Recently, Kristin and Sebastian gave me an all-things-banh-mi cookbook titled The Banh Mi Handbook. For me, it turned out to be the perfect sort of gift; something you never knew you wanted, but turn out to love.
Flipping through, it was clear how all the individual components were perfectly manageable, and most could be made ahead. Plus (yay!) it included a recipe for the soft, steamed variation of buns, which I think are the perfect size for experimenting with topping combinations.
I have discovered that some of the recipes are all available online at the author Andrea Nguyen’s web site, www.vietworldkitchen.com, but having all her banh mi related recipes, including assembling tips and variations, in one physical volume made banh mi making very approachable.
Shortly after I got the book, our friend Will reminded me of our plans to get together and cook on a Sunday afternoon. I suggested we try out a couple of the banh mi variations. On the Saturday, I picked up all the ingredients. The most elusive item turned out to be red cabbage – I guess they just aren’t in season? On Sunday, we spent a lovely, lazy afternoon:
- making daikon and carrot pickles (I used rice vinegar, not white)
- chopping spring onions, mint and cilantro
- pounding and dredging panko-crusted over-fried chicken
- hand-grinding a custom spice blend for curried beef patties
- kneading then rolling then steaming buns
- whipping up a batch of creamy Sriracha mayonnaise (add 3 tbsp of Sriracha when making homemade mayo)
- (I also made red cabbage pickle the night before)
Will and I spread out our efforts on the table, along with some Indonesian soy sauce, kecap manis, in lieu of the traditional Maggi sauce, and then he, I, and Fronx each assembled our own little sandwiches ourselves. I can imagine that making sandwiches just for yourself would be too much work, and for a large group it would be stressful, but it seemed like a great meal to prepare for yourself and a few friends who enjoy spending the time prepping as much as anything else.