Thursday, February 26, 2015

Banh Mi Dac Biet - Special Combo Banh Mi

     Vietnamese Banh Mi!  One of the first original Asian French fusion creations!
     Banh Mi has become popular in the last few years.  Banh Mi is a Vietnamese and French fusion sandwich that originated in Vietnam.  Banh Mi basically translates to "special bread."
     The bread is a French wheat flour mini baguette that is made with about 50% rice flour.  The rice flour creates a soft textured pith.  Men making the sandwich. the mini bread loaf is cut open and some of the bread pith is removed.  The bread is then stuffed with a mixture of traditional Vietnamese ingredients and French deli style ingredients.
     Banh Mi is part of the current street vendor style food craze.  When dining at a Banh Mi restaurant, it is common to see people eating a variety of several Banh Mi sandwiches for one meal.  One of the shops that I go to in Las Vegas offers a "Buy 5, Get One Free" special!  That is a good deal and a lot of good Banh Mi munch!

     Vegetable Banh Mi is the most popular.  Banh Mi can be made with pâté, lunch meats, pork, fish, meat balls, sausage, tofu or whatever suits the fancy.  
     There are only a few restrictive rules for making Banh Mi.  Dairy products, like cheese, are rarely offered on a Banh Mi Sandwich, because dairy products are not really part of Asian cuisine.  Daikon Radish garnishes nearly every kind of Banh Mi.  These are just about the only rules to the Banh Mi game!

     Only a small portion of meat is placed on a Banh Mi Sandwich.  Vegetables make up the bulk of the ingredients.  Mayonnaise is another French component.  Mayo is spread on most deli meat Banh Mi sandwiches.
     Lunchmeat Banh Mi are almost always made with canned lunch meats that are available at Asian markets.  Chicken Liver Banh Mi is almost always made with canned chicken liver pâté spread.  Sardine Banh Mi is usually made with canned sardines in tomato sauce.  As one can see, authentic Banh Mi making does favor canned meat products and the reason is canned meats have a long shelf life.
     Fresh deli meats can be used, but this would raise the price of the sandwich dramatically.  A foot long Banh Mi currently sells for less than $3.25 in Las Vegas Banh Mi shops, so if you want to compete, you gotta go cheap!
     Vietnamese herbs can take the place of lettuce or cabbage on a Banh Mi.  Cilantro is a popular choice.  Sliced tomato and onion are sometimes placed on Banh Mi, but Daikon Radish, Carrot, Jalapeño and Cabbage garnishes are more popular.

     I made a special trip to a local Asian food market to get a few ingredients to make today's Special Combo Banh Mi.  Asian markets carry many interesting specialty items.  I found vacuum sealed packages of marinated seasoned daikon radish strips.  The flavor of the marinated radish is incredibly good and it tastes great on a sandwich!
     I also purchased a small package of Hopia Hapon as an accompaniment.  Hopia Snack Cakes originated in the Philippines and Fiji.  Hopia Hapon translates to Japanese Hopia.  Hopia is like a fancy Fig Newton, but it is filled with sweet bean paste or bread crumbs & candied fruit.  The Hopia Hapon that I chose is filled with sweet adzuki bean paste.  Hopia Hapon are usually pressed into fancy shapes that many readers will recognize as Moon Cakes for the Lunar New Year celebration.

     A Special Combo Banh mi is made with Head Cheese and Pork Loaf or Ham.  I used Indiana Bolshevic Loaf Head Cheese to make today's sandwich.  Any head cheese variety can be used and any thin sliced pork lunch meat can be used.  I opted for Bulgarian style dry cured lightly smoked pork neck lunch meat for the Special Combo Banh Mi in the photos.  This is a bit fancy, but fancy is always good!
     Banh Mi Dac Biet - Special Combo Banh Mi:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich!  
     Banh Mi bread is a French baguette that is made with half rice flour and half wheat flour.  Making home made Banh Mi Baguettes is not hard to do.  Banh Mi can be made with regular small French Baguettes too. 
     Canned lunch meats are traditional.  The total amount of lunch meat on a Banh Mi sandwich should only be about 2 ounces.  Fresh lunch meats are okay too.  
     Step 1:  Cut open a 10" to 12" Banh Mi Baguette.  The opening should be cut at a 45º angle vertically into the bread, so the ingredients can be stuffed into the loaf.
     Open the bread with your fingers.
     Use your fingers to remove some of the pith.
     Step 2:  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise inside of the bread loaf.
     Step 3:  Place a thin layer of vegetable garnishes on the sandwich.
     *Any combination of shredded daikon radish, sliced jalapeño, shredded carrot, onion, shredded cabbage or baby lettuce is good.  Even cilantro sprigs can be used as a garnish.
     Step 4:  Place a few thin slices of head cheese on the sandwich.  (About 1 ounce to 1 1/2 ounces.)
     Place a few thin slices of pork lunch meat on the sandwich.  (About 1 ounce to 1 1/2 ounces.)
     Place some marinated daikon radish slices on the lunch meats.  (optional)
     Place some thin sliced cherry tomatoes on the lunch meats.  (optional)
     Step 5:  Place the sandwich on a plate.
     Garnish with pickles or fruit of your choice.
     *The plate in the photos was garnished with a strawberry and a Hopia Hapon Moon Cake.
     One Special Combo Banh Mi coming right up!  

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