Tag Archives: banh mi

Bánh mì, for you and me (2)

This was going to be a short, straightforward post about the red braised pork belly that we had in our DIY bánh mì. How we stuffed the pork belly, and Vietnamese luncheon meat (but of course) into baguettes (richly slathered with pork liver pâté and home made mayonnaise), added carrot and daikon pickles, cucumbers, sprigs of coriander and shallots, topped with dipping sauce, and munched our way to bánh mì bliss. Cue photo of pork belly on Asian-esque melamine plate. Usual food blogger stuff.

Then, I read the recipe again, and started wondering.** (If you want to skip to the recipe, it’s at the end of the post.)

** A wandering mind – this is a sign that I have been away from university for too long. My mind didn’t wander much when I was doing a part time Masters while working full time, it was too busy figuring out how little research I could get away with for that 10,000 word essay.

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Banh mi, for you and me (1)

On the weekend, I spent 2 days (and $50) making a pork roll that sells for $4.

It wasn’t just any pork roll. It was the roll with a cult following around the world – bánh mì.

An ode to bánh mì

Bánh mì is a Vietnamese culinary institution, and a culinary legacy of the French colonial era in Vietnam. It starts with a Vietnamese take on the French baguette made with rice and wheat flours, chunky pork liver pâté and creamy mayonnaise. Add handfuls of fresh herbs, crunchy pickles, and meat filling (3 types of luncheon meat, or grilled pork, or meatballs, or red braised pork). Finish with red chillies and a splash of dipping sauce or fish sauce (diagram showing bánh mì with luncheon meat below, borrowed from New York Times). The result is a hybrid of flavours that is somehow quintessentially Vietnamese, unexpectedly flavoursome, and addictive. 

NY banh mi

These baguettes are a popular lunch in the CBD, and a cluster of Vietnamese takeaway shops sell dozens and dozens of them to office workers. The people behind the counters work so quickly and deftly, their actions are like a stylised dance: cut baguettes, smear pâté and mayonnaise, layer meats, herbs, cucumber, pickles, a generous splash of savoury seasoning, and a random handful of chopped chilli – the degree of spiciness varies wildly from mild to painful.

I could go on about bánh mì for hours.

Making bánh mì, for you and for me

A leisurely Sunday lunch with friends was a chance to serve DYI bánh mì. I bought Vietnamese baguettes from a Vietnamese bakery, and made everything else from scratch: pickles (carrots, onions, daikon), pâté, mayonnaise, braised pork belly, and sweet-savoury-chilli seasoning.

This was a fun idea. Everyone built their own bánh mì. For some friends, they were revisiting an old favourite that they have eaten many times in Vietnam. For other friends, this was their first encounter with the iconic snack.

Even better, each home made component was a stand out in its own right.


The pâté was just gamey enough in taste to be interesting. It was textured (rustic?), thick, yet easy to spread and creamy to taste. It used relatively little butter, and was finished with a good splash of cognac to provide a little extra oh-la-la. Spread on thin slices of (French) baguette with a tiny smear of raspberry jam, the pate also made quick and satisfying canapes.

The mayonnaise was a delicate yellow, silky smooth, so light yet tasting like a million dollars of rich. It was utterly different from the dense, stodgy stuff we find in shops. I think it converted a couple of confirmed mayonnaise haters including Mr Gander, who (as it turns out) has never had home made mayonnaise before.


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