Building a Local Banh Mi

The crisp and crunchy baguette crust hides the filling for a second before revealing its treasure; creamy and savoury pork belly and duck paté, cut by the sweet and acidic tang of daikon and carrot pickled in rice vinegar. The freshly made mayonnaise adds moisture and compliments the cilantro liberally spread throughout the roll. You look up from your lunch to find yourself standing still in the middle of the sidewalk, now late for your next meeting.

In the early 1900s, colonialism introduced French cuisine to Vietnam and began a rich tradition of fusion cooking. The Vietnamese phrase Bánh Mì literally translates to “wheat cake” and refers to the popular single-serving French-style baguette, made with a mix of rice and wheat flour. In the West however, Bánh Mì is synonymous with the unique and incredible sandwich made with the bread that shares its name.

The strength of Bánh Mì is in collaboration. Its contents are diverse and exotic but fundamentally simple, so choosing great ingredients can really take it to the next level. After having sampled many of Victoria’s Bánh Mì, I conscripted a friend to help me make my own, locally-inspired version.

BanhMiBellyPrecooked
Bánh Mì can contain a range of traditional Vietnamese meats, from Cha Lua (ground pork roll) and Thit Nguoi (cured cold cuts), to Gio Thu (headcheese), Ga Nuong (grilled chicken) or Xiu Mai (pork meatballs). The most luxurious of contents however, if you ask me, is pork belly. The Village Butcher in Oak Bay serves cuts from Tamworth and Berkshire hogs grown at Stillmeadow Farm in Metchosin. We bought a gorgeous slab of Tamworth,

seasoned it with pepper and salt from Vancouver Island Salt Co. and put in the fridge for several days to cure.

The punch of Bánh Mì comes from a very simple Vietnamese fridge pickle called Do Chua, made with daikon radish and carrots. The rice vinegar battles the richness of the meats and the vegetables join the baguette crust in serving up a satisfying crunch. We had hoped to buy some daikon from Umi Nami Farm in Metchosin, but their crop was being replanted — look for it at the Moss Street Market in April.

To make Do Chua, combine 1 part rice vinegar and 1 part water with a tablespoon of kosher or brining salt and some sugar. Julienne your vegetables and turn them in a bowl with salt to drain some of their water. Drain and rinse, stuff them into jars, and pour in the brine. Your veggies should pickle for at least an hour before eating, and they’ll last for about a month in your fridge.

Do Chua

“The Bullet Points”

  • 1 part rice viniger to 1 part water
  • tablespoon kosher salt
  • julienne vegtables
  • drain & rinse
  • stuff into jar
  • brine at least 1 hour | lasts a month in fridge
BanhMiDoChuaVeg

Back to the pork belly!

After rinsing off the seasoning, we roasted it with about a cup and a half of white wine at 250º for about 150 minutes. Back it went into the fridge with some weight on it for a night, and then another round in the oven at 450º for about 30-45 minutes for a crispy skin.

BanhMiBellyCooked

The paté and mayonnaise help to isolate the filling and prevent the baguette from getting soggy. We whipped up a simple mayonnaise with island-fresh eggs, and dropped by Choux Choux Charcuterie who recommended their canard paté, seasoned with bay leaves and allspice. It was tough to find Vietnamese style bread in town, but we hardly had to compromise with a fresh loaf of French baguette from Bond Bond’s Bakery on Blanshard and set down to assemble our feast.

With its slow-burning calories and healthy fats from the duck, pork, and homemade mayo, even a small Bánh mì can fuel you from an early lunch to a late dinner. Sriracha is a now-classic addition, but if you’re like me, a healthy dose of Sambal Oelek adds the final touch.

BanhMiSandwich2

 

Dying to try it yourself?

Here’s a few choice spots for lunch:

Vietnam House (No website) 778-433-8181

Broughton Street Café/Deli 250-380-9988

Caffe Teatro (No website) 250-381-6005

Phonomenal Vietnamese Café 778-430-5688

Foo Asian Street Food 250-383-3111

Written By:

Vancouver-born photographer, writer and designer Sol Kauffman has had his hands dirty in restaurant kitchens for years, washing dishes and slinging pizzas. In 2008 he moved to Victoria to pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at UVic ...

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