, the marinade must be applied only to the meat. Finally sprinkle abundantly the coarse salt over the skin being careful not to let it fall into the marinade, this step will have the function of absorbing all the moisture present, subsequently favoring the creation of a beautiful crispy skin during cooking. We let it rest for a while in the fridge, one night / 12 hours would be ideal.
Now that the meat is sufficiently “rested”, we prepare it for cooking having the foresight of:
- Remove the salt from the rind and dry it very well
- Lightly dab the meat from all the excess marinating as it will not drip when we insert it into our cooking device
- Make parallel incisions on the rind about 5mm against fiber in order to have a nice soft morsel cooked, help yourself with a very sharp knife or, as a last resort, a cutter (even Rambo’s knife is fine: D). The rind will actually be rubbery at the moment and it will be very difficult to treat it.
We prepare our device for indirect cooking at 170 ° / 180 ° with a two-zone setup, place our beautiful piece of meat in the middle and add our favorite wood for smoking; fruity woods go very well with this preparation (Wild Black Cherry it’s his death 😉) choose according to your tastes, close the lid and monitor the cooking of the meat with the aid of a probe thermometer.
Step 2: carrots and daikon pickles
As long as we wait for the meat to be ready we can prepare our pickles; peel the daikon and carrots, cut them into julienne, I use the knife because they remain more crisp and because if you are Asian you have the absolute prohibition to use other tools; if I approach the grater my mom looks at me with a malevolent eye … If you don’t have these “problems” you can use the tool that best suits you.
Cucumbers should be cut into not too small strips, in Banh Mì they should feel like they are bitten.
We emulsify together the salt, sugar and white wine vinegar. Remember to taste your emulsion before seasoning the vegetables, it must not be too acid but not even sweet, you have to find the right balance between the three ingredients, and eventually adjust the doses a little. We combine it all to obtain our carrot and daikon pickles.
While we are preparing also cucumbers that will be cut into not too small strips, they must feel like being bitten.
Fase 3: Paté di fegatini e cuori
Eliminiamo il grasso intorno il cuore e la vescichetta di fiele contenuto al suo interno. Tagliamo a pezzi medio grandi e diamo una sciacquata.
Versiamo un po’ di olio in una casseruola, quando sarà caldo aggiungiamo le nostre frattaglie, lasciamole cucinare per 2-3 minuti e poi sfumiamo con il sakè, una volta che sarà evaporato abbassiamo la fiamma, aggiungiamo un po’ di sale e lasciamo cuocere altri 5-7 minuti, se vedete che si sta asciugando troppo aggiungete un po’ di brodo.
A cottura ultimata aggiungete il burro, mescolate con un cucchiaio finché non si sarà sciolto completamente. Frullate in tutto con un mixer a immersione ed ecco qua il vostro paté.
Step 4: Completing the cooking of belly
To be satisfied, our meter must not rely only on the degree of cooking of the meat (which must be about 78 ° / 80 ° to the heart) but from the appearance of the rind: if it is dry and has a certain consistency (the sense of rubber must be a distant memory), we can give it the final boost to give it a crunchiness to make any french fry envy. To do this we have three alternatives, each with its pros and cons:
- Turn on another half stack of briquettes, redistribute them in the two half moons and open the ventilation fans as much as possible. The objective is to carry out indirect cooking at high temperature (above 200 °), until reaching our goal: rind with a “crunch” effect.
- Combine the two half moons in the center, overturn our pancetta and cook the rind directly over the embers. Caution!!! Very few seconds will be enough!!! Don’t get distracted otherwise the charcoal effect is assured. Pay attention also to the flare-ups that will inevitably come out due to the fat that will inevitably run on the embers.
- Finally the less “elegant” solution, if we were in the videogame field we will call it “cheat” (all those tricks used to end the game in the easiest way, such as having infinite lives), using the kitchen torch, that used to caramelize the Catalan cream to understand it, passing it over the rind with slow and uniform movements. If we have done the cooking properly, when the flame meets the rind this should start to crackle like a huge popcorn.
Here we are, the bacon for our Banh Mì is cooked to perfection and the fragrance emanated should be captured and used to create fantastic ArbeMagique.
Let it rest for 20-30 minutes then we begin to cut it into thin slices following the incisions made previously (you did it, right? 😊).
At this point we just have to combine it all by filling our Banh Mì.
Cut in half into our bread, remove a little bit of breadcrumbs (we have to make some space for the other ingredients), spread the mayonnaise first, add our slices of bacon, then our pickles and cucumber, we finish our sandwich with a spread of chicken liver paté on the other side. You can add if you like some coriander leaves and fresh chilli.
At every bite our palate will be catapulted into an incredible journey into the roller coaster, passing from the consistency of the bread to the softness of the flesh, turn of death into the freshness of vegetables, screwing into the crunchiness of the rind, rising with smoking to end with the incredible taste of pâté and off for a new ride … pardon bite 😉