Bánh mì is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread, or more specifically the baguette, which was introduced to the Vietnamese by the French during its colonial period. The bread most commonly found in Vietnam is a single serving baguette, therefore the term bánh mì is synonymous with this type of bread. The bánh mì is usually more airy than its Western counterpart, with a thinner crust.
Typical fillings include steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver pâté, grilled chicken, canned sardines in tomato sauce, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce, fried eggs, and tofu. Gage’s interpretation of the bánh mì is filled with slow cooked short rib meat. The sandwich was so darn good that I needed to make it myself, which I did when we returned from Chicago and from my taste memory I made the bánh mì: Instead of using short rib I used leftover pot roast. A perfect way to use up leftovers.
The hardest part of putting this sandwich together was finding the right bánh mì (bread). Typical french bread is too crusty and the bread the sandwich was served on at Gage had a slightly crusty and chewy exterior and chewy interior. Also, the bread was a single serving, not cut from a loaf. With that to go on, I went to a local market and started looking for the right bread and found it at Fresh Market. It was perfect. When I bit into the bánh mì I was pleasantly surprised that I had found the exact bread. At the market it is called a mini baguette and is about 5 to 6 inches long with a width of around 3 inches. It is kind of the shape of a hot dog bun but not a hot dog bun.
After much research this is what I came up with for the bánh mì. Begin building your sandwich with cutting the bread in half lengthwise. Smear a bit of mayonnaise on each side and put a dab of Sriracha (Vietnamese hot sauce available almost everywhere) on the mayo and smear around the bread.
Warm the bread in the oven just until it is warm and the mayo-sriracha begins to melt into the bread, about 5 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and on one half of the bread layer it with some Asian Slaw (I just happened to have some but if you don’t, use pickled carrots instead). The next layer is sliced fresh jalapeño or pickled jalapeño topped with a good amount of cilantro. On top of that add some warm, shredded pot roast or short rib meat.
By the picture you can see the amount I put on the sandwich. And there you have it. This is the closest my taste memory came up with but with a little creativity you can add your own favorite Asian flavors and crunch. Enjoy!!
Bon Appétit or, as they say in Vietnamese, Keo khai vi