I stuck my head in the refrigerator to take inventory of the glut of food we had following the holidays. (My motto: never run out of food when you have guests over.) The inventory looked like this:
- Arugula, 1 bag
- Cilantro, 1 bunch
- Huge pack of corn tortillas
- Poached chicken breasts, 2
- Green and red bell peppers
- Zucchini, 4
- Cucumber soup
- Three sauces: Chimichurri, Nuoc Cham, and Mojo
- Phyllo dough
- Spinach filling for Spanakopita
- Matchstick (shredded) carrots, 2 bags
- Dayglo pickled red onions
- Pork shoulder blade roast, 6lbs
What could I make? I really wanted to use up some of the shredded carrots and the Nuoc Cham sauce. So I googled Vietnamese Carrot Salad and voilà, up came a recipe for Do Chua, which reminded me that this pickled carrot and daikon relish is a key component in the FABULOUS Vietnamese sandwich, bánh mì. I then googled bánh mì and learned more about what constitutes an authentic bánh mì from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's virtual spanking of the NY Times for NOT knowing their bánh mì.
Well, I hate to say this; it's not like I'm looking for a spanking, but my bánh mì was not completely authentic. I didn't have pate or head cheese or Kewpie mayonnaise, and gasp! I used fish sauce in my Do Chua. But not to worry, half the fun with food is mixing things up and improvising. Here's what we had in our bánh mì:
- Slow Cooker Vietnamese Pork - yum!
- Dayglo Pickled Red Onions - Definitely not a traditional vegetable in bánh mì, but I had this lying around in the frig and it adds another layer of glorious flavor and color to the sandwich. We'd been using it on our tacos and with a previous roast pork meal.
- Do Chua - I didn't make an authentic batch of do chua as I had some nuoc cham that I wanted to use up, so I just salted some shredded carrots, let them sit in a colander for 10 minutes until they were slightly bendable, then rinsed thoroughly to remove salt and threw the carrots into my jar of nuoc cham to pickle overnight. I also didn't have daikon on hand. Oh well, next time!
I further emptied my frig by using up the cilantro, cucumber and chicken breast (for my husband who doesn't eat red meat).
The one area where I decided to splurge (ie, go out to the store and buy) was the bread. Originally, I was going to make Garden Betty's bánh mì tacos (remember, I had that big bag of corn tortillas), but I suffered a brief spasm of guilt for being so unauthentic and after I found out Mexican bolillo rolls make a great substitute for Vietnamese baguettes (which are not quite the same as French baguettes), I didn't hesitate to head over to my nearest Mexican grocer to seal the deal.
To make the sandwiches, use a serrated knife and saw the bread in half lengthwise. Rip out some of the innards (kinda fun!) to make cavities to hold your fillings. I toasted the bread in an oven at 350°F for about 5 minutes to crisp up the crust. Spread the inside with mayonnaise and fill up the roll with pork, cilantro, cucumber slices, du chua and the pickled red onions. I like mine heavy on the veggies!