The Vietnamese sandwich! The most holy bastard offspring of two great, ancient cuisines. Born of conflict and yet a true triumph of fusion, innovation, and dirty satisfaction. This delicious demon spawn fuses the guilty pleasures of the east and the west, in perfect unison, wrapped in a roll so crispy that your gums bleed with satisfaction. This is the price you pay, the blood price, you and countless others have payed; will pay, to sample the delights of the mighty Bahn Mi!
In our hood of Footscray, Melbourne, you can’t go more than 50 meters without being tempted by the undisputed king of sandwiches. Thanks to the ‘victory’ of the communist forces in the American/Vietnam war of the 1970’s, many enemies of the new communist state fled to Australian shores in the hopes of escaping persecution and a better life for their children, bringing with them their culture and their food.
Gladly we found this suburb when we ourselves immigrated to this fine nation. Snugly nestled in the armpit of greater Melbourne, Footscray boasts a veritable orgy of imported cultures, and naturally, their food. After an extensive tour of South East Asia, eating ‘local’ every day had not only changed our palates but educated us on a wide range of produce that we assumed to be unattainable in our new home. However driving through Footscray we noticed an odd yet welcome sight; all the shop fronts were not only written in english but also vietnamese. If there was anywhere we were going to find good bahn mi, it would be here. Having developed something of an obsession for the Vietnamese sandwich, during our month long stay in Vietnam I must have eaten 20 of these crusty logs of joy, each one slightly different, each one hitting all the pleasure centres; crispy, salty, fatty, with the freshness of crunchy cucumber and coriander, and the sharpness of pickled carrot and red chilli rounding out this bouquet of really good shit. So considering myself a connoisseur of sorts by this time, I naturally approached the Aussie Bahn Mi with a degree of contempt and unwarranted wankery, you can’t possibly get better Bahn Mi that on the streets of Saigon surely?? Well, we have a saying in the kitchen “assumption is the mother of all fuck ups!” How wrong I was. There must be at least 10 shops in this little suburb that sell top notch Bahn Mi, once again all slightly different and not one of them over $5.
So here I humbly offer up my take on this power house of flavour. I really haven’t taken any major liberties with this adaption as I believe in not fixing what ain’t broke. Get one in your Bahn hole!
Master Stock Braised Pork Belly
- 180g shallots
- 20g garlic
- 50g ginger
- 20g chilli
- 300g soy sauce
- 60g black vinegar
- 80g sake
- 10g coriander roots
- 1 kaffir lime (or 4 leaves)
- the peel of 1mandarin
- the peel of 1 orange
- 70g fish sauce
- 2g coriander seeds
- 2g cumin seeds
- 3 green cardamon pods
- 2 pieces of star anise
- 2 ltr of chicken stock (powdered chix stock is fine)
- 200g yellow rock sugar
- 1 x 500 slab of pork belly
Preheat your oven to 180ºc. If you have a gas stove, put your shallots, garlic and ginger on a skewer without peeling them and roast them directly over the flame on a low heat until blackened all over. If not, peel shallots, garlic, and ginger, wrap in tin foil with a dash of oil and bake in the oven until soft. Remove blackened skins, or foil, and in a large pot combine all ingredients except pork and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow flavours to infuse for 30 minutes. Heat 2 Tblsp of oil in a large fry pan. Make shallow cuts across the skin of the pork and then salt liberally. Place the pork skin side down in the pan and apply pressure to ensure that all of the skin makes contact with the pan. This will mean you’ll get a nice, evenly crispy skin. Check that the skin is crisping evenly after about 2 minutes, if you have any shitty spots that aren’t crisping up, just apply more pressure to that particular area. Reduce to ¾ heat and cook for 10 mins or until properly crisped up, making sure not to burn the skin. Remove from the pan and place the pork, skin side up, in a deep roasting pan. Pour enough of the stock into the pan to cover the meat but not the skin. Place in the oven uncovered for 2 ½ hours. Once cooked, remove the skin carefully with a knife, and either allow to cool in the stock or carve carefully with a very sharp knife.
- 200g carrots peeled and thinly sliced (Julienne)
- 500g water
- 250g rice vinegar
- 30g salt
- 175g castor sugar
combine all except the carrots in a pot and bring to the boil. Pour over the carrots and allow to pickle at room temp for at least 2 hours.
- 4 baguettes (I used tiger rolls as I like the texture better)
- 200g of pate
- 1x lebanese cucumber thinly sliced lengthways
- 1 bunch of coriander
- 100g of butter
- 1 red chilli thinly sliced
- 200g pickled carrots
- 2 spring onions finely sliced on an angle
- 4 Tblsp of Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)
- Sliced pork belly
- crispy pork skin sliced thinly
I was going to include a recipe for the pate here in this entry but after a bit of thought I realised that it was a whole blog entry of its own, so in the interest of economy just go buy some from the supermarket. I bought mine from a sweet old Vietnamese lady who runs a small shop next to the Footscray market selling, you guessed it, Bahn Mi (and great vietnamese coffee). Cut the baguette almost all the way through lengthways. Spread the inside of the bun with butter and pate, season the pate with a pinch of salt. Lay the pork inside the sandwich and then build the other components in layers on top, placing the coriander and chilli on top. Finally place the crispy pork skin on top and drizzle the sweet soy sauce over the whole thing. Now jam the whole delicious mess in your gob! Cảm ơn.